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Read Harder

9 SFF, Horror, Romance, and Mystery Books by Disabled Authors

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Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

We’re halfway through the 2024 Read Harder Challenge tasks — can you believe it?? Today, I have recommendations for task #12: Read a genre book (SFF, horror, mystery, romance) by a disabled author. Read Harder is a good excuse to diversify our reading, and disabled authors are often left out of these conversations. Publishing can be ableist in many ways, putting up a string of roadblocks for disabled authors in an already competitive and difficult field.

Why genre books? A couple reasons. One is that disabled authors often have their books pigeonholed into being just about their disability. Disability memoirs are well worth reading, but they’re not the only genre that disabled authors are writing in. Also, while genre books have included disabled characters for many decades (and even centuries), they often rely on ableist tropes. We are all familiar with stories that make a disabled person the villain. (If you want to read more about ableism in fairy tales, pick up Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc.)

Some of these books include disabled main characters, and some don’t, but all of them are by disabled authors. This task is not meant to encourage you to pry into author’s personal lives, to be clear: these should be authors who publicly identify as disabled. Please don’t contact authors to ask if they’re disabled. For each of these authors, I’ve linked to places (social media, interviews, etc) where they’ve talked publicly about their disability.

I’ve separated my recommendations by genre: SFF, horror, mystery, and romance. Personally, I’ve found it a lot easier to find sci-fi and fantasy books by disabled authors, for whatever reason. Now, let’s get into the books!

SFF Books by Disabled Authors

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction cover

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction edited by Dominik Parisien, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Nicolette Barischoff, S. Qiouyi Lu, and Judith Tarr

Okay, technically, this is a magazine (Uncanny Magazine Issue 24), but a 373-page ebook is a book by my definition. It includes essays, poetry, short stories, interviews, and more, all by disabled creators. In “The Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Manifesto,” the editors say: “Destroy. That’s the brief of this issue. Destroy science fiction. Why? Because disabled people have been discarded from the narrative, cured, rejected, villainized. We’ve been given few options for our imaginations to run wild within the parameters of an endless sky. This issue destroys those narratives and more.”

Also check out Disabled People Destroy Fantasy!

the cover of Everfair

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

This is one of my favorite books to recommend, because there’s so much going on. Everfair is a steampunk alternate history of the Congo, in which African Americans buy land in the Congo as a “haven” from Belgium’s brutal colonialist rule. But trying to create a utopia is not so simple. What I love about this book is that you see it from so many different angles: we follow many points of view over a long time period. There’s also a complicated sapphic relationship that transforms over time. This is a complex and thought-provoking read, and it just got a sequel: Kinning.

Which book are you planning to read for this task? Let me know in the comments!

Check out all the previous 2024 Read Harder posts here.

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