Black History Month: 7 books to celebrate disabled writers

Black History Month: 7 books to celebrate disabled writers

A look at their best nonfiction works

by Suswati Basu
0 comment

The narratives of disabled Black writers are particularly impactful, shedding light on experiences that combine racial identity and disability. Here’s a curated list of some of the most influential nonfiction works by disabled Black authors. Black History Month celebrates the achievements, culture, and history of Black communities in the UK every October, promoting knowledge and appreciation of Black heritage.

Best books that celebrate Black disabled writers

  • “Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law” by Haben Girma. In this evocative memoir, Haben Girma recounts her journey as the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School. Girma eloquently captures the nuances of navigating a world designed for the able-bodied while also wrestling with the intersections of her Black identity. Her story is not just one of overcoming adversity, but also of embracing oneself and inspiring change in the world.
  • Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman” by Sarah H. Bradford. Many remember Harriet Tubman as the iconic freedom fighter and conductor of the Underground Railroad. However, fewer realise that she lived with the lifelong consequences of a traumatic head injury. This biography paints a vivid picture of Tubman’s life, illustrating the determination and resilience that defined her, even in the face of disability. Tubman hoped to become literate and write her own memoirs, but she never did.
  • “The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me” by Keah Brown. A compelling collection of essays, Keah Brown’s book is a heartfelt exploration of life as a Black woman with cerebral palsy. With wit and candor, Brown dives into a range of topics, from pop culture’s portrayal of disability to personal moments of introspection. She invites readers to challenge stereotypes and to celebrate the beauty in diversity.
  • Blackness and Disability: Critical Examinations and Cultural Interventions” by Christopher M. Bell. This anthology brings together thought-provoking essays that delve deep into themes of representation related to slavery, violence, critical analysis of illnesses including cancer and AIDS, portrayals of disability in hip-hop, and reflections on disability in the context of blackness and warfare. The compilation seeks to illuminate the often-misunderstood narratives of Black disabled individuals and underscores the historical biases that require reexamination.
Read: Disability Pride Month books: 7 reads to celebrate differences
  • Nelson Beats the Odds” by Rodney Sidney II. The author chronicles his journey grappling with learning disabilities, weaving a narrative that champions resilience and empowerment. With the aid of various tools, he aims to bridge the void in literature, advocating for inclusive stories that resonate with everyone’s unique experiences.
  • The Anti Ableist Art Educators Manifesto” by Jen White-Johnson. This manifesto stands as a powerful act of creative defiance and education, aiming to enlighten both individuals with and without disabilities. Its mission is to foster an understanding of how to empower one’s disabled identity while also uplifting the neurodivergent and disabled peers in our midst. The book is free to download.
Read: Books by women of colour on International Women’s Day
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches” by Audre Lorde. Packed with some of Lorde’s most compelling prose, this influential collection of speeches and essays from 1971 retains its timeless relevance. It features profound pieces such as “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” “Uses of the Erotic,” and “Poetry is Not a Luxury.” She also wrote “The Cancer Journals,” which “bears witness to Lorde’s radical re-envisioning of self, body, and society through the experience of illness, fear, pain, anger, and dawning clarity.”

The literary world is richer for the contributions of disabled Black writers, but there is still much ground to cover. The need for broader representation remains, and as the publishing industry evolves, we hope to see even more of these vital voices rise to prominence. For those eager to explore further, keeping tabs on literary awards and festivals championing diverse voices can open doors to a myriad of talented authors awaiting discovery.

Subscribe to my newsletter for new blog posts, recommendations & episodes. Let’s stay updated!

This article contains affiliate links via in which we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you, in order to support local bookshops. However, we have not been commissioned to review books and services.


Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated, as everything you give we put back so we can provide the best information.

Your contribution is appreciated, as everything you give we put back so we can provide the best information.

Your contribution is appreciated, as everything you give we put back so we can provide the best information.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Are you sure want to unlock this post?
Unlock left : 0
Are you sure want to cancel subscription?