I’m excited to focus on intersectional queer identities in this month’s Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian by answering this email question:
I’m looking for books that have (women) characters who are queer and disabled. I’m mostly looking for physical disabilities if that’s possible! A bit of nonfiction is okay but hopefully there are also some novels out there! They are really hard to find!!
Thanks a bunch,
This is an important and wonderful request and I’m excited to share these eight books featuring queer disabled women! Most of them are fiction (as requested) but a few are non-fiction and one is a book of poetry. Enjoy!
Weekend by Jane Eaton Hamilton
Weekend is a character- and relationship-driven novel that’s one of the most authentically true-to-life queer books I’ve ever read. It’s also by a queer disabled author and it features a queer disabled main character who has a heart condition. A queering of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” Weekend takes place over the course of a weekend in cottage country in rural Ontario. Two mid-life queer couples are in their side-by-side cabins — the ones who own the cabins are, unsurprisingly, exes — and during their short time there, shit is going to hit the fan. There’s a lot of dyke processing, gender feels (two characters are on the transmasculine spectrum and one uses they pronouns), and often kinky sex. It’s an exquisite, if sometimes painfully real, read.
Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
This collection of poetry by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is simply stunning. The poems are visceral and tough but soft, just like the hard femmes Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha writes about. The publisher describes the book as “a queer disabled femme of color love song” and there’s really no better way to put it. She writes: “this is your work: / like other invalids able to make art under the sheets / to be blessed just for breathing / this labour / not paid not union: / this is your work. / own it.” You can also look forward to poems about queer brown femme friendship, finding your people, relationships falling apart, and more. Read the Autostraddle review of Bodymap here.
Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi
Alana Quick is a damn good sky surgeon, aka spaceship engineer, but her work is barely paying the bills, including the meds she needs to manage the chronic pain that comes with her muscle disease. So when a cargo spaceship lands at her dockyard, Alana takes a risk and stows away, hoping to earn herself into a job. Although she might have guessed she would fall in love with the ship — she likes to compare them to beautiful women — Alana wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the ship’s captain or end up on a cross-galaxy journey to save Nova, her spiritually advanced sister. This beautifully written science fiction space opera has unique, inventive world-building and effortlessly diverse characters, including Black, Latina, lesbian, bisexual, disabled, and polyamorous characters.
Mean Little Deaf Queer by Terry Galloway
This is a darkly humorous and relentlessly frank memoir by deaf queer writer and performer Terry Galloway. Galloway began to lose her hearing in 1959 at the age of nine. A self-proclaimed “child-freak,” Galloway turned to acting out her rage about her cumbersome hearing aids and thick glasses. Her first unintentional performance was faking her own drowning at summer camp for “crippled children.” It was her first foray into theatre, which became a life-long passion. Whether writing about her queer identity, theatre, or her relationship with deafness, Galloway is insightful, touching, and funny. Not surprising given her expertise as a performer, the book is not a straight-forward linear narrative, but written as performance pieces.
Origami Striptease by Peggy Munson
In this hybrid poetry/novel, Peggy Munson writes about an unnamed queer woman main character who shares the author’s experiences with chronic fatigue syndrome. As Munson puts it in this interview at Feministing, Origami Striptease is “a love story that goes through a meat grinder, ice chipper, and paper shredder.” The main character, who is an erotica writer, falls in love with Jack, a trans guy who also has an illness. But as Jack begins to unravel and leaves to chase his demons, the writer, needing a caregiver, invites an eccentric pseudo rock star into her life. That’s before things get really weird. This is the kind of book whose writing will blow you away even if you’re not exactly sure what’s happening.
Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp
This brand new young adult anthology features fiction short stories about disabled teens written entirely by #OwnVoices disabled authors! Nearly half of the stories are also about queer characters. Get excited about new stories from well-known queer YA writers like Marieke Nijkamp, Corinne Duyvis and Kody Keplinger and also stories by new writers you haven’t heard of yet. The queer stories include a fluffy romance with a queer autistic girl, a story about a girl who uses a wheelchair falling in love with her best friend, a theatre-loving non-binary character who uses a cane, a queer Indigenous girl with bipolar trying to keep her family together, and more!
QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology edited by Raymond Luczak
This majestic anthology features a wide variety of genres and forms — fiction, poetry, comics, and essays — from 48 queer disabled writers. The collection is thematically diverse, but as this review at Lambda Literary declares, “people with disabilities write all sorts of things in all sorts of ways, but the one thing we mostly have in common is that we never leave the body out of the writing.” Some of the topics the writers in QDA tackle include claiming your sexuality in the face of the ableist assumption that disabled people aren’t sexual; intersections of disability, queerness, and religion; accessibility in queer communities; and relationships with disabled and non-disabled lovers. QDA is especially a must-read for poetry lovers, as the majority of the pieces are poems.
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Far From You is equally a story about a bisexual girl’s coming out / coming of age and a murder mystery. A car accident has left Sophie using a cane to cope with a shattered leg and chronic pain, as well as an addiction — recently kicked — to the painkillers she was prescribed. More recently, Sophie’s best friend Mina has died. Everyone thinks it was a drug deal gone wrong — and that Sophie set it up. But Sophie knows Mina was deliberately murdered. Being forced into rehab for the addiction she’s already beaten slows Sophie down at first. Once she’s finally on the trail of the killer, can she find them before they find her?
Want more books about disability and queerness? Check out Crip Lit: Toward an Intersectional Crip Syllabus on Autostraddle. And add any recommendations you have in the comments!
Have a question you’d like to see answered in an upcoming post? Send me an email to stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com and put “Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian” as the subject.
Far From You is one of my fave queer books, and when I started it I didn’t even know that the protagonist had chronic pain! it was such a great bonus representation, I love that book with all my heart
I know the original querent was primarily looking for novels but Eli Clare’s “Brilliant Imperfection” (a mosaic of poetry, memoir, history, and short essays) is a great read.
This book looks great! Thanks for sharing.
I recently listened to Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and I can’t recommend it enough! She’s a queer Black disabled author, in this book she talks about her childhood, sex, her Crohn’s and depression, her cat Helen Keller, and more. And it’s HILARIOUS. It’s honestly fantastic. After about 10 minutes of listening I went and bought her two other books.
I am so happy to see more disabled queer content on Autostraddle! Thank you to Cassie for asking the question and Casey for answering :)
Yes, more disability content!!
Geri Jewell also wrote a memoir called I’m Walking as Straight as I Can.
Another one is So Lucky by Nicola Griffith
Thank you for this list! I’ve been dealing with so much isolation I didn’t realize there are books out there for us queer disabled people! I am really excited to read these, especially the anthology.
Mishell Baker’s Borderline series features a badass bisexual narrator with prosthetic legs and an emotion regulation disorder. It’s an urban fantasy series set in Hollywood.