|Picture of comedian Maysoon Zayid|
Includes quote: "And I'm like, 'No, like seriously! The part of my brain
that controls coordination is damaged!'"
The first time I ever read a children's or YA book with a disabled character I could identify with, I was 29 years old.
The book was Stoner and Spaz by Ron Koertge.
Reviews on Goodreads will tell you that this book is horribly written, and loses the plot halfway through, and it’s just terrible and it’s probably weeded from most teen collections even though it was published in 2011. To tell you the truth I don’t even remember much of what it was about except “If Dawson had cerebral palsy” but that was the biggest thing: It was like reading a book about an abled character. Or, maybe, it was reading a book about a character that got abled character treatment: he had interests and passions and a screwed up friend and realistic goals and all of that had nothing to do with having cerebral palsy. He just had it. And lived.
This was (and still is) rare. The closest feeling I can get to my feeling reading this book was the feeling expressed by some women with the release of Ghostbusters 2016: “this is important and cathartic and satisfying and comforting and god why wasn’t it perfect it should have been perfect.” I wished it was better so that more people liked it, so that more books would be written about realistic disabled characters.
Around this time was the first time I actually started talking to other disabled people about disabilities. Specifically, when I was 29, it was people with cerebral palsy about cerebral palsy. People with other disabilities came later: an extended family member of mine has a disability, one that they have had my entire life, and it did not occur to me to talk about the disabled experience with them until Christmas two years ago. I started reading more about myself as a member of the disability community, rather than as a person in a world not created for me and didn’t understand my experience enough to represent me in media.