Book challenges stereotypes of disability

Issue: Volume 99, Number 3

Posted: 27 February 2020
Reference #: 1HA5yZ

The publishers of a book featuring work by known and emerging women writers who live with disability, hope it will provide more nuanced portrayals and celebrate the richness and diversity of humanity.

Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing features eight well-known and emerging women writers including Tusiata Avia, Michele Leggott, Trish Harris, Te Awhina Arahanga and Robin Hyde. 

Trish Harris, co-founder of Crip the Lit, which published the book, says it’s critical that disability is represented and celebrated as part of the richness and diversity of humanity in all genres of literature, and in visual media.

Shifting perceptions of disability

“It’s important for students who live with a disability themselves to have role models, and for students who enjoy writing to see their peers who are doing it. For students who don’t have disabilities, it’s about broadening the way disability is talked about. 

“A big part of the book is that we want it to shift something in people’s heads. When you’re writing about disability from the inside of the experience, it’s far more nuanced and interesting than the normal tropes of disabled people being victims or heroes,” says Trish.

Crip the Lit co-founder Robyn Hunt says: “Many of us have grown up without seeing ourselves and our lives realistically reflected in the books and media surrounding us. But we have lots to say, and we know there are voices to be heard and people who want to hear them. 

Conversation starter

Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing features novelists, poets, essayists, playwrights, memoirists and bloggers. All share the lived experience of disability, whether it be mobility and vision impairments, epilepsy, mental illness, autism or other visible or invisible disabilities. 

Trish says while the book is slim, it contains a lot of material which could stimulate classroom conversations such as the symbols or metaphors which each woman was asked to choose for herself. These symbols were incorporated into an illustrated portrait by Adele Jackson.

“This [symbol] says something to them about the intersection between writing and disability and is a more creative way of beginning to talk about the experience. It could be an interesting exercise in a classroom – ‘what symbol do you choose?’ Once you use a metaphor, you get to a deeper place – heart to heart,” says Trish.

Writing for all

Crip the Lit has participated in Wellington’s Lit Crawl for the past four years. Last year, Trish interviewed(external link) young adult author LJ Ritchie (Like Nobody’s Watching, Monsters of Virtue). He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2002 and is currently writing a novel featuring autistic characters.

“The feedback we’ve had from writers who are disabled is that they’re really keen to connect up with others who share their experiences. We plan to publish an occasional newsletter and have informal get-togethers of Deaf and disabled writers in Wellington. It’ll be this wider group that decides what Crip the Lit does next,” says Trish.

Sense of community

In her review of the book, author and New Zealand Society of Authors’ President Mandy Hager applauded the authors for ‘coming out’ and wrote: “Thank you for making me feel less alone. Less invisible. Less afraid. Thank you for making me feel part of your exceptional community.” 

Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing

Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing is free and available in a variety of accessible formats: hard copy including large print, online as an audio book, an e-book with accessible downloadable files, and braille from the Blind Foundation library. 

Audio book and e-book (epub and mobi): Arts Access Advocates’(external link) 

Braille/ DAISY audio: Blind Foundation Library(external link)

Pocket and large print version, email:

There is a small charge for postage for the print copy.


Reviews and articles 

Review(external link) by Jane Arthur (The Sapling) 

Review(external link)(external link)by Mandy Hager (Arts Access Advocates' Blog) 

Article(external link) Access Radio interview with author L.J. Ritchie 

Review(external link) by Paula Green (NZ Poetry Shelf) 

Interview(external link) Standing Room Only (RNZ) 

Article(external link) Counting the Beat: Open Arms (The Big Idea) 

Launch Speech(external link) Shining the light on disabled women writers (Arts Access Advocates' Blogpost)

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:32 am, 27 February 2020

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