Celebrating inclusion and disability justice with readers of all ages
From the day our daughter rolled into the Henderson Inclusion School in Dorchester with her posterior walker and feeding pump, not yet eating food by mouth and communicating with sign language, my wife and I knew she was in the right school, a supportive and inclusive community where difference is normal. I am an able bodied person who has been given the privilege of seeing the world anew as the parent of a child with disabilities. I have questioned some long held assumptions and become a better person for it. At the same time, I also know I have much more to learn about the movement for disability justice and to work toward building a truly inclusive world.
We have created a new Disability Justice and Inclusion Shelf to help raise awareness about disability justice. If you’re new to this topic, a great place to start is Kim Nielsen’s A Disability History of the United States, the first book to tell the entire history of the United States from the perspective of those with disabilities.
Drawing on primary source documents, Nielsen’s history is told through the words and impressions of people with disabilities. She believes we cannot narrowly focus on a series of individual triumphs, but rather we must understand the pivotal role of mass movements for change. Nielsen deftly illustrates how concepts of disability have shaped the American experience, from labor and immigration policies to justifications for slavery and gender discrimination. Included are absorbing, often horrific narratives such as blind slaves being thrown overboard and women being involuntarily sterilized, as well as triumphant accounts of disabled miners organizing strikes and disability rights activists picketing Washington.
If you have seen the film Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (https://cripcamp.com/), then you know about Judy Heumann, one of the most influential disability rights activists in U.S. history. Now you can take a deeper look at her life story and fierce activism in Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist.
For younger children, we recommend We Move Together, a colorful and engaging picture book that shows how we can create inclusive communities when we take into consideration people with diverse needs and abilities. With its kid-friendly glossary at the back, it’s a great resource for schools, libraries, and families that want to facilitate conversations about inclusion with children.
‘Right of Way’ and other books suggested by WalkUP Roslindale
Did you know that deaths of Americans struck by vehicles increased by 50% during the last decade after years of steady decline? These tragic deaths are not unavoidable accidents, but the result of public policies that greatly favor automobiles over pedestrians. They also disproportionately impact People of Color, those with lower incomes, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. In her groundbreaking new book, Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, Angie Schmitt delves into this problem, seeking out both causes and possible solutions. (Schmitt was featured on NPR’s On Point earlier this month and the interview is also a worth a listen.)
Right of Way is featured on a new shelf we’ve created with WalkUP Roslindale, which seeks to make Roslindale the most pedestrian- and wheelchair-friendly neighborhood in the City of Boston. They envision Roslindale as “a safe, pleasant, and beautiful place to walk, gather, and interact, for the young, old, and everyone in between." You can browse their shelf here: https://bookshop.org/lists/urban-issues-presented-by-walkup-roslindale. To learn more or to get involved with the organization, please visit http://walkuproslindale.org/.
Remembering Floyd Cooper, Illustrator
Thanks to our friends at West Roxbury Diverse Libraries, we have been taking a closer look at the treasury of children’s books illustrated by Floyd Cooper, an award winning illustrator whose luminous paintings helped bring the African American experience to life for generations of readers.
Cooper passed away in July and we’ve created a new shelf to celebrate his life work, which you can find here: https://bookshop.org/lists/remembering-floyd-cooper. With over 30 books, you will find histories of Juneteenth and the Tulsa Race Massacre, biographies of prominent figures such as Billie Holiday and Frederick Douglass as well as lesser known African-American heroes such as prima ballerina Janet Collins and the 19th century Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge.