I can’t look at the cover of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan without flashing back to my thirteen-year-old self. I would devour the pages on the bus ride to and from school, tuning out the chatter around me to focus on the stubborn characters from the Two Rivers and their place in the Pattern. And I wasn’t the only one; I spotted other classmates toting the giant books around as well. The Wheel of Time was formative to my understanding of the fantasy genre, and I particularly loved the magic system. At the time, I didn’t see anything problematic about it.
As someone with a chronic illness, reading sci-fi and fantasy books that feature characters with disabilities has had a huge impact on me. It’s valuable to see myself as a hero and not just a character on the sidelines who’s too “broken” to go on an adventure. I don’t exist to inspire other people, I’m not useless until I’m healed, and I don’t have to overcome my disability to be worth something. I want the fiction I read to embrace diversity and include characters who are learning to deal with their conditions—just like me.
Each of the books on this list includes a character who has chronic pain or a disability, who plays a significant role in the story. I appreciate how these characters all wrestle with their conditions and learn to value themselves—despite others telling them they’re useless.
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