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Cammie McGovern

Five Books About Characters Who Turn Disability Into Superpowers

As the parent of a 19-year-old with autism and one of the founders a center for children and young adults with disabilities in Western Massachusetts, I know first-hand that kids with disabilities may not have bodies that work or brains that pick up on social cues. I also know we live in a world with people who too often see a person with a disability and think, “Oh, that’s sad…” But these kids have lived with difference all their lives—and the stares that go along with this—so they tend to be surprisingly less self-conscious than their peers. For most of them, their life stopped feeling like a tragedy a long time ago. The children often lead the way in teaching their parent this lesson: I’m not sad about what I can’t do so you shouldn’t be either—now let’s get on with life and do what I can…  

Not caring what others think—especially in the world of teens—is a form of empowerment. So is living outside the stifling norms of society’s expectations (witness every superhero who is relegated to living in a cave or a sewer). Because I write realistic fiction and therefore read mostly realistic fiction, and because I often feature characters with disabilities at the center of my stories, I sometimes wonder if the idea of having a character empowered by their disability springs from this determination to live a full life in spite of what might look like serious limitations.

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Series: Five Books About…