Growing up Disabled in Australia is a non-fiction anthology comprised of works by Disabled artists, activists, politicians and more, from across the country. This anthology was compiled and edited by award-winning writer and appearance activist, Carly Findlay whose previous work has appeared in ABC, Daily Life and SBS. GUDIA covers a diverse set of experiences by people from all walks of life and many are grounded in the particular idea of the ‘Social Model of Disability’.* The contributors in this book have used a variety of formats to share their story including written prose, poetry, illustration and interviews. But each story is personal and independent of the next.
Given my previous experiences with reading the ‘Growing up in Australia’ anthologies (of which there are currently five) and my well-known admiration for Carly Findlay’s work, I had high expectations for this book. The submissions call out turned into a very competitive race with thousands of submissions from all over Australia flooding in. Carly certainly had her work cut out for her. Even so, she did a magnificent job of ensuring that a broad, diverse range of contributors were given a chance to showcase their talents. It seems that no one contributor was undeserving of their spot, nor was any story the same. This is exactly what you should expect from a well-thought-out anthology.
It’s important to acknowledge that yes, I do come at this as a person living with a disability. While I found this book incredibly accessible, gratifying and accurately representative of our diverse community, I do wonder how accessible this book was to other non-disabled audiences. Was this book appealing to non-disabled audiences? How did they engage with the text and what did they take away from it? did it make sense to those who haven’t previously engaged with Disabled writing before? These are worthwhile questions to ask even if I personally don’t have the answers to them just yet.
What I think we can agree on is that Disabilities or Disabled people’s stories are not all the same. Like in every other subgroup in society, it is made of a wide range of different experiences that even intersect with the experiences of other subgroups like women, people of colour and LGBT+ people. That is why an anthology like this is so important and I believe it is one of the most effective formats for telling stories about people; it shares the experiences of different people while relating back to a single commonality.
While I don’t necessarily agree with every person’s ideas about what it means to be disabled, I can absolutely respect their individual truths and that in itself is an important takeaway from this book.
If you too are a fan of the ‘Growing up in Australia’ anthology series by Black Inc. books, then I suggest you check out this book immediately and complete your collection. If you too are a member of the disabled community, work in the disability support industry or know someone living with a disability, then I also highly recommend you this book. But mainly it is my hope that someone out there with no previous connection or knowledge of disability or disabled people, will pick up this book and learn something new. Even better, they use this book as a tool to help them change their own biases and advocate for others. I want to take this time to say that I strongly believe that as society we need to read more literature about disabled people BY disabled people if we are ever going to have a chance at understanding not only some of the barriers that disabled people face, but also how we can help remove them.
Because spoiler alert! It’s not disabled people themselves who need fixing. Its social attitudes and environmental barriers that do. A.k.a. It’s you!
Pick up a copy: https://www.amazon.com.au/Growing-Disabled-Australia
For more books published by Black Inc: https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/
And for more work by Carly Findlay: https://carlyfindlay.com.au/
Be sure to look up the work of other contributers in this book. Support disabled writers!