As 2016 (finally!) comes to an end, we wanted to take a moment to look back at our favorite posts and reads of the year, and to look ahead to the substantial changes 2017 will bring here at Disability in Kidlit.
This past year was huge for the site. We published 58 reviews, articles, discussions, and interviews from dozens of incredible contributors. We were thrilled to welcome Natasha and Yahong to the team in February and April, respectively. We hosted our science fiction and fantasy event back in March and our third anniversary event in July. We also unveiled the Honor Roll in July, a project that had been in the making for over a year and that we are so proud to offer as an ever-growing resource.
Given the sheer volume of content over the past twelve months, narrowing down our favorite posts was difficult, but we’ve managed! We’ve also included each of our favorite disability reads of the year and one 2017 title we’re looking forward to.
Our contributors have written so many wonderful things this year that it was really difficult to make the choice. In the end, I decided on L. Lee Butler’s interview with Courtney Summers; it’s thoughtful, smart, and tackles the issue of disability in apocalyptic settings, which is a topic that has fascinated me for years.
In terms of reviews, I adored fellow Disability in Kidlit editor Natasha Razi’s review of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows – it’s so insightful and nuanced, and discusses the book from all kinds of angles. Natasha’s writing is filled with passion for both the topics she discusses and the book itself. If this review doesn’t convince you to read this book, I don’t know what will.
2016 was such a stressful year for me that I did barely any reading! It’s embarrassing. I think I’m going to go with Other Broken Things, by C. Desir; I read it early in the year and finished it in one go. Compelling, honest, necessary. And girl boxers ftw.
For 2017, I’m going to select a book that I’ve already read as a sensitivity reader: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, an adorable MG/chapter book with an autistic protagonist. It’ll release in March 2017.
One of my favorite parts of this year was our SFF event, which also happened to include one of my favorite articles of the year: Ada Hoffman’s “Worldbuilding About, Through, and With Autism.” It’s an in-depth look at various approaches authors have taken when including autism in speculative fiction (though many of Ada’s observations could be applied to worldbuidling with other disabilities as well). If you have even a passing interest in SFF, this is an absolute must-read.
We ran tons of stellar reviews this year, too, but I have to give a shout-out to our latest review, Ann Clare Le Zotte’s look at Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck. It was a somewhat unconventional review for us; in addition to discussing the text itself, the review also delved into some of the author’s statements about its creation, which offered an extra layer of context.
I read quite a few good books involving disability in 2016, but I have to go with Run by Kody Keplinger, our very own fairy godmother. Kody’s latest is not only an exceptional and #ownvoices depiction of blindness, but also centers around one of the most beautiful female friendships I’ve seen. And it’s all told in a brilliantly executed non-linear narrative.
Like Corinne, I’m somewhat cheating here by picking a 2017 title I’ve already had the extreme pleasure of reading: History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. This one’s also #ownvoices (and non-linear, too; I guess I have a type?), and it’s one of the most gorgeous, wrenching-but-hopeful, and cathartic books I’ve ever read.
Picking a favorite book of 2016 is hard because so much of my disability-repping reads this year were 2017 releases, pre-2016 releases, or (let’s be real here) bad rep. Ultimately I have to go with Gena/Finn by Kat Helgeson and Hannah Moskowitz. A hilarious, touching, geeky story about two girls who meet through fandom. The characters are amazing, the relationships are complex and surprising, and the entire thing shimmers with an honesty that I rarely see in fiction.
As far as 2017 releases go, I have heard nothing but great things about Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde. Fandom! Friendship! #ownvoices autism and anxiety! I absolutely cannot wait.
My favorite review of 2016 was Kaitlyn Plyley’s of Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth. It’s a funny, frank review that details how the book dovetails with the author’s experiences and how it fits or subverts current stereotypes. On top of that, the book sounds incredible.
Kayla’s article “Wheelchair Users in Fiction: Examining the Single Narrative” should be required reading for anyone who ever wants to write a disabled character. She beautifully breaks down the common narrative around wheelchair use and why it’s so prevalent.
I’m picking Corinne Duyvis’s On the Edge of Gone for my 2016 book pick, and not because she’s a Disability in Kidlit editor: this book has exceedingly-well researched futuristic world-building grounded in reality, the perfect blend of gripping external action and luscious introspection, and a heartbreaking amount of emotional turning points. Also, CATS.
For 2017, I can’t wait for Whitney Gardner’s You’re Welcome, Universe! Deaf Indian-American girl gets drawn into a graffiti war? Unlike anything I’ve read before. I’m so ready.
Looking back over this year’s reviews on Disability in Kidlit, I keep coming back to Kody Keplinger’s review of Graceling & Bitterblue. Not only does Kody show the problematic aspects of the books’ representation of blindness, her subsequent exploration of the author’s response and the changes in the blind character’s representation was incredibly enlightening and gave me optimism for future situations where such issues might occur.
In terms of articles, I really enjoyed the extensive discussion between Ava Jae, Andrea Shettle and Logan W. on fictional disabilities. They covered everything from allegory and the social model to personal preferences and representational risk vs. value. Shout-out to Kayla for moderating!
We’ve all loved every minute of working on Disability in Kidlit, and we’re endlessly proud of what we’ve accomplished with the help and generosity of our contributors.
But, as the site has flourished, so have our individual personal and professional lives. That’s made keeping up with the site increasingly more difficult. Those who’ve worked with us this past year know how slow our process has been and continues to be. Nothing we’ve done, from expanding our staff to modifying our posting schedule, has had the impact we’d hoped. Since life is only going to get busier in the future for each of our team members, we don’t expect our ability to keep up to improve.
To that end, we’ve decided to put Disability in Kidlit on an indefinite hiatus.
It’ll be a while before this becomes visible on the site (we estimate spring at the earliest) as we still have a substantial backlog of both received and requested posts to work through. We have every intention of finishing those pieces and publishing them before the hiatus takes effect. However, we won’t be accepting or requesting any posts beyond the ones currently in motion.
Disability in Kidlit has been not just an invaluable resource to the kidlit community, but an important and loved part of our own lives. We’ve invested so much time, energy, and heart into this site, so please know this was an incredibly difficult decision. That’s why we’re calling this an indefinite hiatus rather than a closure: we want to leave the door open for us to return should we become able, whether in the form of specific site events or on a more regular basis. Again, a return seems unlikely given how our lives are shaping up at the moment, but we want to retain the possibility.
Please be assured that all our content will still remain available; nothing that has been published or will be in the coming months is going anywhere.
There is one aspect of the site that we’ll continue working on despite the hiatus: curating the Honor Roll. We recognize its importance as a one-of-a-kind resource, so we’ll continue vetting books and updating the list as we can.
We want to again thank every one of our contributors over the past three-and-a-half years. None of this would have been possible without you. We’ll be forever grateful for the effort, expertise, and enthusiasm you offered so generously. Thank you.
Thanks also to everyone who has supported and shared the site over the years. Thank you to the librarians and teachers who used the site to help curate their collections and point young readers toward respectful portrayals of disability. Thank you to the authors, agents, and editors who have used knowledge gained from the site to create more positive portrayals. And thank you to the readers and contributors who have made reading and discussing books featuring disability a priority.
We’ll let you know when the hiatus will officially start as it approaches. In the meantime, we hope you’ll stick around for the final batch of insightful reviews and articles our contributors have in store for you.
We’ll see you in the New Year.