Book event focuses on young adult literary characters with disabilities

October 12, 2020 - 2:30pm

Heroes and heroines with disabilities from young people’s literature and an ideal society of youngsters with disabilities merge in “Handiland: The Crippest Place on Earth” by Elizabeth Wheeler, UO professor in English and disability studies.

Wheeler will give a virtual book talk on “Handiland” at noon Friday, Oct. 16. The talk is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

The book explores 25 years of young adult novels, fantasy series, graphic memoirs and picture books where a character’s disability is not a weakness but becomes a central part of the heroic journey, such as Harry Potter’s headaches. Wheeler puts the concept in a political context of the disability rights movements in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ghana and creates a fantasy of an ideal society ready for young people with disabilities before they get there.

As a person with a disability and parent of children with disabilities, Wheeler offers an inside look into families who collude with their children in shaping a better world, whether in schools, nature or online communities. “Handiland” provides insight for all in working towards fuller inclusion.

October marks the 75th observance of National Disability Employee Month, with the theme "Increasing Access and Opportunity." This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the American Disabilities Act, the 1990 civil rights legislation aimed at increasing access and opportunity for people with disabilities across society, including in the workplace.

Wheeler’s book explores youth literature through most of the years since the passing of the act, providing a history since the legislation was enacted, as well as guiding readers to a place where there is full inclusion for people with disabilities.

For more information and to register, see the Oregon Humanities Center event page.

By Jourdan Cerillo, University Communications