ETA: I’ve been getting suggestions here and on Twitter so I’m building a list of #criplit titles that may pass the Fries Test. Please make additional suggestions here or there. I haven’t read them all, so if you see a book on the list you don’t think belongs there, please leave a comment explaining why.
Does a work have more than one disabled character? Do the disabled characters have their own narrative purpose other than the education and profit of a nondisabled character? Is the character’s disability not eradicated either by curing or killing?
This is a very low bar, yet there are surprisingly few fictional works written for adults that manage it.1
When we talk specifically about trade-published novels with a disabled main character2, the numbers become vanishingly small. Offhand, I can think of only five:
There are more novels in which the main character is disabled and isn’t cured or killed, such as the Miles Vorkosigan series by Lois McMaster Bujold, but those characters are alone in their disability.6 Novels in which crips talk to each other? Novels in which we talk to each other about something other than wanting to be cured, or how to get cured, or why we want to die because we can’t be cured? Novels in which we don’t die? I’m drawing a blank.
Think about that. I read a lot. I can only think of four novels for adults with two or more crip characters who talk to each other and who are not killed or cured. It’s true that until recently I might not have noticed whether or not characters were disabled but, still, five.7 FIVE.
Surely I’m missing some. Please tell me I’m missing some…
1 As opposed to YA/kidlit, a genre in which, as we know from data about literary prizes, the barriers to depictions of the perceived Other appear to be somewhat different. (If you want some great recommendations, visit Disability in Kidlit.) And I’m focusing on the category of fiction, so excluding memoir, such as Mean Little Deaf Queer and essays such as Waist High to the World or Exile and Pride. (Note: I’m linking to some of these books on Amazon because crip writers have enough barriers to entry without increasing readers’ difficulty level to buy their books.)
2 I’m guessing there may be some self-published criplit novels out there but I don’t know them. If you do, please add them in the comments.
3 By Lizard Jones, who was part of the Kiss and Tell collective who produced both the wonderful Drawing the Line exhibit, which I saw long ago in Atlanta, and Her Tongue on My Theory. Lizard, if you’re reading this, I’d love to talk to you…
4 An ensemble novel, but I’d argue that Tyrion is a main character, and Bran, much later in the Song of Ice and Fire sequence, will become so.
5 So Lucky passes the Enhanced Fries Test: Many more than two disabled characters, most with names (gasp, what a concept!). Who talk about something other than disability. Who don’t die (or get cured, or sacrifice themselves for a nondisabled person—who are not a fucking narrative prosthesis).
6 I’ve only read one, and it was a very long time ago, so it may well be that Miles isn’t the only crip in the books. I’d love to be corrected about this.
7 And one of those, Borderline, was just pointed out to me by a commenter on Twitter this morning.