We are the heroes, not the sidekicks.
“Can you recommend fiction that has main characters who are like us?” This is a question we who are disabled, Deaf, neurodiverse, Spoonie, and/or who manage mental illness ask way too often. Typically, we’re faced with stories about us crafted by people who really don’t get us. We’re turned into pathetic, tragic souls; we merely exist to inspire the abled main characters to thrive; or even worse, we’re to overcome “what’s wrong with us” and be cured.
Nothing Without Us combines both realistic and speculative fiction, starring protagonists who are written “by us and for us.” From hospital halls to jungle villages, from within the fantastical plane to deep into outer space, our heroes take us on a journey, make us think, and prompt us to cheer them on.
These are bold tales, told in our voices, which are important for everyone to experience.
Before I go on I want to take a moment to list all the authors and say thank you for your work:
Jennifer Lee Rossman
Dorothy Ellen Palmer
J. Ivanel Johnson
Nathan Caro Frechette
As well as the editors, Cait Gordon and Talia C. Johnson. I received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review, and I’m so so SO excited to share with you this wonderful, lovely, and inspiring book.
It’s been a while since I read a short story anthology. In fact, its been a while since I read a short story. I forgot how fun it is to be dropped into a world for such a short amount of time, and the skill that it takes to make your characters interesting and relatable in such a short amount of time. These stories all do this extremely well. I kept telling myself okay, after this story I’ll go cook, or I’ll do a reading for school. But I literally couldn’t put it down. And as someone who loves science fiction and fiction in general, it was so nice to see so much representation. I know that that was literally the point of the book, to make space for marginalized voices in fiction, but dang was it ever refreshing.
I think people forget how being differently abled doesn’t mean that youre completely disabled. Like in one of the stories, two characters who communicate with sign and are deaf were able to defeat some enemies using an alarm that they couldn’t hear. Literally genius. This book showcased a small variety of skills and abilities that disabled people have that are often overlooked in science fiction, and they’re instead trivialized or shifted to supporting roles. I think one of the only examples of a character who was disabled and a main character (in recently memory) was Ella in The Illumiae Files. But to have a full anthology celebrating the abilities and capabilities and disabled people in general was so beautiful.
And there is literally a story for everyone in this book. Want a ghost story? Check. Mythology? Check. Private Eye? Check. Mental illness? Check. Physical illness? Check. Acceptance? Defiance? Pride? Anger? Heartbreak? All of these and more. I am not exaggerating when I say I finished this book in a couple of hours, and I’m sure that many of you will do the same.
Earlier this year I talked about how I wanted to make a more concerted effort to try to decolonize my bookshelf. Well, I think that addressing the ableism that is present in novels is also a good way that we can be more conscious of the books that we’re reading, and if you’re looking to gain a deeper understanding of disability, and read some kick-ass stories about really engaging and fun characters, then I highly recommend this book. If you pick it up, I’d love to discuss your favourite short story and if you’d also give it a 5/5!
That’s all for now folks, I hope you have a great day!