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Here we are read us – women disability and writing


I could reach for a bunch of clichés and sprinkle them across this review – good things come in small packages; don’t judge a book by it’s cover. You get the picture. But this book deserves so much more.


It’s really small. So small it arrived in an envelope instead of the usual bulky package. Intrigued, I tore open the envelope; and there in my hand was this intriguing little book – just 15cm by 10cms - with a bright cover and so much promise.


I was excited to receive it and read it at once. And then I read it again. The first time I was impressed by the quality of the writing and grateful for an opportunity to glimpse into the world of a disabled writer.


But then I understood how accomplished these writers are. Because this is not just a collection of writing from disabled women. These are writers, published authors, poets of stature, who also happen to be disabled. They are also graffiti artists and crane drivers.


And when you’ve absorbed all of that, you can once again return to their stories and reabsorb the scale of the mountains they have climbed to be heard, and the shackles they have shaken to reach acceptance, both as individuals and writers.


For example, Trish Harris, author and crane-driver, was told she should not write about her disability. “But for me, writing in this area is like dipping a bucket into a well. What you haul up is often deeply personal yet has a strong universal connection.”


Te Awhina Arahanga writes about her diagnosis of insanity - something she previously hid from the world. Michele Leggott is a writer who is also losing her sight. And it’s these many alsos which are so powerful when the book is read and read again.


It’s almost as if by bringing their disabilities to the forefront these talented women relegate them to the place they should have been all along. Not defining, but redefining them both as women and writers of remarkable talent.


As a writer, I am always keen to understand other writers and I appreciated the additional double page headed Why do you write – which offers a greater understanding of universality of the compulsion of writing.


This is a project which deserves a broader audience and being mindful of that the publishers have made it as accessible as it could possibly be in a broad variety of formats including large print, Braille and DAISY.


For more information go to artsaccessadvocates.org.nz/Crip-the-Lit-telling-our-stories-our-way


Reviewer: Peta Stavelli

Published by Crip the Lit.

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