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Disability in the ALA Youth Media Awards: Separate and Equal

Of course I was excited last week when the Schneider Family Book Awards which “honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences” were announced at ALA Midwinter.

I’ve only read the middle-grade winner – Rain Reign by Ann M Martin (Babysitter’s Club author, in case you lived under a rock or had no elementary-school aged children in the 90s), but thought the story of a girl with autism learning to love and let go when she encounters a lost dog was wonderful. I’ve requested and ordered the other two for my library system.

What really made me (literally) squee, however, was that Cece Bell’s El Deafo was a Newberry Honor book. This funny and touching graphic novel explores what it is like to grow up wearing hearing aids and attending a mainstream school. I am so, so happy for this book that it was recognized.

I am especially happy, however, that it was recognized separate from the Schneider category – because while it is important to recognize marginalized groups and create recognition for works exploring them, the ultimate goal is to de-marginalize them and not have to limit “disability literature” to one category. It is great that the nominating committee saw fit to see beyond genre boundaries and pre-conceptions in this case.

I highly recommend reading through these books and the others that have won in past years.

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