Disability and YA Literature

Children’s Literature in Education recently published my forthcoming article online. In Redefining Normal: A Critical Analysis of (Dis)ability in Young Adult Literature, I conducted a literary analysis of three recent winners of the Schneider Family Book Award from the American Library Association. Each year, this award highlights books that embodies “an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” A recent analysis by Melanie Koss and William Teale found that 25% of all young adult books feature a character with a disability. Building on research within literacy studies and disability studies, I drew on critical discourse analysis to examine how identity, agency, and power functioned in the novels and shaped the representations of disability.

The abstract: This literary analysis examines constructions of normalcy and disability within contemporary young adult literature, including Jerk, California, Marcelo in the Real World, and Five Flavors of Dumb. As recent winners of the Schneider Family Book Award from the American Library Association, these novels offer complex and realistic portrayals of characters with disabilities. Drawing on critical discourse analysis, this paper explores how identity, agency, and power shape the novels’ plots and themes. The growing prevalence of characters with disabilities in young adult literature offers an opportunity for students to consider how disability is constructed in society and represented in literary works. By taking a critical approach to literary analysis, teachers can emphasize social justice within the English curriculum.

Photo by ~WinGzx87

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