In honor of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in July of 1990, July was named Disability Pride Month. Its purpose is to take a moment and celebrate disabled, chronically ill, Deaf, and neurodivergent people and our incredible lives. While still not recognized nationally, the celebration has gained traction across the country, especially online.
Audiobooks and disability culture have long been intertwined. For many of us, audiobooks are the only way that we experience literature, so we possess a deep love and appreciation for audiobook narrators, publishers, and distributors. And of course, when telling our own stories, audiobooks are an important part of making books—and disabled stories as a whole—accessible for all. To celebrate Disability Pride Month, here are five audiobooks by disabled authors, many of whom perform their audiobook editions themselves!
HABEN: The DeafBlind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
by Haben Girma, performed by the author
Haben Girma brilliantly performs her memoir, inviting us into her vibrant life. She spends summers in Asmara, a city in Eritrea where her family is originally from, and as Girma reads the descriptions of her homeland, listeners feel as if they are right there with her. Her parents fled the country during the 30-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. After her family settled in America, Girma focused on school, navigating the world as a blind person transitioning to being DeafBlind. She describes learning to speak at a higher register because of her limited hearing, and we hear that in her performance. Haben perseveres, eventually graduating from Harvard Law, and becomes determined to help defend disability rights across the United States.
TEN STEPS TO NANETTE: A Memoir Situation
by Hannah Gadsby, performed by the author
Random House Audio
Few people can perform a memoir like Hannah Gadsby. In 2018, Gadsby’s comedy special Nannette released on Netflix to much acclaim. The special focused on Gadsby’s experience as a queer, autistic person experiencing the incredible harm of the patriarchy, and it pushed the idea of what a comedian could do with their performance. Gadsby performs her memoir with the same comedic sense of timing and dry wit of a live show. She tells the story of her life, performing the anecdotes, drawing the listener in just like in her shows. Gadsby’s excellent narration and vulnerable storytelling make this an audiobook you won’t want to miss.
by Samantha Irby, performed by the author
Random House Audio
A true performer, Samantha Irby reads her essays about life living as a self-described fat, chronically ill, Black woman. In her most recent collection, Irby describes life now that she’s married and living with her wife in a small town in the midwest. She describes the chaos she experienced during the pandemic, including having her show’s pilot canceled and getting a job writing for the new Sex in the City reboot. Irby’s talent as a narrator truly shines when she uses her dark humor in her tales of living with a chronic illness and having a major allergic reaction to some unknown substance that is most likely one of her wife's supplements. When it comes to authors performing their own work, Irby’s narration ensures her place as one of the best of all time.
GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN
by Talia Hibbert, performed by Adjoa Andoh
Few things are as delightful as sitting down to listen to an audiobook performed by Golden Voice narrator Adjoa Andoh. So when I saw that she was performing Talia Hibbert’s romance novel, I couldn’t click “buy now” fast enough. GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN centers around a chronically ill, Black woman living in the United Kingdom. She moves out of her family’s house and instantly begins a hate-to-love relationship with her new building manager. Sexy and heartwarming, Hibbert’s story is perfectly performed by Andoh. The British sense of snark and dry humor comes across in every chapter.
DISABILITY PRIDE: Dispatches from a Post-ADA World
by Ben Mattlin, performed by Anthony Michael Lopez
In a combination of research and personal anecdotes, disabled journalist Ben Mattlin shares insights on the lives of disabled people thirty years after the passing of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). He chronicles the advocacy from different communities, like the autistic community's push for autistic-led initiatives to better support autistic people. Anthony Michael Lopez performs the audiobook with clarity, keeping listeners’ interest through detailed research. As Mattlin quotes different advocates from disability communities, Lopez gives the people quoted their own sound, differentiating them from the main text.
For more audiobooks on Disability Pride, see our curated list of titles.
Kendra Winchester is a regular contributor on AudioFile's Behind the Mic podcast. She is a Contributing Editor for Book Riot, where she writes about audiobooks and disability literature. She is also the Founder of Read Appalachia, which celebrates Appalachian literature and writing. She is the editor of an anthology of disabled Appalachian writers forthcoming from the University Press of Kentucky.