Even and especially when we are frozen with fear, we are still collectively dreaming disability justice's future into being.

—Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, "Still Dreaming Wild Disability Justice Dreams at the End of the World," Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the 21st Century, a collection of 37 essays by disabled writers, first reached readers on June 30, 2020, just shy of the thirtieth anniversary of the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. The moment was significant. Not only did the law's anniversary prompt more mainstream media coverage of disability experiences, the disability justice movement was also gaining broader exposure amid the dual crises of the coronavirus pandemic and anti-Black violence. Disability Visibility, edited for a public audience by the disabled activist and writer Alice Wong, quickly became a phenomenon—a centerpiece of vibrant conversations in disabled communities and ongoing online events featuring disabled writers.

Wong's highly anticipated collection celebrates the lives of disabled people while making a powerful political statement about the need for disability justice, representation, and an end to violence in all forms. By foregrounding the stories of disabled people of color, it rejects the whiteness of rights-based disability discourses and builds the intersectional strength of the disability justice movement. In the book's introduction, Wong shares that her goal in making disability visible is not to inspire those without disabilities or offer up the lives of multiple marginalized disabled writers for analysis. Rather, the collection is a statement of community, love, and solidarity for disabled people. Her dedication on the front page is a moving statement of Disability Visibility's mission and impact: "To my younger self and all the disabled kids who can't imagine their futures. The world is ours, and this is for all of us."

Pieces in Disability Visibility explore the insights and lived experiences associated with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. A few narratives in the book, such as Deafblind lawyer Haben Girma's narrative about wandering "as one" with her guide dog, have been published previously on major media platforms. A range of genres are represented, including a eulogy by Talila A. Lewis for the beloved Black Disabled trans activist Ki'tay D. Davidson, the text of a TED talk by the blind astronomer Wanda Díaz-Merced, and the Harriet Tubman Collective's manifesto "Disability Solidarity: Completing the 'Vision for Black Lives.'" The richly varied tones and formats of each piece contribute to the accessibility of the anthology, inviting the reader to put the authors' stories into dialogue with each other. Most contributors are activists who have used their work to advocate for social and cultural change. For example, the writer Ariel Henley's contribution ("There's a Mathematical Equation That Proves I'm Ugly—Or So I Learned in My Seventh-Grade Art Class") is a personal and moving testimony to the need for redefined beauty standards. A number of other contributors to the anthology, including Patty Berne and the late Stacey Milbern, are prominent figures in the disability justice movement. The book also features Ellen Samuels's essay "Six Ways of Looking at Crip Time," which previously appeared in Disability Studies Quarterly and makes connections to key disability studies texts such as Margaret Price's Mad at School and Alison Kafer's Feminist, Queer, Crip.

The pieces in Disability Visibility are grouped into four parts: "Being," "Belonging," "Doing," and "Connecting." (A full list of contributors for each section of Disability Visibility are included in an infographic and accompanying image description on Wong's Substack newsletter for the book). Contributions in Part 1, "Being," are narratives by disabled people about their embodied experiences and relationship to a world that tells them they should not exist. Narratives in Part 2, "Becoming," examine disabled identity and the ways that "taking up space as a disabled person is always revolutionary" (in the words of Sandy Ho). Part 3, "Doing," is themed around action—finishing novels with the help of disabled friends ("Why My Novel Is Dedicated to My Disabled Friend Maddy" by A.H. Reaume), advocating for political power for disabled people who use augmentative and alternative communication ("Gaining Power through Communication Access" by Lateef McLeod), and much more.

Disability Visibility lands on the theme of community in Part 4, "Connecting," which showcases the disability justice movement's transformative power. Wong has explored the meaning of disability community in her Disability Visibility Project podcast and her self-published 2018 anthology, Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People. There, disabled writers shared insight on how to "fight back" and work for disability justice in a hate-driven, violent political climate. Part 4 of Disability Visibility shows how disabled communities can create a shared future in which no one is disposable and everyone is enough just as they are. Among the pieces in this section is an essay by Sins Invalid executive and artistic director Patty Berne, who describes the lessons that disabled queer and trans communities of color teach for surviving climate catastrophe. Other pieces in Part 4 include "Still Dreaming Wild Disability Justice Dreams at the End of the World" by the visionary disability justice writer Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, who testifies to the creation of "a Black and brown disability justice public cultural space" and new meanings for "disability justice literature." The crip spaces featured in Disability Visibility are both joyful and radically accessible, like the performance space that s.e. smith describes in the final narrative of the book ("This space is for us").

Wong, herself a phenomenon, aims to turn the anthology into its own radically accessible and communal space. It includes a discussion guide by Naomi Ortiz and a list of further reading by disabled authors. The text is available as an audiobook narrated by Alejandra Ospina and as a free plain-language version (which provides greater cognitive accessibility) by the disabled writer and editor Sara Luterman. As "a form of access and self-protection," content notes flag chapters that contain potentially traumatic material.

Since its release, Disability Visibility has become a landmark text for both the disability justice movement and disabled writers. The contributors' activist and world-transforming insights build on the radical aims of earlier disability narrative anthologies, such as Criptiques (edited by Caitlin Wood in 2014), and distinguish them from scholarly texts that take an analytical approach to disability experiences. Indeed, Disability Visibility raises important questions about the connections and tensions between disability studies and the disability justice movement, which originated in the community-based work of queer and trans disabled people of color in the San Francisco Bay Area. Piepzna-Samarasinha and disability studies scholar Margaret Price, among others, have pointed out that ableist barriers make the spaces of disability studies inaccessible to many disabled people. Given what Piepzna-Samarashinha calls the "old racist parts of white disability studies," what role might disability studies play in the movement for multiply marginalized disabled people? Wong explicitly states in her introduction to Disability Visibility that the book should not be used as a "Disability 101" textbook or "best of" list. How might disability studies engage with a text that is intended not for teaching about disabled people but rather for collective liberation?

One possible approach is to let the text teach on its own terms while posing these questions directly to our students and colleagues. The book is an opportunity to consider what it means for disabled people to exist in spaces that do not welcome us and what it could look like to create new ones. As Lydia X.Z. Brown suggests in Resistance and Hope, we must ask the following about our communities: "Who can't be here?" "Who has access and who does not?" Wong writes in her introduction to Disability Visibility that these questions must be accompanied by change: "As a marginalized person, I don't feel it's enough to just keep saying, 'Hey, pay attention to us, we're here! We exist! We're just as human as you!' I want things to improve even while grappling with this impulse…collectively, through our stories, connections, and our actions, disabled people will continue to confront and transform the status quo. It's who we are." The stories in Disability Visibility are ultimately a rousing call to action. The time for justice and transformation is now.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Brenna Swift

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