Meet Melissa Shang, a middle schooler with a dream. Born with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a form of muscular dystrophy, Melissa dreamed of writing a children’s story like one she had never read before. She wanted to write a story about a relatable character, but not just one with a disability. She wanted to write a story about disability that is not a sad one, as she is a bright, ambitious, and happy young woman.
So, she did! But, after completing her book and sending it off to publishers, she was disappointed in the response. Publishers told her that the character described in her story was “too happy” and that, as a result, her story was not believable. While receiving feedback like that would cast doubt in the hearts of many young people with disabilities that their story is, in fact, a sad one, Melissa was not phased. Instead, Melissa decided to travel the uncharted waters alone and self-publish, as have I.
My goal for my new book, Will the One-Winged Eagle, is that it will build upon this new genre of stories that shows disability in a new light and give it momentum. I hope that it will inspire young people with disabilities, maybe with a little less conviction than Melissa, that their story is also not a sad one. In addition, for young people with and without disabilities alike, I hope it will instill the belief that obstacles and limitations can be overcome. Perhaps thirty years ago, before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the publishers who read Melissa’s story would have been right, but times have changed. People with disabilities are now integrating into society, adapting to the newly accommodating environment, and contributing how they are ABLE. Now it’s time children’s literature reflect the world we’re currently living in.