Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People With Disabilities, edited by Belo Miguel Cipriani
About Rating: 5/5 Stars
Each and every story in this anthology is worth reading, for they each tell individual stories of different people living with different disabilities. I have reviewed two of my favorites from the book. But trust me, they’re all worth reading. A few of the pieces (including the two below) are written by LGBTQ+ authors, and the editor of the book is also an LGBTQ+ person.
“Landmines” — Caitlin Hernandez
“I needed to know what page he was on so I could turn my own pages accordingly.”
“Landmines” by Caitlin Hernandez is the beautiful story of a blind, bisexual woman traversing through the romantic world around her that she cannot physically see. Her prose is elegant, beautiful, and easy to read all at the same time. I found myself wanting more from her even after the story had ended. The way she describes the world around her is wonderful. I wanted more stories like this, books like this, characters like this. Readers have so much to learn about the struggles of the blind — especially those who re queer — and can foray such a journey from reading non-fiction stories such as this one. As writers, we need to better learn how to incorporate characters that with disabilities into our writing. And I say this, not only as someone who reviews books for a LGBTQ magazine, but for an avid reader and writer, but “Landmines” is probably one of my new favorite short stories. That being said, I’m also not someone who normally spends a great deal of time reading non-fiction or memoirs all that much. But Hernandez has a way of taking her real-life experiences and spinning them into prose that is absolutely amazing to read.
“I needed him to appreciate how much it had cost me to let him in at all: to open up to and trust him, even though others — boys who were not so unlike him — had given me every reason to deadbolt my doors indefinitely.”
Everything Hernandez says is so real and bleeds with truth. While she is blind, she does a remarkable job of making the story relatable in a way that is able to temporarily erase our vision and replace it with a landscape we’re forced to feel. We all go through situations like these and we’ve all had people that we love with all-consuming pain that can’t love us back in the exact same way. Hernandez does an excellent job of writing in a way that evokes feeling and emotion while telling her own story at the same time.
“StarWords” — David-Elijah Nahmod
“If he could overcome his disability, then I could overcome mine.”
“StarWords” by David-Elijah Nahmod is a story of a gay man with PTSD rooted back into his childhood that sprung from the way he was treated then. The way that Nahmod describes his childhood trauma is truly amazing. The details he includes made me feel like I was right there beside him the entire time. I felt the pain and trauma that he surely went through, as his words were inescapably gripping and raw. Most of all, I felt for Nahmod a sense of empathy. Reading this story made me want to reach out to small Nahmod and offer him help; but the realization that is equal part heartbreaking and inspiring is that you can’t do that. Heartbreaking to know that this isn’t an option, inspiring to know that Nahmod overcame these struggles and is capable of sharing his story today. This, like the tale before, is an incredibly important story in the realm of what people will learn from it. Before this story, I didn’t know what LGBTQ+ children were going through back during the period in which Nahmod was growing up, and likely still go through today in some places.
“I wonder what they would have thought if I told them the truth — that I was in the midst of a severe anxiety attack and was too frightened to talk to them.”
Nahmod also goes on to discuss his disability. Post-traumatic stress disorder, like Nahmod, is never something that I viewed as a disability. Before reading this piece, I wasn’t informed as to what exactly PTSD meant and what people who had it could be feeling. Nahmod does a great job of informing the reader while also telling his story. I enjoyed watching Nahmod grow throughout the story. When he came to terms with his disability, it came with a sense of pride. I think that people reading this will also realize that not all disabilities are on the surface, and that’s great.