A Vancouver Island University student has gathered together works by disabled writers and artists to give them a place to tell their own stories in their own words.
“There are definitely a lot of myths and underrepresentation of disabled people in media in general and, I think, in cultural texts in general and I’m pretty sick of that, personally, and I know a lot of us are,” said SB Smith, who is physically disabled and chronically ill.
On March 11 Smith unveils Disabled Voices Anthology in the Malaspina Theatre lobby. The book launch will feature readings from some of the book’s local contributors as well as a discussion segment.
“In this anthology there are disabled people telling their own stories, writing their own characters and their own fiction and poetry and whatnot and that to me, as a writer, is my ethical ideal,” Smith said. “I love the idea of people telling their own stories and not stepping outside of those bounds as much as possible.”
Disabled Voices Anthology is a project two years in the making. At that time Smith was being introduced to a lot of disabled literature, which she refers to as “Crip Lit,” but was having difficulty finding more of those writers.
“It just felt like there was a need for more anthologies of disabled writing and art and places where people can go and get introductions to it,” she said. “Because when I was first coming into my own disabled identity and sort of owning that and as a writer I was finding tidbits here and there, but Google searches [for] the word ‘disabled,’ the algorithm doesn’t work very well so [one] can’t really find much.”
Around that time Smith was taking a publishing course at VIU and attended a presentation by Lori Shwydky of Rebel Mountain Press, a Nanoose Bay-based book publisher that specializes in work by writers belonging to marginalized groups. At the end of class, Smith pitched her idea for Disabled Voices Anthology.
Shwydky said she was immediately intrigued by Smith’s proposal and knew it would fit Rebel Mountain’s mandate perfectly.
“At the time, I was totally unaware that there was such a thing as Crip Lit [or] culture, and I have become much more aware since then from working with [Smith], and the contributor pieces,” Shwydky said in an e-mail. “I am excited that this anthology will help create that awareness about disability culture for others.”
To collect material for the book, Smith put a call out on social media and reached out to her acquaintances in the disabled community to spread the word. Other writers and artists she contacted directly.
Smith ended up including in Disabled Voices Anthology poetry, non-fiction, essays, personal stories, short fiction, as well as visual art like sketches and photographs from contributors in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
She said it was important to have some international representation, even if it’s limited to the Western Hemisphere.
“That’s what I wanted to go for because I think disability is something that crosses the boundaries of culture and place,” she said.
WHAT’S ON … Disabled Voices Anthology launch takes place in the Malaspina Theatre lobby, VIU Bldg. 310, on Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m.