HandiLand looks at young adult novels, fantasy series, graphic memoirs, and picture books of the last 25 years in which characters with disabilities take center stage for the first time. These books take what others regard as weaknesses—for instance, Harry Potter’s headaches or Hazel Lancaster’s oxygen tank—and redefine them as part of the hero’s journey. HandiLand places this movement from sidekick to hero in the political contexts of disability rights movements in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ghana.
Elizabeth A. Wheeler invokes the fantasy of HandiLand, an ideal society ready for young people with disabilities before they get there, as a yardstick to measure how far we’ve come and how far we still need to go toward the goal of total inclusion. The book moves through the public spaces young people with disabilities have entered, including schools, nature, and online communities. As a disabled person and parent of children with disabilities, Wheeler offers an inside look into families who collude with their kids in shaping a better world. Moving, funny, and beautifully written, HandiLand: The Crippest Place on Earth is the definitive study of disability in contemporary literature for young readers.