Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice a Book Review

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice a Book Review October 2, 2020

One of my weird needs/superpowers is to read.  I’m sure that’s something a lot of pagan and animist types can relate to. I want to start doing monthly book reviews on some of my favorite books I’ve read, both recently and in the past. I review most of the books I read over at Goodreads as well, so feel free to friend me and see what else I’ve been reading.

So here we go:

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

A Quick Summary: No BS and a lot of Truth about being Disabled

This book is more than just Leah Lakshmi’s view on Disability Justice. It’s a collection of essays and viewpoints of many disabled people of color. She takes great pains to make it clear: in order to do that she had to buck the system and demand that it be written in a collective style.  I deeply admired her commitment to not being “The Wise Expert” of all things disability.

She covers the history of the movement as well as practical advice for those who are struggling with disabilities at the intersection of queerness and being a POC.  She talks about trauma and mental illness in ways that resonate with my own experience of mental illness both as someone who has struggled and someone who has helped others with mental illness. It’s clear she has real lived experience of those things. The tips on traveling for speaking engagements while disabled are pure gold.

Then she and those who wrote with her dream of  a world where being disabled is actually SEEN and integrated. They lay out practical ideas for how the non-disabled could really help, rather than just wringing their hands and saying, “Oh dear! That’s so bad, I will ignore that now.”  She talks about going slowly. I’ve done that, on both sides. I’ve been the slowest and I’ve been the one who had to slow down. Sometimes in the struggle to survive this toxic world it’s tempting to rush off.  Slowness is activism. It is inclusion.

May we go slow enough and include all beings in our lives, our movements, and our religious expression.

Care Work Dreaming Disability Justice shown as a digitized watercolor image surrounded by altar items.

My Takeaway:  Darn Useful and Soul Renewing

This was a really powerful book for me to read on many levels. One level was just how she continually counted scents and chemical sensitivity as part of accessibility. I can’t even express how profound that was for me. The shame of being unable to do things because of SMELL is ridiculous. But it’s very very real for me and has been my entire life. It feels weird to say, but I felt validated. Like, yes, I am a crip. I am disabled. The fact that I cannot function well in normal society is not some weird character flaw, it’s because of my body’s needs.

This book is more than just validation for my bodily needs, it’s like she named something I’ve been doing and didn’t know it had a name other than survival. I understand so much more about disability justice and feel… embraced by it. Like here, Mel, here is another piece of your weird survival puzzle. This is the name for the thing. There are others. Lots of others. They’re doing this too.

There were also ways that it expanded my mind and really helped me get clear on how disability intersects with social justice.  When you’ve generationally been wounded and traumatized, you’re far more likely to be disabled.  When the earth is being poisoned in urban areas where you live, you’re more likely to be disabled.  Social, environmental, and disability justice are all interlocking. We cannot leave anyone behind or we have failed.

Recommended: If you are Interested in the Intersection of Social and Disability Justice, Or just want your Mind Broadened

For anyone who struggles with mental or chronic physical illness and has survived because you and your friends have helped each other get food, get to the doctors, and survive their own health needs, this is an empowering book.  For anyone who reads that sentence and can’t understand how food and doctor’s appointments are radical, you should read this book.

Learn more about Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha here.

If you like my work and you’d like to help me keep writing and making art about animism, paganism, justice, and environmentalism sign up for my Patreon now for lots more writing and art goodies. Thank you.

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