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  • Chris McMillan

The History Of Literature about Disabilities in Taiwan

Taiwan Insight

11th March 2021

The History Of Literature about Disabilities in Taiwan

Written by Ta-wei Chi.

When it comes to literature and disabilities, today’s readers usually encounter the autobiographies of disabled people. As in many countries, Taiwan is home to many non-fiction books written by disabled people. Some of these books become high-profile bestsellers when their authors narrate how they have heroically transcended difficulties. However, this understanding of literature and disabilities is limited. As “life writing,” these books are only the tip of the historic iceberg when it comes to “literature about disabilities.” Underneath the surface, one can find numerous texts with disability themes scattered across history.

In the field of disability studies, there have been debates about whether “disabled people” or “people with disabilities” is a more satisfactory description of the people in question. In my blog on literature and disabilities, however, I choose not to use “disability literature” but “literature with disability themes,” for the former seems to suggest a literary genre strictly committed to representing disabled people positively. In contrast, the latter is a more inclusive label accommodating various texts. In these texts, disabled people might not always be in the foreground, nor are they always portrayed positively. Combining Taiwanese literature from various historical epochs, I came across numerous texts in which disabled people are assigned subsidiary rather than primary roles. Indeed, they are sometimes depicted as disagreeable.

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