Beautiful People: My Thirteen Truths About Disability (Hardcover)

Beautiful People: My Thirteen Truths About Disability By Melissa Blake Cover Image
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Well-known disability activist and social media influencer Melissa Blake offers a frank, illuminating memoir and a call to action for disabled people and allies.

In the summer of 2019, journalist Melissa Blake penned an op-ed for CNN Opinion. A conservative pundit caught wind of it, mentioning Blake’s work in a YouTube video. What happened next is equal parts a searing view into society, how we collectively view and treat disabled people, and the making of an advocate. After a troll said that Blake should be banned from posting pictures of herself, she took to Twitter and defiantly posted three smiling selfies, all taken during a lovely vacation in the Big Apple:

I wanted desperately to clap back at these vile trolls in a way that would make a statement, not only about how our society views disabilities, but also about the toxicity of our strict and unrealistic beauty standards. Of course I knew that posting those selfies wasn't going to erase the nasty names I'd been called and, the chances were, they would never even see my tweet, but that didn't matter. I wasn't doing it for them; I was doing it for me and every single disabled person who has been bullied before, online and in real life. When people mock how I look, they're not just insulting me. They're insulting all disabled people. We're constantly told that we're repulsive and ugly and not good enough to be seen. This was me pushing back against that toxic, ableist narrative.

For the first time, I felt like I was doing something empowering, taking back my power and changing the story.

Her tweet went viral, attracting worldwide media attention and interviews with the BBC, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, PEOPLE magazine, Good Morning America and E! News.

Now, in her manifesto, Beautiful People, Blake shares her truths about disability, writing about (among other things):
  • the language we use to describe disabled people
  • ableism, microaggressions, and their pernicious effects
  • what it's like to live in a society that not only isn't designed for you, but actively operates to render you invisible
  • her struggles with self‑image and self‑acceptance
  • the absence of disabled people in popular culture
  • why disabled people aren't tragic heroes
Blake also tells the stories of some of the heroes of the disability rights movement in America, in doing so rescuing their incredible achievements from near total obscurity. Highlighting other disabled activists and influencers, Blake’s work is the calling card of a powerful voice—one that has sparked new, different, better conversations about disability.

About the Author

MELISSA BLAKE is an American writer, journalist, disability activist and high-profile social media influencer.
She was born in 1981 with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder, and has had more than 26 surgeries, including surgeries on her knees, hands, hips and spine. She credits much of her independence to her parents, who taught her to use her voice and to advocate for herself.
Growing up, writing was a way for Blake to express herself and explore the world beyond her disability. After graduating from Northern Illinois University with a journalism degree in 2005, she began a career as a freelance writer. She wrote a weekly newspaper column for nearly five years, covering everything from family and musings on life to pop culture. Her writing on disabilities, relationships and pop culture has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN Opinion, Health, Good Housekeeping, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, among others.

Blake lives in DeKalb, Illinois.

Praise For…

“I love this book. Melissa Blake takes us with her on her journey as a disabled person through an ableist society that seeks to erase the experiences of her community with inaccessibility, exclusion, pity, sentimentality, and, yes, cruelty. Melissa’s clarity, rigorous honesty, humanity, and delightful humor deliver her story in full. It is not only an invaluable document in the ongoing battle for disability rights, but a joy to read. Brava!”—Bradley Whitford, actor

“Melissa Blake offers a delightful explanation of disability in a voice that is both sparkling and knowledgeable. Newcomers to disability studies will find Melissa’s book an accessible resource to our culture and history. Disabled readers will recognize their experiences reflected in her authentic musings on everything from social media and dating to transportation and building a career as a disabled professional. No matter what kind of body we move through the world in, Melissa’s warmth is a welcome invitation to join her in recognizing the beauty we each possess.”—Jessica Slice and Caroline Cupp, authors of Dateable: Swiping Right, Hooking Up, and Settling Down While Chronically Ill and Disabled

“In prose that is clear, warm, and always laced with humor, Melissa draws you in, making you a part of her world. With her trademark wit, pop culture references, and ability to tackle challenging topics with seeming effortlessness, Beautiful People is a book with heart and is an absolute delight to read.”—Erin Khar, author of Strung Out

“Not only does Beautiful People inform me on how to fight for disability justice, it lets me view the world through a disabled person’s lens. Spoiler alert: It’s not at all what you thought. With compelling, thoughtful, illuminating prose, Melissa Blake empowers every reader to live life on their own terms.”—Lauren DePino, essayist for The New York Times and The Washington Post

“Melissa’s willingness to share her unfiltered self opens minds to the experiences of people living with physical disabilities. Her story helps us all unlearn stereotypes that we are conditioned to believe about people with disabilities, and that the media has been guilty of reinforcing.”—Nicholas Ferroni, teacher and educator

“Abraham Lincoln. Susan B. Anthony. Mark Twain. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Melissa Blake’s name belongs beside these weavers of words. Her courage and realness, sweetness and humor, and groundbreaking journalism will make you laugh, cry and want to learn more. Put simply, this honest book will change the world. Someday we will forget disability justice needed Blake’s voice…because it will be etched in stone forever.”—Laura Carney, author of My Father’s List: How Living My Dad’s Dreams Set Me Free

“There aren’t enough good things I could say about this book. Melissa Blake deftly melds personal narrative and disability rights with a dash of humor central to her personality. She challenges long-held assumptions about disabled people and answers questions you may have been afraid to ask. Blake asserts she’s neither your charity case nor your hero; she’s just the girl next door with the same hopes and fears as anyone. While Blake’s experience is unique, readers will see iterations of their own struggles in the pages, further exemplifying our shared humanity.”—Shannon Luders-Manuel, Black Prince: A Father-Daughter Story in Black and White

“As a disability public speaker and advocate, I found myself nodding in agreement, feeling seen and validated, and cheering Melissa on as she shared her self-love journey and her process of contending with internalized ableism. A triumph and a recommended read for all!”—Catarina Rivera, MSEd, MPH, CPACC, Public Speaker, DEIA Consultant, Content Creator @BlindishLatina
Product Details
ISBN: 9780306830426
ISBN-10: 0306830426
Publisher: Hachette Go
Publication Date: March 5th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English