Book Review: Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People: Crip Wisdom for the People (Alice Wong, editor)
Reviewed by Diane R. Wiener
As noted at the text's conclusion, "Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People is a publication by the Disability Visibility Project, a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture." The Disability Visibility Project (described in helpful detail toward the end of the digital volume, as is StoryCorps) is coordinated by the incomparable Alice Wong, its Founder and Director.
This cutting-edge, thorough, and accessible, new collection is sub-sub-titled (!): "Crip Wisdom for the People." The title, the sub-title, and the sub-sub-title all keep their promises in the textual examples within, and never disappoint. This process is accomplished not only via the contributors' thorough engagement with vastly honest writing, due to their brilliant ideas and openness about lived experience, but in the authors' and thus the text's welcoming of both emergent and seasoned activist-scholars alike to think, collaborate, labor, dream, endure, and love (yes, and, of course, to hope and resist…) – deeply, messily, and, if feasible, openly. Openness is a delimited arena. The definitions of what is accessible, to whom, and under what circumstances – including within the disability rights movement, itself – are key conversational tipping points for many of the contributors; indeed, there is "a call" to the readership to consider all of these matters, with true application in mind, at all times.
By focusing on a variety of bold spheres, including but not restricted to: advocacy for change, within and external to bureaucratic systems; mistrust and critique of all systems, including nonprofits, due to their disabling and problematic power dynamics (as nothing is exempt from power and the specter of ableism); and advancing disability cultures through the arts and public intellectual work, disability justice is centered, uncompromisingly, throughout. Critical themes, and relevant, timely and – most of all – practical examples, define and disrupt the underpinnings and meanings of "hope" and "resistance." While the authors are certainly not in complete agreement about all sensibilities, practices, or beliefs, the collection's echoes (not just auditorily) outweigh its nuanced tensions. The differences among the approaches utilized by the contributors are as profound and useful as the consistencies across the praxical and inclusive pedagogy that underscores the volume, as a whole.
Each of the 16 essays' introductory content notes, the textual descriptions accompanying the images and photos, and the generally inclusive language, as well as the embedded hyperlinks to myriad resources and definitions within the virtual chapters (each of which is anchored as a header, as are other textual facets, via the Table of Contents), support and augment the reader's experience of the collection's demonstration of its principles and content.
Intergenerational representation is reflected by the contributors' wide and diverse expertise, writing styles, and interests. Co-mingled with many axes of intersectional differences, a cross-disabilities perspective and commitment summon the explicit and unapologetic assertion throughout the text that this work is a refutation of fascism and the current U.S. federal government's leadership. The authors and editorial team make plain that dire consequences, both actual and potential, to disabled people, particularly the marginalized among the marginalized, have manifested consistently and indisputably since the 2016 Presidential election; this orientation is one of the book's premises and motivating forces.
There are connections to current events as well as to history, and the writers, while certainly "hip," are neither exclusive nor exclusionary, overall. There are some moments in the text when further explanation of current language might prove helpful to less familiar readers, perhaps by adding more hyperlinks, or even providing a glossary (some of the essays have a feature, along these lines, but that practice is not across the board).
While this reviewer, like many others, is disinterested in appeals to authenticity that are as stale as they are fraught, it must be noted that a central structure within many of the writings is the vibrant and stalwart combination of pain, fear, distress, and rage, focused and insistent on action-oriented change, accomplished with clear, approachable and "do-able" strategies and techniques that are offered by the writers – with unwavering integrity.
Protest, as many of the authors emphasize, is not possible in all of the same ways for all disabled people. Moreover, there are lots of ways to protest and to define what is meant by protesting. Whether the topic is self-care, the necessity of artfulness, or organizing in solidarity (or, all three, interwoven and arguably indistinguishable, in some cases), at the heart of the matter are the critique of perfectionism and normalcy, "even" within the disability rights movement, and the value of figuring out how to assure that "Nothing About Us Without Us" is not just empty parlance without real meaning or consequence, at times due to hierarchies, exclusion, and disputes within the disability rights movement. As Mia Mingus notes, resistance is a kind of service, and must have (a) purpose.
Title: Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People*