Book Review: I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell. null.
I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell. null
Disability Representations: ,
Published: July 7th 2020
Page Count: 64
Illustrator: Lauren Mark Baldo
In this stylishly illustrated biography anthology, meet 34 artists, thinkers, athletes, and activists with disabilities, from past and present. From Frida Kahlo to Stephen Hawking, find out how these iconic figures have overcome obstacles, owned their differences, and paved the way for others by making their bodies and minds work for them. These short biographies tell the stories of people who have faced unique challenges that have not stopped them from becoming trailblazers, innovators, advocates, and makers. Each person is a leading figure in their field, be it sports, science, math, art, breakdancing, or the world of pop.
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I am Not a Label is a great book for children to learn about disabilities and how large the disabled community really is. It’s aimed at children aged 6 to 12 years, however, even as an adult I learned a lot from it. For example, I had no idea there was a female footballer, Michelle Ackers, who has chronic fatigue syndrome and has been openly talking about her experiences with the condition for decades. Likewise, I also was unaware that the magician Dynamo has Crohn’s disease – and I’m a disability awareness blogger! This book may be aimed at children, but it will be just as education for their parents.

I was impressed with the variety of people included in I am Not a Label. Normally books like this, especially when aimed at children, stick to a very popular and very limited set of historical figures and celebrities. Cerrie Burnell included quite a few of them, Ludwig van Beethoven, Helen Keller, and Frida Kahlo just to name some historical figures that are often named when people compile a list of famous disabled people. However, they were out weighed by a larger amount of lesser, and I’d hazard even some unknown, people too. Even better, the individuals in I am Not a Label represent the truly diverse nature of the disabled community. There are people from all around the world, with so many different disabilities, and from other marginalised communities that intersect with the disabled community. There was even a section explaining what invisible/hidden disabilities were, which I thought was fantastic. While a child won’t necessarily recognise intersectionality, they will be able to recognise that the faces in the illustrations are all different, and that is important.

The illustrations, designed by Lauren Mark Baldo, are beautiful, and each one is delightful. I don’t know how to put into words how it felt to see all these disabled people illustrated with such care and attention to detail. Every single one was unique to the person, their background and their personality. In particular, I think for me as a disabled person it just brought tears to my eyes (and it’s even doing it just now as I’m writing this) to see them portrayed as they were/are without anyone trying to hide their disability or draw attention away from it. I felt this especially in regard to the historical figures who would have never been portrayed in a portrait as disabled because anything “impure” would have been “corrected” or “hidden away”. It isn’t as if Baldo has purposely emphasised their disabilities, either, she has just let their identity naturally shine through in her artwork. That’s what them so beautiful.

While I did enjoy the book, I’ve given it a 4 out of 5 star because at the end of the day I’m not a 6 to 12 year old or a parent, so I can only review this from the perspective of a disabled person. From that perspective, and thinking back to myself as a voracious learner at that age, I think that I am Not a Label will make a fantastic addition to any young person’s library. They’re not just going to learn more about the disability community, they’re going to learn about people because as the title of the book says; we’re not labels. This book is about saying that we’re more than just our disability, and for kids who are disabled it’s the affirmation that they can do anything they want to.

One last thing; you might have noticed that I did not use the word inspiring once in this review. There’s a reason for that; disabled people are not here to be your inspirations.  This book is literally called “I am not a Label” and by calling the people in this book “inspiring” you are applying a label to them. When you’re thinking that the people in this book are inspiring, ask yourself; are they inspiring because of their achievements alone or because they are disabled and managed to achieve these things? If you can’t separate their achievements from their disabilities, then you are labelling them.

GeekDis Book Giveaway!

Throughout September, I am giving away some of the books that I am reviewing for GeekDis!

This giveaway is part of GeekDis, a collaborative event for members of the disability community to talk about disability representation in pop culture. You can learn more about GeekDis and see all the content myself and others have been creating here! To help spread awareness about the need for disability representation in pop culture, I am giving away books that feature disability representation.

I am giving away any book with disability representation that costs no more than £10.99 on The Book Depository at the time of the giveaway. All eligible books will be marked with GIVEAWAY in the title, just like this one, so keep an eye out for them! You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for notifications of new book reviews.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions

By entering this giveaway, you are agreeing to the following terms and conditions:

  1. This giveaway is open internationally to any country that The Book Depository delivers to for free (a list is available here).
  2. The prize is only for reviewed books marked as “GeekDis” and “Giveaway”. A list can be found here.
  3. Participants must be over the age of 18.
  4. Family members of Heather T  of Just Geeking By are prohibited from taking part in any of the giveaways.
  5. Shares to social media accounts must be PUBLIC and visible for entries to be seen and counted.
  6. Therefore, private or locked social media accounts may not take part in any “share activities”.
  7. Any discriminatory or ableist comment given towards the disabled community that is made as a part of any action while entering the competition will result in automatic rejection from all giveaways at Just Geeking By. This is because GeekDis is an event designed to spread awareness about disability representation, not hate.

For the full Terms and Conditions, please see here.

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