Did you know that July is disability pride month?

Being a disabled writer myself, I know only too well how often disability awareness gets overlooked, so this week I wanted to make sure that my reading list included disabled authors. I finished Fledgling by Octavia Butler, and also purchased a copy of Disability Visibility, which came out just this month, and is an edited volume of first-person stories.

I was curious to find out what disabled authors Marilyn Monroe had on her bookshelf. Unfortunately, this information is difficult to come by, especially when it comes to lesser-known authors without much publicly available biographical information (this is particularly a problem for a number of women authors Marilyn Monroe read). Additionally, those with an invisible disability might have chosen to keep their diagnosis a secret. Moreover, authors writing before the 20th century might have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed (although there are retrodiagnoses available for some authors). Nevertheless, I was able to find a handful of well-known authors on Marilyn Monroe’s bookshelf who are known to have had disabilities. They are listed below along with the works of theirs that Marilyn owned.

List of Authors

  1. Gustave Flaubert

    This is a retroactive diagnosis, but it is believed that Flaubert had a form of dyslexia based on his difficulties reading and forming letters. Interestingly, Marilyn Monroe owned two copies of his Madame Bovary.

2. Fyodor Dostoevsky

Russian novelist Dostoevsky had epilepsy, and seizures feature as a recurring theme in his works. Marilyn had three different works by Dostoevsky in her library: The Brothers Karamazov, The House of the Dead, and Crime and Punishment.

3. John Milton

17th-century poet John Milton became blind, writing a poem about his experience. Marilyn Monroe (who seemed to have been a lover of poetry) owned a copy of his poetical works.

4. Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway had type-2 diabetes as well as depression (which can be a symptom of hyperglycemia in diabetics). Marilyn Monroe owned A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises.

5. William Styron

Novelist Styron had severe clinical depression, which was a major theme in his works. Marilyn Monroe owned Set This House On Fire and Lie Down In Darkness.


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