A memoir by a disability rights activist
Such a Pretty Girl is Nadina LaSpina's story—from her early years in her native Sicily, where still a baby she contracts polio, a fact that makes her the object of well-meaning pity and the target of messages of hopelessness; to her adolescence and youth in America, spent almost entirely in hospitals, where she is tortured in the quest for a cure and made to feel that her body no longer belongs to her; to her rebellion and her activism in the disability rights movement.
LaSpina’s personal growth parallels the movement’s political development—from coming together, organizing, and fighting against exclusion from public and social life, to the forging of a common identity, the blossoming of disability arts and culture, and the embracing of disability pride.
While unique, the author's journey is also one with which many disabled people can identify. It is the journey to find one's place in an ableist world—a world not made for disabled people, where disability is only seen in negative terms. La Spina refutes all stereotypical narratives of disability. Through the telling of her life’s story, without editorializing, she shows the harm that the overwhelming focus on pity and on a cure that remains elusive has done to disabled people. Her story exposes the disability prejudice ingrained in our sociopolitical system and denounces the oppressive standards of normalcy in a society that devalues those who are different and denies them basic rights.
Written as continuous narrative and in a subtle and intimate voice, Such a Pretty Girl is a memoir as captivating as a novel. It is one of the few disability memoirs to focus on activism, and one of the first by an immigrant.
"A feminist, personal perspective on disability. One of the main themes is the author’s developing ability to claim and enjoy her own beauty and sexuality." ~Gillian Kendall, coauthor of How I Became a Human Being
"The author skillfully ties her personal experiences into a broader social and historical context … an empowering and feminist book. It shows an immigrant, writer, teacher, and activist’s perspective on pivotal moments in history. In an intimate way, Such a Pretty Girl shows how far disability rights have come in the past 70 years and touches on inequalities that still exist." ~Book Riot
"From pity to empowerment, a woman born with polio illuminates her personal changes in attitude and accomplishment amid sweeping societal changes in rights for the disabled. . . . 'I was the luckiest woman in the world,' insists the author in this revelatory and deeply moving memoir that clearly shows how and why she came to feel that way." ~STARRED Kirkus Review
"A memoir fueled by passion and grounded in history. Nadina LaSpina’s beautifully written narrative reveals a conscientious citizen and an exuberant and vibrant woman. Such a Pretty Girl is ultimately a love story." ~Simi Linton, author of My Body Politic
"From the first vivid chapter set in Sicily to her gutsy activism in the U.S., LaSpinas triumphant memoir of a richly lived life held me rapt." ~Alix Kates Shulman
"In this insightful memoir, disability activist LaSpina effortlessly shares how her personal experiences led to her activism, creating a compelling story that is both instructive and moving. ... readers will encounter her successes and set-backs, both personal and political, and learn about the U.S. medical system and its treatment of individuals with disabilities. ... LaSpina's story of determination and hard-won independence is engaging, informative, and ultimately, inarguably, inspiring." ~STARRED Booklist