Accurate representation of disabled characters in literature is already quite rare, but even more infrequent are nuanced depictions of disabled characters in romantic relationships. (We’re excluding narratives that end with said characters dying.) However, in L.S. Rydde’s The Pearls of Yesterday, its main character, Abigail, lives with spinal muscular atrophy and a deep desire to experience her own great romance. As she imagines having her first magical kiss, she is forced to find a guy who would want to be her escort at the debutante ball.
We compiled a list of some of the most prevalent myths surrounding disabled people and romance, all of which are easily proven to be false. We hope that The Pearls of Yesterday will inspire a long line of romance novels that care to write complex narratives surrounding these relationships. *Minor spoilers ahead.
Myth #1: Disabled people are all asexual and/or aromantic.
Myth debunked: Someone’s disability doesn’t correlate with their sexuality. While a disabled person may identify as asexual or aromantic, it depends on the person and is by no means the norm for the entire population.
How The Pearls of Yesterday debunks this myth: Abby, a wheelchair user with spinal muscular atrophy (a type of muscular dystrophy), doesn’t identify as asexual or aromantic. Throughout the novel, she dreams of experiencing a romantic, sparks-flying kiss.
Myth #2: Disabled people can only date other disabled people.
Myth debunked: Disabled people, similar to most people, have complex identities apart from their disability. While sharing a disability can be something in common between partners, it’s not necessary as a basis for a relationship. Disabled people can find other mutual interests with people who don’t have disabilities.
How The Pearls of Yesterday debunks this myth: Abby has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair, while her two love interests, Hudson and Theo, are both non-disabled individuals.
Myth #3: Disabled people are a burden to their partners and can’t contribute anything to their relationship.
Myth debunked: Some disabled people may need help from their friends, family members, or caregivers. However, people without disabilities also need support from others — just in different ways. Disabled people can provide their partners with emotional support and compassion, just like able-bodied people can.
How The Pearls of Yesterday debunks this myth: Abby provides emotional support to one of her love interests, who is struggling with how to achieve his own dreams instead of his family’s wishes.
Myth #4: Disabled people are “less attractive.”
Myth debunked: People can be attracted to anyone and in different ways. There is physical attraction, emotional attraction, and intellectual attraction, all of which can be felt toward someone who is disabled.
How The Pearls of Yesterday debunks this myth: Abby is ashamed of her curves when Hudson accidentally sees her naked, but Hudson states that he finds her body beautiful.
Myth #5: Disabled people can’t fall in love or give love.
Myth debunked: People can meet and fall in love in a multitude of ways. Just as able-bodied people do, disabled people can meet romantic partners through their work, school, volunteer activities, or hobbies.
How The Pearls of Yesterday debunks this myth: Abby falls in love with one of her childhood best friends. The two are next-door neighbors, and their love for one another grows over the years they spend becoming closer friends.
Myth #6: Disabled people can’t have intimate relationships.
Myth debunked: The lack of media-portrayed intimate relationships involving disabled people feeds into this misconception. Disabled people are capable of being intimate with their romantic partners.
How The Pearls of Yesterday debunks this myth: Abby experiences the magical kisses she has always dreamed of, ones that take her breath away.
Myth #7: Disabled partners don’t allow their partners to live full, happy lives.
Myth debunked: Books like Me Before You may imply that if a disabled loves their partner, they should die, thereby freeing their partner to live their life. However, in a truly loving relationship, a disabled person’s partner is made happier by their presence, rather than burdened.
How The Pearls of Yesterday debunks this myth: Abby helps her love interest figure out his future and supports his career plans — all while remaining alive.
Many more outdated stereotypes prevent the world from viewing disabled people as capable of taking part in romantic relationships. Our books aim to help normalize disability and romance within literary circles and, hopefully, society at large.