Our YA romance novel, L.S. Rydde’s The Pearls of Yesterday, is already resonating with readers! We had the chance to talk to two advocates for disability representation in media about why they hope to see more diverse characters in literature, their own experiences with disability representation, and what it means to them to see disabled main characters in romance stories. Read on to find out Lucy’s thoughts!
What books do you love to read?
Anything I can get my hands on. I love any genre—I have three bookcases full of books. I love the freedom to go wherever I want and explore new places.
What do you love the most about romance stories?
I love seeing authors explore romance in different ways. Love’s not just one thing; it can mean anything. I also like how over the years, they’ve explored the definition, “What is love? What does it mean to different people?” It’s not just romantic love. It could be between a person and their pet or a family member. There’s also the freedom to love yourself is also explored, and loving yourself is part of finding love.
What’s the first book you fell in love with?
I wasn’t always a bookworm; I struggled with reading at a young age, since I had trouble paying attention. But the first book I was able to read and really understand the words was Black Beauty. Being able to read and understand the words, and feeling so sad reading the horse’s story, and realizing that this is what reading is: Not about words, but about feelings. It made me want to share my own stories with the world.
What’s the first book you saw a positive disability representation of, and how did it make you feel?
Growing up, I always wanted to find myself in books, but there weren’t very many. And even if they were, they weren’t very good, especially in romance. A couple of years passed after I really started reading when I found a book that captured some of my feelings, which was Me Before You. While it’s not the best book, and it’s got some misconceptions, it was emotional for me to see someone who was allowed to feel the feelings I was feeling, that they’re valid.
Now there are more books with disability representation now than ever before. I gave my grandma a book on Judy Heumann, and she’s recognized all of this history that is helping her understand me better. She was worried for me because, for a long time, there wasn’t a lot of accessibility. Now she’s understanding how it’s more accepting now.
Can you tell us about how it felt reading The Pearls of Yesterday?
I got quite emotional because a lot of stuff the book was talking about was stuff I had gone through. At the beginning of the book, Abby talks about how she’s never experienced human touch the way other people do, and I really related to that. Abby is on a journey of finding her voice and being able to stand up for herself, and finding out what she can do. I love her journey of self-discovery and self-love because it makes it a love story with herself and finding self-worth.
In what ways did you see yourself represented in The Pearls of Yesterday and its characters?
I love how friendship is represented. The conflicts between friends are also accurate, like how Diana gets angry at Abby for trying debutante dresses without her. I understand where she’s coming from since I would be angry at Abby too. Her and her friends are getting each other out of their security blankets, and they’re allowed to learn from their mistakes.
In what ways do you believe The Pearls of Yesterday helps fight stereotypes/stigmas in the media about disabled people falling in love?
I think it’s important that characters with disabilities are not perfect. We are just like anybody else with hopes and dreams and ambitions. They don’t need to be painted as the villain, like Captain Hook from Peter Pan or Roald Dahl’s The Witches. They have dreams and ambitions, but they’re also flawed. They’re human.
We hope that The Pearls of Yesterday inspires a long line of romance novels representing disabled people falling in love, disproving the stereotypes surrounding love & disabilities. What do you personally hope for the future of disability representation in books and other media?
I hope that people with disabilities get roles not because they’re disabled but because of their talent. At the end of the day, I want to be seen as human. We can get married, we can have kids, we can have jobs. We may do all things differently, but we deserve to just live and be human.
Watch our full interview with Lucy here!
About the Reviewer:
Lucy is a 24-year-old with cerebral palsy, who loves reading all books (except for horror). Her podcast, Dandelion Wish and the Dreamcatcher (available wherever you listen to podcasts, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts), discusses disability in the world around us and its representation in the media.
Her biggest dreams include either becoming a writer; to work in publishing; or to work for Disney and create a Disney princess with a disability, as Disney has a big platform and this kind of representation would help move the conversation forward and help kids that have a disability see themselves as protagonists, rather than being villainized.