Each of these authors has a very different story, but they share one thing in common—all of them overcame great obstacles in writing their well-known works. We want to celebrate the strength and success of these authors who refused to let their disability stop their success and ability to follow their passion for writing.
Christy Brown Brown, the Irish author whose memoir My Left Foot was made into a critically acclaimed 1989 film, lived with cerebral palsy. Doctors tried to talk his parents into committing him to a convalescent hospital, but his parents were determined not to let society’s preconceived notions about disabilities set him back. Brown wrote and typed using the toes of his left foot!
Jean-Dominique Bauby The film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly depicts the unbelievable story of Bauby, a French magazine editor who suffered a massive stroke at age 48 and was left paralyzed. His condition, “locked-in syndrome,” left his mind intact but the majority of his body paralyzed. Bauby could only blink his left eyelid. He would go on to write a memoir with the help of a person reciting the alphabet over and over—he’d blink his eye when the correct letter was reached.
John Milton Milton wrote his most famous work, Paradise Lost, about two decades after going blind. In the 1600s, braille did not yet exist and technology to assist the visually impaired had not yet been invented. The author dictated his epic poem and other works to a transcriber.
Laura Hillenbrand The author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken wrote the two best-selling novels while battling ME/CFE, chronic fatigue syndrome, a disease that left her so physically weak she couldn’t leave her house for a period of two years. She has said writing the books “gave me an escape from my body. It enabled me to create things that had importance.”
Stephen Hawking The famous theoretical physicist was confined to a wheelchair by a neurodegenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. For years he spoke through his trademark speech-generating device, operating it with his cheek. One of the first messages Hawking produced was a request for his assistant to help him finish writing his book A Brief History of Time, an international bestseller.