The Theft of Sunlight and its sequel, A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani has some of my favourite disability rep. It made me feel so seen and I was literally sobbing at how wonderful the rep is. This is a book I think everyone should read for so many reasons and it will always hold a special place in my heart because of the incredible disability rep.
These books mean so much to me not only because being Pakistani and seeing a desi inspired magical world with brown characters but also because the main character has a physical disability and the representation was so well done and made me feel so seen. As someone who has a disability that affects my mobility it was so refreshing to see a young woman who has similar issues but this isn’t her whole personality nor is it tokenised.
She fights injustices that she sees and while her mobility may limit her in some things she adapts and continues the fight. She is constantly underestimated because people only see her disability but she proves time and time again through her actions and the person she is that she is more than capable.
I also loved seeing that Bren accepted her completely and entirely as she is and didn’t for even one second think less of her or pity her because of her disability. I think it’s so important for people with disabilities to see that. To be reminded that they are enough the way they are and they don’t need to hide or minimise themselves to fit in or be loved. That they are deserving of love just the way they are. That Bren supported her and when he overstepped, she told him and he realised and fixed himself and did not take it out on her that she should be grateful and appreciative of receiving any help at all.
We also see how she is defensive and has walls up to protect herself because of how people have treated her so it is difficult to accept help and see that some people are truly just trying to help her. We see how this has affected her relationships with people and that she struggles to trust and open up to people but as she meets people who truly have her back she slowly starts to break down those walls and open up to people more. I related to this a lot as it’s so tiring to have to deal with people who demand answers about why I use a walking stick or say things like, but you’re so young you shouldn’t need a stick. It is easier to just not let new people in but it does get lonely and I saw that in Rae too.
Rae has to walk and run a lot because of what is happening in the books and because of this it causes her pain in her foot. Her chronic pain tires her quicker and slows her down and it makes her frustrated and angry at herself and I loved seeing that part of her in the books too. Having chronic pain is exhausting and yes we do get tired much more quickly than an able bodied person. It is frustrating for us and affects us emotionally and mentally and seeing this in the book just made Rae more realistic and relatable.
But I also loved seeing how Bren and the others helped her through these times and didn’t make her feel less because of it. One scene where Bren quietly asked her if it would be more helpful to stand on her other side so she could hold onto his arm and just supported her in a way that she needed. These a tiny details in the story but for me they stood out so starkly because we don’t get to see this in books or even in real life and it was so wonderful to see these small instances in just the way Bren cared for her without expecting her anything in return.
Then we get the scene on the rooftop in Darkness that has been seared into my memory because of just how much I absolutely loved it and I will forever be thankful to Intisar for giving me and all of us Rae and Bren.
This duology is so incredible in so many ways and made me feel seen in ways I had never felt seen before and these books will forever hold a special place in my heart.