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Common Read 2023: Disability Visibility

This page is here to help you learn more about the 2023 Common Read and the ways you can engage with it as a member of the Mount Holyoke community!

What is a "Common Read?"


Image of a black question mark on an off-white background with colorful triangles that echo the design of the cover to Disability Invisibility."Good question!

Every year, the college selects a book that features important themes or perspectives to be the "Common Read." That book is then read by a large portion of the Mount Holyoke community, especially first year students, and provides the basis for a variety of classroom discussions and campus events over the course of the year. This year, the book selected is Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alice Wong.

From the information page about the Common Read (which also features a list of past Common Reads): 

The Common Read is designed to give students new to Mount Holyoke College their first intellectual dialogue based on a shared text. These students start to explore the selected text during Orientation and continue the discussion into their fall classes and throughout the year.

Open to the entire College community to read and discuss — staff on campus and alumnae groups across the country discuss the book, for instance — the Common Read sets the tone for the community. It helps collectively frame discussions for the upcoming academic year.

Current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumnae and trustees are invited to participate.


About Disability Visibility


Cover of a book titled ‘Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century Edited by Alice Wong’. The book cover has overlapping triangles in a variety of bright colors with black text overlaying them and an off-white background. Book cover by Madeline Partner.Book Description

One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act,

From Harriet McBryde Johnson’s account of her debate with Peter Singer over her own personhood to original pieces by authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma; from blog posts, manifestos, and eulogies to Congressional testimonies, and beyond: this anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understandings. It celebrates and documents disability culture in the now. It looks to the future and the past with hope and love.



  • 11 physical copies are available for checkout at the Circulation Desk in LITS.
  • An ebook version is available for one user at a time (MHC login required).
  • An audiobook version (and another ebook version) is available on the Libby App through the Boston Public Library (requires a Boston Public Library eCard, which is free to anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Massachusetts). For assistance or more information, contact Research Services. 


About the Editor, Alice Wong


Digital portrait of Alice Wong, an Asian person smiling. She is wearing a trach at her neck and wearing a crew neck blouse. She is sitting in her power wheelchair. There is a cream colored circle crown on a purple background. Artist credit: Jen White-Johnson

Bio from the Disability Visibility Project website: 

Alice Wong (she/her) is a disabled activist, writer, media maker, and consultant. She is the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture. Alice is the editor of Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, an anthology of essays by disabled people and Disability Visibility: 17 First-Person Stories for Today, an adapted version for young adults. Her debut memoir, Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life is available now from Vintage Books. Disability Intimacy, her next anthology, will be out in 2024. Twitter: @SFdirewolf.


Guided Reading Questions

Geometric image of a book with text circled on the page. Style echoes cover design of "Disability Invisibility."


  • How have stories expanded your understanding of the world? Has a story ever prompted you to reevaluate another person in some way or consider someone else’s (or your own) experiences in a new light?
  • The author begins several sections of the introduction with “community is…” Why do you think that community is such a strong theme in the opening pages of this book?


Part 1: Being

  • How does resistance manifest in different ways for different authors?
  • What are the different ways the writers of these essays think about beauty?
  • How do analogies and metaphors help the authors communicate the truth of their experiences?


Part 2: Becoming

  • What are some of the ways that the authors present self-expression as a tool for resistance?
  • How do the authors effect change simply by existing openly as their authentic selves?
  • How does telling stories about disabled joy disrupt ableism?


Part 3: Doing

  • Why does “inspiration” hold complicated and often negative connotations in the disabled community?
  • What are some of the ways the authors were empowered or disempowered to exist autonomously? Were the challenges/solutions systemic or individualistic?
  • Think about the varied ways accessibility devices feature in the lives of the authors. What are some ways these devices tie into the theme of “doing”?


Part 4: Connecting

  • How can inclusiveness at the center of a movement/narrative change it?
  • What is the power of a network or collective voice? And how can it be diluted by dominant power structures that look like they want to help?
  • How could exploring new concepts of communication and/or togetherness transform a space in your life to make it truly inclusive?


Additional Resources

In this part of the guide, we have made note of several resources that we think are useful companion pieces to the work presented in the book; that said, it should be noted that the Further Reading section of Disability Visibility includes a rich and extensive list of resources that you are invited to read, view, or listen to if you would like to continue learning about this subject.

In addition, we know that a list like this can never be fully complete, and we invite suggestions for addition to this list. We will do our best to update the resources shared here regularly for the 2023-2024 academic year. 






  • Disability Visibility Project
    • "The Disability Visibility Project is an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture."


  • Disability Visibility
    • "Disability Visibility is a podcast hosted by San Francisco night owl Alice Wong featuring conversations on politics, culture, and media with disabled people."



Campus Events

The most prominent Common Read event this fall will be Alice Wong's visit to campus on September 7. Information about that and other events will be shared through the usual college channels (Embark and the Events Calendar) as they become available!

MHC Accessibility Barriers Form