Check It Out: ‘Soul Jar: Thirty-One Fantastical Tales by Disabled Authors’

By Wendy Thomas

Over 30 years ago, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wrote an essay about the need for “Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors” in literature. Windows give you a view into a life experience different from your own, mirrors reflect your life experience back to you and sliding glass doors let you step into a world created by the author.

Dr. Bishop was referring to children’s literature and the need for children of color to see themselves reflected in the books they read. While neither children nor race are centered in this month’s review, the short-story anthology “Soul Jar” edited by Annie Carl provides windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors through 31 science fiction and fantasy stories by disabled authors.

Protagonists with visible and invisible disabilities navigate post-apocalyptic societies, have adventures in space and fraternize with magical beings. The book’s title comes from the story “Delbrot, Peace Warrior!” by Holly Saiki, wherein Delbrot, a lich (an undead being), wears a bracelet that contains his soul, otherwise known as a soul jar. Whoever has the bracelet controls him, and an evil necromancer once used the bracelet to manipulate the gentle, once-living boy into murdering his fellow villagers. Now Delbrot is being pursued by a warrior who wants the bracelet for his dark agenda. Unless you’re a zombie, this story is definitely of the sliding-glass-door variety.

In “There Are No Hearing Aid Batteries After the Apocalypse” by Carol Scheina, a community bands together to help a young woman who can’t hear after her hearing aid batteries die and there are none left to replace them. As someone with hearing loss, I found this “mirror” to be revelatory and a touch unnerving. 

A window into the world of a person with schizophrenia is seen in “Suffer the Silence” by Ellis Bray. The unnamed protagonist, who can no longer afford their psych meds, is trying to determine where they are in relation to reality as a mysterious and frantic woman begs them to help find her baby. The imagery is haunting and the fear evoked by the situation is visceral.

In “A Peril of Being Human” by Julie Reeser, a shapeshifting therapist changes her physical being to match the expectations of her clients. In a fortuitous twist, she goes on her first date in three years only to notice her date looks remarkably like her. It’s a sliding glass door into a shapeshifter’s world, but also a metaphor for the human need for connection and belonging. 

Denver Public Library is celebrating Disability Awareness Month in March, and what better way to observe it than to check out books, movies and music by disabled creators? Check out “Soul Jar” at a Denver Public Library branch near you and find more great titles at

Wendy Thomas is a librarian at the Smiley Branch Library. When not reading or recommending books, you can find her hiking with her dogs.

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