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PASSAGES Playwright/disability-rights activist Susan Nussbaum dies
2022-04-30

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Susan Nussbaum—a Chicago playwright, novelist and longtime disability-rights activist—died April 28 at age 68.

Nussbaum won the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Social Engaging Fiction for her novel Good Kings Bad Kings, according to Books in Common. Two of her plays have been published: Mishuganismo in the anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out and No One As Nasty in Beyond VIctims and Villains: Contemporary Plays by Disabled Playwrights.

As a disability-rights activist, Nussbaum started one of the earliest groups for girls with disabilities, the Empowered Fe Fes. She was cited by the Utne Reader as one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World" for her work with girls with disabilities.

In an essay published on the website BookBrowse, Nussbaum once wrote, "When I became a wheelchair user in the late '70s, all I knew about being disabled I learned from reading books and watching movies, and that scared the shit out of me. Tiny Tim was long-suffering and angelic and was cured at the end. Quasimodo was a monster who loved in vain and was killed at the end, but it was for the best.

"[Later,] I joined the disability-rights movement, barely organized in Chicago back then, and quickly came to realize that I was not alone. … My transformation from shamed victim to furiously rebellious crip (we took back the word that had oppressed us and used it in our own proud new vocabulary of defiance) was the foundation of my new identity. Still is."

Nussbaum is survived by her father, sister, brother and daughter, The Chicago Tribune noted.


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