The Role of Disability in the ‘Books That Shaped Work in America’

Filed in Centennial, Disabilities, DOL by on November 25, 2013 0 Comments

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the blog.

In honor of our centennial this year, the U.S. Department of Labor, in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, has created an exciting project called Books that Shaped Work in America. To get an initial list started, we asked members of the Labor Department family and others with diverse perspectives on books and work for their suggestions.

The books suggested so far are superb examples of the breadth and depth of American work that is captured in the pages of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays and even children’s books.  And not surprisingly, some touch upon disability issues.  In addition to John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men, there is Barbara Angle’s Those That Mattered, a novel about a female miner who acquires a disability on the job, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography My Beloved World, in which she poignantly relates the many experiences – including being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age seven – that helped her develop the determination and self-reliance to seek a better life through education and a legal career. These books serve to reinforce that disability is a natural part of the diversity of human life and our history as a nation – including our history as a nation of workers. It adds to America’s rich tapestry of diversity.

For this reason, I’m delighted that one of the contributors to the initial list of Books that Shaped Work in America is Karen Keninger, the Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Library of Congress. The book she chose? One of the same ones I did! Richard Nelson Bolle’s What Color is Your Parachute? I received the book as a college graduation gift; she turned to it when returning to the workforce after spending several years focusing on being a mother.

We are now expanding the list of Books that Shaped Work in America with help from the public, and we hope to hear from more people with disabilities about the works they think shaped work in America or influenced the work they do.  To suggest a book, go to and select “Recommend a Book.”

Carl Fillichio is the senior advisor for public affairs and communications at the U.S. Department of Labor, and chair of the department’s centennial.


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