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Challenges of living with a disability to be Oct. 22 forum topic

| Alison Wagener

Former teacher and award-winning author Gail Giles will present “Girls Like Us and What We Can Learn from Them” at UW-Eau Claire’s Schneider Disabilities Issues Forum at 4 p.m. Oct. 22 in Room 1415 of Centennial Hall. The forum is free and open to the public.

Giles is the author of “Girls Like Us,” a compelling story of two recent graduates from a high school’s special education program learning to thrive in the adult world. The novel was one of the 2015 winners of the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Awards for children’s books about the disability experience.

Before becoming an author, Giles taught remedial reading for 20 years. Her students were her inspiration to write “Girls Like Us.”

“There was a girl in my class … that always wore a rain coat, day in day out, and it was filled on the inside with cookies and candy,” Giles writes on her website. “The teachers had given it to her to keep her from accepting such ‘gifts’ from boys who were up to no good. Another girl’s grandmother had (illegally) had her sterilized after she had a baby at thirteen and forced her to give the baby up for adoption. Another girl who was not in special education but was in my classes led with her fists about everything,.”

Giles melded these poignant stories and others from her teaching experience to create the novel, giving her readers an opportunity to understand the diverse hardships of living with a disability.

In addition to “Girls Like Us,” Giles has written several acclaimed young adult novels, including “Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters,” “Shattering Glass” and “Playing in Traffic.” She grew up in Texas, where she still lives today.

The forum is free and open to the public; an interpreter for the deaf and captioning will be provided. Giles’ book “Girls Like Us” will available for purchase and signing after the presentation.

The Schneider Disability Issues Forum is co-sponsored by the Chippewa Valley Book Festival; UW-Eau Claire’s Services for Students with Disabilities, Education Studies 385 course, and College of Education and Human Sciences; and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. 

To make arrangements for accessible parking, contact Debra Lang at 715-836-5607 or langda@uwec.edu.