A Disability History of the United States by Kim E. Nielsen required text
Write a general response paper in which you respond to the text, what stood out, important events, etc. The format of
this paper (in terms of what you wish to discuss) is generally up to you, giving you more creative freedom. Do not
summarize the text. Briefly introducing the book is one thing, but this is not a book report. Essentially, a response
paper requires a response to the text and its significance. What is crucial when writing a response paper is to be
specific (avoid general comments about how the book made you feel, such as This part was sad. Why was it sad?
Be specific and descriptive). The point of this response paper is to analyze, and possibly question the text. I am
looking for more than just a summary of points you find interesting-go beyond the broad outline and dig deeper into
the history of disability in the United States. Below are a few questions to keep in mind when organizing your paper:
1) What is the significance of this text?
2) Kim Nielsen quotes fellow historian Linda Kerber: The myth of the lone individual is a trope, a rhetorical
device. In real life no one is self-made; few are truly alone (xiii). How have individualism and the
concept of the self-made man shaped American culture? Have they affected the way we view persons
with disabilities and people from other minority groups?
3) While writing about the amorphous definition of disability, Nielsen writes: Disability is not the story of
someone else. It is our story, the story of someone we love, the story of who we are or may become, and it
is undoubtedly the story of our nation. It is, quite simply, the American story in all of its
complexities (xiii). How does disability overlap with other identity categories, such as race, gender, and
sexual orientation? Is disability a more diverse or harder to define category than these other groups?
4) How did the definition of disability determine who was granted full citizenship, who was educated, and
who was not? Were women, Native Americans, and enslaved people considered effectively disabled?