Such a Pretty Girl

A Story of Struggle, Empowerment. and Disability Pride

A memoir by a disability rights activist who wrestles with issues of pity, ableism, and sexuality

Such a Pretty Girl is Nadina La Spina’s story—from her early years in her native Sicily, where still a baby she contracts polio, a fact that makes her the object of well-meaning pity and the target of messages of hopelessness; to her adolescence and youth in America, spent almost entirely in hospitals, where she is tortured in the quest for a cure and made to feel that her body no longer belongs to her; to her rebellion and her activism in the disability rights movement.

While unique, the author’s journey is also one with which many disabled people can identify. It is the journey to find one’s place in an ableist world—a world not made for disabled people, where disability is only seen in negative terms. La Spina refutes all stereotypical narratives of disability. Through the telling of her life’s story, without editorializing, she shows the harm that the overwhelming focus on pity and on a cure that remains elusive has done to disabled people. Her story exposes the disability prejudice ingrained in our sociopolitical system and denounces the oppressive standards of normalcy in a society that devalues those who are different and denies them basic rights.


About Nadina

Nadina LaSpina is a prominent activist in the disability rights movement who has been arrested countless times for civil disobedience. You can find her in the streets with Disabled In Action, ADAPT, The Disability Caucus, and other groups. After teaching Italian for many years, LaSpina created and taught courses in Disability Studies at The New School. She lives in New York City.

Photo by Karen Rubin at the Womens March NYC 2018

Praise for Such a Pretty Girl

“From the first vivid chapter set in Sicily to her gutsy activism in the U.S., LaSpina’s triumphant memoir of a richly lived life held me rapt.”

Alix Kates Shulman

“A memoir fueled by passion and grounded in history. Nadina LaSpina’s beautifully written narrative reveals a conscientious citizen and an exuberant and vibrant woman. Such a Pretty Girl is ultimately a love story.”

Simi Linton, author of My Body Politic

“In this insightful memoir, disability activist LaSpina effortlessly shares how her personal experiences led to her activism, creating a compelling story that is both instructive and moving.”

Booklist Starred Review


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