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  • NYS Writers Institute

Nadina LaSpina, interviewed by James Odato

When I was four or five I wanted to be ugly, and got very angry when people said I was pretty.

“I’m ugly, brutta, say that I’m ugly.”

But no one listened to me.

Che bella bambina, what a pretty little girl,” they all said. And inevitably, they added, “Che peccato! What a shame!”

-- Nadina LaSpina, Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride


Nadina LaSpina's activism in the disability rights movement has led to her arrest for civil disobedience several times and she has received numerous awards, including her selection as the Grand Marshal of the 5th Annual Disability Pride Parade in New York City in 2019.

She is the author of a memoir, Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride (2019), spanning her remarkable life from her early years with polio, and her experience as an object of well-meaning pity in her native Sicily to her adolescence in America, spent almost entirely in hospitals, where she was traumatized and maltreated in the quest for a medical cures, to her subsequent rebellion, activism, and growing ability to claim and enjoy her own beauty.


Our interviewer today is James Odato, who teaches journalism at the University at Albany and other area colleges. Odato was a staff reporter at five daily newspapers, including the Albany Times Union and the Buffalo News. His coverage of NXIVM and Keith Raniere eventually led to criminal prosecution of the group's leadership. His work also has been recognized with dozens of local, state and national writing prizes.

Odato's biography about disability rights journalist Lucy Gwin is scheduled to be published later this year.


Prior to the pandemic, Nadina had been scheduled to appear at an in-person Writers Institute event in April 2020.

a Order the book and follow Nadina LaSpina

We support local and independent booksellers. You may purchase Such a Pretty Girl: A Story of Struggle, Empowerment, and Disability Pride at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza.

www.nadinalaspina.com | twitter.com/nlaspina

www.facebook.com/nadina.laspina | www.disabilityculture.org