top of page
The Breath and Shadow logo. It is circle-shaped and divided into brown and darker brown hemispheres. In the middle of the logo is an exhaling profile of a person with the shadow of another person behind them.


The cover of Dozen, an anthology of bests from Breath and Shadow. Dozen was edited by Chris Kuell. A carton of multi-colored eggs occupies the center of the cover.

Breath & Shadow is a quarterly journal of disability culture and literature. A project of Ability Maine, Breath & Shadow was the first online literary journal with a focus on disability. It is also unique in being the sole cross-disability literature and culture magazine written and edited entirely by people with disabilities. While some literary journals may devote one issue in a year, or ten years, to the disability experience, in Breath & Shadow you will find poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, drama, and other writing that examines the human experience of living with disability — in every single issue.

The editors of Breath & Shadow believe that personhood in the land of disability can and should be presented in its multiplicity. Thus, diversity of writing style, content, genre, and category, as well as author demographics, is a goal for each issue. From haiku to slam poem to sestina; from humor essays to memoirs to reviews and commentary; from science fiction to flash fiction to suspense; from interviews with national disability rights leaders to profiles of children's theater companies — our journal showcases writing by people with disabilities in all its power, complexity, and breadth. And because we believe in cross-disability representation — that building a disability culture and aesthetic is enriched by (and indeed, requires) the inclusion of all people with disabilities — we feature writing by children and adults; people with physical, mental, emotional, and sensory disabilities; and new/emergent and established writers.

"Breath & Shadow" comes from a quote by Sophocles, who described people as "but breath and shadow, nothing more."

"Breath" and "Shadow" each identify universal experiences: all people breathe, all people cast shadows — regardless of abilities, appearances, or other traits. Why is this universality critical to a journal of disability culture and literature? Too often people with disabilities are identified by what we can't do or by our lack of specific traits. Thus, much of disability rights organizing and disability culture has focused on what people with disabilities can do, to refute the idea we can't do anything; but this argument, too, leaves out many disabled people who fail to measure up to disability rights rhetoric. At Breath & Shadow we want to avoid these pitfalls altogether by asserting that living with disability provides a unique perspective that, in itself, offers valuable insights, regardless of one's disability or what — or how much — one is able to "do."

Additionally, the concepts of "breath" and "shadow" are evocative of the focus of the literature we publish. Breath is a necessary part of life. It is composed of inhalation (also known as inspiration — creativity, imagination, spirit) and exhalation (also known as expiration — ending, death, destruction). Shadow is the image that's created behind an object upon which light has fallen. When people only focus on the foreground, the shadow is overlooked. Yet shadow has so much to reveal: it can be the twin side of a more obvious idea or image — creating greater knowledge of it — or it can be what is hidden, mysterious, or dark. As people with disabilities, we are frequently in a unique position to reflect on life stripped bare of many of the usual distractions.

By presenting many ways of understanding and interpreting beingness, Breath & Shadow provides a vehicle for exploring life with disability as a deeply fascinating and important subject. With Breath in mind, we reflect on inspiration, expiration, and the humanity of our experience — a humanity that is full, real, and whole. With the knowledge of Shadow, we shine light on the experience of disability, while also mining the dark side our attention creates.

The mission of Breath & Shadow is to:

• promote disability writing and culture, thereby promoting cross-disability pride, community, and solidarity;

• empower and create opportunities for people with disabilities in the literary field; and

• convey to readers and the general public: (1) the richness and significance of disability literature, (2) a greater understanding of the disability experience, and (3) the importance of disability culture — for all people.

Breath & Shadow's goals are to:

• present in each issue diverse and high quality pieces of writing by people with disabilities;

• promote disability literature and culture;

• promote recognition that people with disabilities are making unique and valuable contributions to literature and the arts;

• reveal a disability angle in mainstream media or society (that might otherwise be ignored, buried, or denied);

• draw attention to and celebrate leaders in the disability community, in order to provide role models for artists and activists and recognize the larger disability rights movement within which we work;

• create publishing opportunities for writers who are typically denied access in the mainstream — especially writers who face barriers due to their disability, their topic, the way their disability affects their work, or factors such as lack of formal education or newness to the field.

Breath & Shadow is a project of Resources for Organizing and Social Change (ROSC), a nonprofit organization committed to peace and justice through community organizing and coalition building. Breath & Shadow receives funding through ROSC; small grants from disability, arts, and other organizations; and private donations from small businesses, nonprofits, and people like you. Your contributions keep us going.

In this difficult economy, where funding for the arts and for services and support for people with disabilities are increasingly limited, your assistance is especially important to Breath & Shadow. Your donation, in any amount, makes a real difference. For instance, a contribution of just $20 pays a poet to contribute. Just $30 pays for an essay or short story.

To make your tax-deductible contribution to Breath & Shadow, send a check to ROSC, PO Box 2444, Augusta, ME 04338-2444.

Make your check out to "ROSC" and include a note that your donation is for Breath & Shadow. ROSC is a public 501(c)3 charity. If you would like a receipt acknowledging your gift, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). Thank you very much for your support!

Attention Small-Business Owners and Nonprofits!

Do you own a small business, such as a consulting, art, health care, or other enterprise that would benefit from greater name recognition? Do you want more people to know about the work your nonprofit is doing? Just send in a donation and we will be happy to post on our Sponsors Page your organization's name, a one-line description of your business or product, and a link to your website. The requested donation for inclusion on our Sponsors Page is $50 for 3 months, $75 for 6 months and $100 for one year. For more information, please e-mail and put "sponsor donation" in the subject line.

bottom of page