I’ll Let Myself In: Non-Fiction Review

Review by Stacey O’Carroll

Author: Hannah Diviney

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

RRP: $32.99

Release Date: 12 September 2023

“My hamstrings and calves are pulled tight, like a bowstring right before you release an arrow. Except there is no arrow. Ever.” (Hannah Diviney)

What if an unfortunate accident or medical miscalculation changed the entire course of your life? Would you hide in the shadows or use what makes you different as a powerful force? Writer, disability and women’s rights advocate, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Missing Perspectives, and star of Latecomers Hannah Diviney’s first book I’ll Let Myself In claims her power, space and reclaims the narrative of her lived experience with cerebral palsy.

 “I was three years old the first time I realised that I was different from other kids.”

In her memoir, Diviney tackles some deeply personal memories and reflects on who she was, the woman she is becoming and how willing the world is to let her in. From the first heartbreaking time she realised at pre-school that she was not like her friends to being excluded from her high school formal, Diviney brings the reader into her heartbreak, isolation and disappointment. Many of us can empathise with feeling left out or isolated when we desire to belong. However, as Diviney points out, when you have accessibility needs and cerebral palsy, those feelings are amplified. However, she makes it clear that the loving family, teachers and friends around her have helped her become the unstoppable force she is today. Never letting her think she can’t achieve her dreams and challenging Diviney to think bigger.

 “If you had asked me at age thirteen what I thought I was capable of as a disabled person, I reckon climbing a mountain wouldn’t have made the top 100.”

Diviney’s book, with its bright yellow cover with daisies peeking through the door grabs your attention, just as her message does. Disability does not define you but is a small part of who you are. Diviney’s memoir demonstrates that where there is a desire to achieve something that may seem impossible, there is a way. If there wasn’t a way or different path, Diviney wouldn’t have climbed a literal mountain.

“Accessibility is about the conditions unis set for exams and assignments, and how well signposted it is where and who students can go to for help. It’s about how easy it is to put that help in place, and how quietly students’ individual needs are accepted by those who have power and control.”

In a post-pandemic world, with online learning, one would think schools, universities, businesses and venues would be quicker to make their campuses and facilities accessible for all individuals, not just able-body people. Alas, as Diviney highlights, change is slow unless there is a lockdown. She highlights that we all should be doing better and asking why accessibility changes are not actioned quicker. 

Memoirs can sometimes seem very light on real stories and filled with fluff. Not so for Diviney’s I’ll Let Myself In. She opens her own door and lets the reader visit for a while. What Diviney has had to deal with at times is shocking and infuriating. However, the wins she has achieved and the joy she clearly brings to life make her a force to be reckoned with. Diviney is an intelligent and witty writer who is not afraid to share difficult stories. Her brutal honesty about struggling with mental health and managing anxiety will resonate with many as it did with me.

“So whenever a wolf comes racing through my brain, howling about climate change,…or a particularly fierce bout of Eeyore blue loneliness, I do my best to let it pass by.”

It’s hard to pinpoint sections that stood out for me because I loved reading the entire book.  Diviney’s descriptions are engaging and powerfully crafted. Her prose demonstrates Diviney’s exquisite writing talent, which draws you into her narrative. She is a natural storyteller. Perhaps an inclusive novel will be on her list of achievements in the near future. 

Diviney’s sparkling personality is evident on every page but does not distract from the important messages of I’ll Let Myself In. I have my fingers crossed that Disney follows through on Diviney’s campaign for a disabled Disney princess. Barbie already has a wheelchair, so surely if Disney is to be all-inclusive, princesses that reflect all people shouldn’t be too hard?

I discovered Hannah Diviney’s memoir I’ll Let Myself In by accident. Or was serendipity at play? I was searching for a novel I’d seen on the Allen & Unwin website when her vibrant cover jumped out at me. After devouring the book in record time, I’m glad the book found me, and I hope I’ll Let Myself In finds more readers.

What a joy Diviney’s book was to read. She brings the readers and general publics focus to the lived experience of people living with a disability and attention to the narrative and lack of accessibility that is still rife in Australia and across the world. If you haven’t already read Diviney’s I’ll Let Myself In, then rush to your bookstore, local library or online store right now! Diviney’s memoir is sure to open minds, transform narratives, and impact change. I cannot recommend Diviney’s book enough!