Missing Pieces

A Chronicle of Living with a Disability

Irving Kenneth Zola, foreword by Nancy Mairs
Book Cover

PB: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-244-7
Publication: Aug 03

Ebook: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0677-4
Publication: Aug 03

258 pages
5.8125 x 9

A reissue of the classic book that gave birth to disability studies

Read the Prologue and an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).


The personal odyssey of a man with a disability, this passionate book tries to tell as well as analyze what it is like to have a disability in a world that values vigor and health. Zola writes,

    "Missing Pieces is an unraveling of a social problem in the manner of Black Like Me. Like its author, I, too, am a trained social observer, but for me 'passing' was not an issue. For I already have the stigmata of the disabled—the braces, the limp, the cane—though I have spent much of my life denying their existence."

The author started out in the role of a social scientist on a seven-day excursion to acquaint himself with an extraordinary experiment in living—Het Dorp, one of the few places in the world designed to promote "the optimum happiness" of those with severe physical disabilities. Neither a medial center nor a nursing home, Het Dorp is a village in the western-most part of the Netherlands. What began as a sociological attempt to describe this unusual setting became, through the author's growing awareness, what can only be called a socio-autobiography.

Resuming his prior dependence on a wheelchair, the author experienced his own transformation from someone who is "normal" and "valid" to someone who is "invalid." The routine of Het Dorp became his: he lived in an architecturally modified home, visited the workshops, and shared meals, social events, conversation, and perceptions with the remarkably diverse residents.

The author confronts some rarely discussed issues—the self-image of a person with a chronic disability, how one fills one's time, how one deals with authority and dependence, and love and sex.

Missing Pieces offers striking insights into an aspect of the human condition shared by nearly 30 million Americans. It is must reading for the general reader, as well as for the rehabilitation counselor, social worker, or social scientist.

Table of Contents


Part I. Before
Prologue: Overcoming Is Only the Start
1. In the Beginning There Was an Idea
2. Several Hours in a Utopia

Part II. During
3. So Much in So Short a Time—Thursday, May 25
4. The Little Things that Fill a Day—Friday, May 26
5. The Greatest Night of the Year—Saturday, May 27
6. Confrontations and Conversations with Myself—Sunday, May 28
7. On the Problem of Sharing Power and Love—Monday, May 29
8. It All Depends on Whether You Stand or Sit—Tuesday, May 30
9. Gone but Not Forgotten—Wednesday, May 31

Part III. After
10. If Listening is Hard, Telling Is Worse: Thoughts on the improbable and Problematic World of the Physically Handicapped and Chronically Ill
11. Four Steps on the Road to Invalidity: The Denial of Sexuality, Anger, Vulnerability, and Potentiality
Epilogue: Some Concluding but Hardly Final Thoughts on Integration, Personal and Social

About the Author(s)

Irving Kenneth Zola (1935-1994) was Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University and a founding member and counselor at the Boston Self-Help Center.

Nancy Mairs is the author of seven books, including Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Disabled, and most recently, A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories. She lives in Tucson with her husband, George.