S u s a n Nussbaum



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Good Kings Bad Kings is a ferociously honest, funny, completely unstoppable trip through an institutionally corrupt home for disabled teenagers.
-Barbara Kingsolver


Susan Nussbaum is a playwright, novelist and longtime disability rights activist.
Susan's Photo

She won the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction for her novel Good Kings Bad Kings. Two of her plays have been published: Mishuganismo in the anthology Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out and No One As Nasty in Beyond Victims and Villains: Contemporary Plays by Disabled Playwrights. She is most interested in creating authentic disabled characters and all of her plays, as well as her novel, feature disabled characters prominently.

As a disability rights activist, Nussbaum started one of the earliest groups for girls with disabilities, the Empowered Fe Fes. For her work with disabled girls over the years, she was named as one of 50 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World by the Utne Reader in 2008.

...not only shines a light on a segment of society often ignored, in art as well as life, but also a really great read.
-The Washington Post

Good Kings
Bad Kings

About Good Kings Bad Kings

Bellwether Award winner Susan Nussbaum’s powerful novel invites us into the lives of a group of typical teenagers—alienated, funny, yearning for autonomy—except that they live in an institution for juveniles with disabilities. This unfamiliar, isolated landscape is much the same as the world outside: friendships are forged here, trust is built, love affairs are kindled and rules are broken. But those who call it home have little or no control over their fate. Good Kings Bad Kings challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled, in a story told with remarkable authenticity, and in voices that resound with humor and defiance.



Die Zeit 2013 Best Young Adult novel

School Library Journal's 'In The Margins' Top 10 List

Booklist Top 10 Debut Novel of the Year

Chicago Writers Association 2013 Fiction Book of the Year

A Band of Thebes Best LGBTQ Book of 2013 selection

Indie Next Pick List 2013

2013-2014 Villanova One Book Selection

What the critics have said
  • "A knockout... this remarkable novelist is now wielding one hell of an axe. Watch your heads - and your heart."
    -Los Angeles Review of Books
  • "Nussbaum eviscerates the stereotypes by being, in a word, hilarious - her dark, humanistic humor flies off the page..."
    -Chicago Reader
  • THIS IS FICTION AT IT'S BEST... The story's sharp eye allows no one to take shelter, and it doesn't flinch... A stunning accomplishment."
    -Barbara Kingsolver
  • "This is a stirring debut from a determined writer and activist."
    -Publishers Weekly "Pick of the Week"
  • "This is unquestionably an authentic, galvanizing and righteous novel."
  • "...many of these chapters recall Alan Bennett's 'Talking Heads' monologues, in which the speakers' natural, discursive rhythms and moments of unvarnished honesty bring them rapidly to life."
    -Wall Street Journal
  • "The voices that propel Susan Nussbaum's novel are so rich with language and feeling that they command the ear and - a word I rarely use - the heart. Her character's lives are difficult but, miraculously, her novel is all fierce energy and wit, a celebration of strength, dignity, and the cathartic pleasure of telling it like it is."
    -Rosellen Brown, author of 'Before and After'
Hardcover DesignPaperback Design
This is unquestionably an authentic, galvanizing, and
righteous novel.


Nussbaum possesses an astonishing ear for idiosyncratic voices, and a talent for creating characters who appear in full bloom within a few sentences.

-Los Angeles Review of Books


Media Contact
  • Brooke Csuka
  • Algonquin
  • brooke@algonquin.com
  • 919.967.0108 x24
Literary Agent
  • Melanie Jackson
  • Melanie Jackson Literary Agency
  • melanie.jackson@mjlit.com
  • 212.873.3373
Film & Television
  • Amy Schiffman
  • Intellectual Property Group
  • amy@ipglm.com
  • 310.402.5156
Speaking Engagements
  • Carol Schneider
  • Workmans Speakers Bureau
  • workmanspeakersbureau.com
  • 212.614.7771
Contact Susan at susan@susannussbaum.com

The Pen/Bellwether Prize

The PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded in even-numbered years, consists of a $25,000 cash payment to the author of the winning manuscript, and guaranteed publication by a major publisher. The author will collect royalties in accordance with a publisher’s contract. The PEN/Bellwether Prize is unique; no other major North American endowment or prize for the arts specifically seeks to support a literature of social responsibility. Its intent is to advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships. The prize is awarded to a previously unpublished novel representing excellence in this genre.

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