After decades of work in the theater, she turned to fiction. Her novel “Good Kings Bad Kings,” which follows workers and residents of a care facility for people with disabilities in Chicago, has been praised for its candor and sensitivity and won the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
The title of the book came from a report in DailyExpertNews about Jonathan Carey, an autistic boy who was murdered by an employee at the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center, near Albany, where Jonathan lived. “I can be a good king or a bad king,” the man told the boy as he choked him, according to court documents.
That line stuck with Ms. Nussbaum, she said in a 2013 interview with the website Bitch Media. “It got the title because it reminded me how, when it comes to children, the adults have all the power. And when the adult in question has no emotional connection with the child, and the child’s well-being is transferred to that adult – as is the case in institutions – terrible things can happen.”
She continued: “The disabled characters we see usually fit one or more of the following stereotypes: victim, villain, saint, monster. The fate of the disabled character is usually a miraculous recovery, death or institutionalization.”
While writing the novel, as in her other work, Ms. Nussbaum said: “It was very important to me to give disabled characters – more than one – their own voice, and the opportunity to express themselves and their own perspective on what is happening. happens to represent.”
Susan Ruth Nussbaum was born on December 2, 1953 in Chicago to Mike and Annette (Brenner) Nussbaum. Her mother worked in public relations. She grew up in Highland Park, a suburb of Chicago, and attended Highland Park High School, graduating in 1972.
Interested in theater at an early age after playing lines with her father, she began writing plays in high school. After graduating, she took drama classes at the Goodman School of Drama (now The Theater School at DePaul University) in Chicago.