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In the bookish world, we talk a lot about the importance of being able to recognize yourself in the characters of the books you read. For d/Deaf and hard of hearing (HoH) folks, a range of books have been published in the last several years that have added wonderful new titles to Deaf literature.
In young people’s literature, we have everything from graphic novels featuring Deaf characters like a bunny with a superpower or a girl making new friends during a crisis. And new Deaf stories are coming out all the time! In young adult literature, both True Biz by Sara Novic and deaf not Deaf by Christian Fusco are scheduled to be released this spring.
And of course, d/Deaf people are the main characters of their own lives, and many d/Deaf and HoH writers have shared their stories through their memoirs and poetry. In his poetry collection Deaf Republic, author Ilya Kaminsky writes, “The deaf don’t believe in silence. Silence is the invention of the hearing.”
Whether you’re a d/Deaf or HoH person looking for more representation or a hearing person reading to learn more about the d/Deaf experiences, there is a book out there for you. In fact, there are too many wonderful books to count, but here are a few books with deaf characters that you should definitely add to your TBR!
El Deafo by Cece Bell
This graphic novel features the author’s own experience as the only Deaf girl at her school. It’s quite the adjustment when she moves from her all-Deaf school to her new one, but on the first day, she realizes her hearing aid can pick up teachers’ voices from all around the school. She has a superpower!
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Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
Frannie is a girl just trying to figure out life. She struggles to push aside her feelings of hopelessness as she tries to understand the world around her. But slowly she begins to see the world in a new way through her relationships, especially through her relationship with her Deaf brother.
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Valencia Somerset is a Deaf girl who longs for friends. When a boy named Virgil is trapped at the bottom of a well by some bullies, Valencia finds herself teaming up with Kaori and Chet, two other kids from her school, to find Virgil and rescue him (if need be).
You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
Julie finds a slur written about her friend on the back of her school, so she decides to cover it over with graffiti, which just happens to be against the school rules. When she finds herself kicked out of her Deaf school for this, she must integrate into “mainstream” school for the first time.
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Iris is the only Deaf person at her school, which makes her feel incredibly lonely sometimes. She feels like she has no one to talk to, that the people around her aren’t listening. But then she discovers a whale called Blue 55 who can’t talk to the other whales for some reason. She knows exactly how he feels and becomes determined to find a way to “sing” to him.
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare Lezotte
Mary Lambert comes from a community on Martha’s Vineyard where both Deaf and hearing people use sign language in everyday life. To Mary, that’s normal. But when a young scientist arrives to try to figure out why deafness is so prevalent in the community, Mary finds herself a target for one of his experiments.
Mean Little Deaf Queer by Terry Galloway
Deaf lesbian writer Terry Galloway describes her experience losing her hearing at the age of 9 and learning to navigate a world as the only kid she knew with hearing aids. She eventually discovers that performance gives her a way to channel her feelings, providing an incredible artistic outlet that she’d use throughout her life.
Sounds Like Home: Growing Up Black and Deaf in the South by Mary Herring Wright
Originally published in 1999, Sounds Like Home tells the story of Mary Herring Wright, a Deaf Black woman growing up in rural North Carolina. The 20th anniversary edition includes an introduction by Joseph Hill and Carolyn McCaskill, who discuss that this text and the accompanying photos are some of the only documentation from segregated Black Deaf schools.
Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma
In her incredible memoir, disability rights advocate and lawyer Haben Girma shares her experience attending and graduating from Harvard Law School. The daughter of Eritrean immigrants, Girma describes her experience of traveling the world and then attending law school, including her innovations in text-to-braille technology.
Be sure to check out True Biz by Sara Novic and deaf not Deaf by Christian Fusco when they come out this spring! And you can find more books featuring d/Deaf and HoH characters from resources like Hearing Like Me‘s book club.
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