Monday, December 31, 2007

New Books- to be released in 2008

The Sign for Drowning: A Novel
by Rachel Stolzman
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Trumpeter (June 10, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590305876

The story is of a girl who witnesses the death of her sister by drowning and later develops the belief that she can communicate with her sister through sign language. As an adult, the character Anna adopts a deaf foster child.

Deaf Actor in There Will Be Blood

Gallaudet Student, Russell Harvard will be acting in the film, There will be Blood, released on December 26. Harvard plays the role of H.W., the "adopted" son of an oil tycoon Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis). The film is set in the California frontier at the turn of the 20th century. Plainview is a silver miner who hopes to make his fortune in oil. When his son becomes deaf due to an accident near the oil derrick, the father "abandons" his son on a departing train. He most likely sends H.W. away to a school for the deaf.

There Will Be Blood is based on the novel Oil! (1927) by Upton Sinclair.

To read more about Harvard, see the article in Inside Gallaudet. For more information about the film and to find out if it is released in a theatre near you, visit

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Books for Christmas

In Mary Riskind's Apple Is My Sign (reprinted 1993), there is a scene when Harry is going home for Christmas break and he forgets his hat on the train. He goes back to retrieve it and instead of quickly and quietly leaving the train he stomps his foot to gain everyone’s attention and signs “I’m going home for Christmas vacation. Merry Christmas”. He waves to the passengers. Many of the hearing people wave back to him (Riskind, 75-80). That passage resonates with me this Christmas as I'm preparing to take my own train trip. Unlike Harry who chatted with his friend Agnes, I'll probably have my nose in a book!

Here is a book that you may want to pick up for Christmas:

A Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas (Chicken Soup for the Soul)-- first mentioned on this blog on September 8th
by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: HCI (October 15, 2007) ISBN-10: 0757306462
Includes the selection "The Sound & Spirit of Christmas Through theEars of a Deaf Woman" beginning on page 235.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is membership to a professional organization on your 'To Do' list?

I have been invited to serve as the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) State Representative for Washington D.C. As one of the State Representatives, my goal is to spread the word about ALAN and to recruit at least 10 NEW members.

Why not become a member of the leading society dedicated to the study of Young Adult Literature? When you become an ALAN member, you receive a subscription to the journal The ALAN Review (that's three issues!), not to mention joining one of the largest and most active professional organizations devoted to young adult literature. Membership dues are only $20.00 per year!!! One of my favorite sections in The ALAN Review called Clip & File reviews newly published adolescent literature books. ALAN supports books with deaf characters enabling me to publish an article in their Summer 2007 issue and featuring book reviews with deaf characters including Jacqueline Woodson's 2007 novel, Feathers.
The ALAN website includes tons of book recommendations and a book club! On the third Wednesday of the month, there is an online discussion of young adult books with experts in the field and authors.
For Membership details and more information about ALAN, visit

Deaf Character book published in Italian

Stephen J. Cutler and Jodi Cutler Del Dottore's 2007 publication RALLY CAPS will be published in Italian. Jodi's announcement on her blog today is filled with excitement not only because she is becoming an international author but because her son Jordan, the inspiration for the adolescent book, will finally be able to read a book in his native language Italian. Perhaps Jordan will write the forward to the Italian version!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

articles about Paul Rowe, author of The Silent Time

I just finished reading this book and it was one of my favorite reads of the year. The deaf character, Dulcie, is not the main character but a strong secondary character whose storyline is weaved throughout the entire book. Dulcie attends the Halifax School for the Deaf in the early 1900s, similar to the author's late mother, Elizabeth Rowe (readers learn this in the acknowledgements section). I'm writing a review of The Silent Time for the journal of Newfoundland and Labrador Studies. In the meantime, here are two articles about Paul Rowe. And yes, an interview with Paul Rowe is definitely on my Christmas List!
The Muse, Memorial's Student Newspaper
Paul Rowe's discussion of his mother’s enrollment into the Halifax School for the Deaf and his new book, The Silent Time.

Newspaper covers Rowe's Book Release Party
One of Rowe's release parties for his new book

Presentation based upon my research

I have had several requests for copies of this presentation which is based on my doctoral research. This version was presented to a Children's Literature class.

Presentation Deaf Characters

SlideShare Link

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What I'm Reading...

Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School (April 2004) by Gina Oliva
Publisher: Gallaudet University Press
224 pages

When Gina Oliva first went to school in 1955, she didn't know that she was "different." If the kindergarten teacher played a tune on the piano to signal the next exercise, Oliva didn't react because she couldn't hear the music. So began her journey as a "solitary," her term for being the only deaf child in the entire school. Gina felt alone because she couldn't communicate easily with her classmates, but also because none of them had a hearing loss like hers. It wasn't until years later at Gallaudet University that she discovered that she wasn't alone and that her experience was common among mainstreamed deaf students. Alone in the Mainstream recounts Oliva's story, as well as those of many other solitaries.
Oliva combined her personal experiences with responses from the Solitary Mainstream Project, a survey that she conducted of deaf and hard of hearing adults who attended public school. Oliva matched her findings with current research on deaf students in public schools and confirmed that hearing teachers are ill-prepared to teach deaf pupils, they don't know much about hearing loss, and they frequently underestimate deaf children. The collected memories in Alone in the Mainstream adds emotional weight to the conviction that students need to be able to communicate freely, and they also need peers to know they are not alone.

Wait for Me by An Na
Reading level: Ages 9-12
192 pages
Publisher: Puffin Reprint Edition (September 6, 2007)

Mina appears to be the perfect daughter. She is bound for Harvard, president of the honor society, a straight A student, helps out at her family's dry cleaning company and takes care of her young sister, Suna (since their mother isn't such a nurturer). During the summer before her senior year in high school, Mina appears to be responsible. She has conjured up so many lies that lead her mother into believing in Mina's fabricated life. In reality, a family "friend", using that term lightly, has taught her about stealing from the family's business. Mina's perfection turns out to be a life of lies. The character, Suna, is "hearing-impaired" and uses hearing aids.

New Books

Moods of Silence: Reflections in Verse and Prose through a Deaf Poet's Eyes
by Willard J. Madsen
Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
Pub. Date: November 2007
ISBN-13: 9781425788032

Willard J. Madsen, Professor Emeritus, Gallaudet University, is known for his acclaimed poems, You Have to be Deaf to Understand (1971) and NO! (1978). To read an excerpt from his book, click here.

Inside Gallaudet--Author and Peace Corps volunteer Josh Swiller opens dialogue

While I already covered this presentation in an earlier post, this article includes student and faculty perspectives regarding the presentation as well as the roundtable discussion (which I did not attend) that you may find interesting. Josh mentioned to me that he was coming back to Gallaudet next year but I was not aware that his book had been selected as the summer reading text for the 2008 Honor's Program.
(This was posted on Gallaudet's website December 13th. )
Inside Gallaudet: Author and Peace Corps volunteer Josh Swiller opens dialogue
Josh Swiller, a New York-based writer, teacher, and social worker, spent two years in Zambia as a Peace Corps volunteer among black mamba snakes, raging hippos, and murderous village elders. As an oral deaf person who had never felt a part of either the deaf or hearing world, Swiller found a place where hearing status was irrelevant--other needs were far too pressing.

Deaf since the age of 4, Swiller communicates mainly through speaking and lip-reading but learned sign language when he studied at Gallaudet in the early 1990s. When hearing aids stopped working for him, Swiller communicated mainly in sign language for two years before getting a cochlear implant. When Dr. Gina Oliva, a professor in the Department of Physical Education and Recreation, and graduate student Summer Crider met Swiller at the Annual Conference on Mainstreaming Students with Hearing Loss, which is sponsored by the Mainstream Center at Clarke School for the Deaf, they invited him to visit Gallaudet to share his Peace Corps experience and learn more about the University today. Swiller recently published a memoir of his experience, Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa, and has been traveling the country sharing his unique perspective.

Swiller’s November 27 visit to Gallaudet included a presentation of his adventures in the Peace Corps, a roundtable discussion on Gallaudet and the deaf community, and a film screening and discussion.

In his Peace Corps presentation, Swiller told a large group of students, faculty, and staff, that, in his experience, Africa was a place where deafness didn’t matter. He said he was attracted to the Peace Corps because he believed that he would find an intense experience--a place where deafness would have less significance--and he found it in a village in Zambia. “Africa was intense because the people there have so many real problems like poverty and death; deafness became a non-issue,” said Swiller.

This experience was a marked contrast to what he faced growing up. “My parents assumed I was slow before they found out I was deaf,” Swiller said. This was the beginning of a struggle with deafness that would last into adulthood.

Swiller explained that he spent his childhood reading as a means of connecting to the world around him and that he was constantly searching for meaning, trying to understand where he belonged. Deafness for Swiller was a feeling of in-between--being not quite here or there. “I thought I would find the answers at Yale University, but there, I felt lost and isolated,” said Swiller. He became a student at Yale before the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated accessibility. He didn’t know any other deaf people or even that he had any rights as a deaf person.

But in Zambia, deafness allowed Swiller to bond with the villagers; the survival skills he developed growing up deaf allowed him to adapt more easily than the hearing volunteers. His quick learning of the Bemba language he attributes to intense lip-reading, though he credits his ability to make fast friends to his copy of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated.

Swiller also had two important pieces of advice for anyone in the audience with a yen to travel to Africa’s hinterlands: three pairs of underwear will last a person for two years, and never get between a hippo and the water.

The roundtable discussion, Swiller’s next activity, was planned by Crider and Oliva in consultation with several faculty members. It began by discussion of an idea posed by Michael Chorost, author of Rebuilt: My Journey Back to the Hearing World. During his recent visit to campus, Chorost said that Gallaudet has the potential for “teaching the nation how to form and sustain healthy communities.” Swiller has made strong statements about changes he feels the University should make as a community. The roundtable enabled him to engage in an intellectual and respectful discussion with Gallaudet faculty, staff, and students about various perspectives on the kind of change needed.

That evening, Honors students explored another side of Swiller. They were invited to bring a friend to the Honors Lounge to munch on pizza and watch the 1993 film Little Buddha. The movie lent itself easily to discussion with its theological themes and thought-provoking quotes like, "To learn is to change." Dr. Jane Hurst, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, led a discussion about some of the themes arising in the movie, notably the differences between Christianity and Buddhism and the central concepts of Buddhism (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha). Swiller shared his journey as someone from a Jewish background who eventually spent four years as a Zen monk.

In answer to students’ questions, Swiller and Hurst were able to add explanations of Buddhism in practice. One student asked, "What is the role of emotion in Buddhism? In Christianity you have Jesus expressing anger and throwing tables, but I don't associate anger as an emotion expressed in Buddhism."

Swiller explained the idea of recognizing emotions without holding onto to them, acknowledging and accepting them but also letting them pass on. A telling example of detachment from ego and emotion was Swiller’s story of his Buddhist teacher's reaction upon arriving home and finding his house burning down. After a moment of watching the disaster, the teacher turned to the people with him and asked, "Does anyone have any marshmallows?"

Dr. Hurst likened the teacher’s reaction to the one she saw at a protest attended by Buddhist monks. A heavy rain started as they marched, which would have dampened most spirits. The monks, however, chose to laugh as they walked on.

From the challenges Swiller experienced as he struggled to find a niche in the deaf and hearing worlds and developed his religious beliefs to the trials of life as a college student, the themes of Swiller’s visit were readily applicable in everyone’s lives.

Dr. Hurst noted that while Swiller’s cultural and religious choices may have been different from the students’, a productive dialogue emerged. “They had a respectful discussion and asked perceptive questions about what is a foreign religion to many of them,” she said.

This will not be the last time Swiller will serve as a catalyst for discussion. His memoir is one of the Honors Program’s 2008 summer reading selections and he has been invited to present to the campus and meet with Honors students next fall. Those involved in the visit felt that Swiller offers an important experience and perspective on deaf life, and are eager to invite continuing dialogue.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Deaf Author writes Children's Book

Tree Wise by Antoinette Abbamonte
Publisher: MidAmerica Publishing Company (click publisher to purchase this book)
Pub. Date: November 2007
ISBN-13: 9781424330430

This is a children's book that introduces readers to the world of Deaf culture. The story is about a boy who learns how to help his new friend and classmates understand more about deaf culture. A wise old tree teaches sign language to the children through games.

Thanks Anonymous. I didn't mean to ignore your comment... a bunch of messages just popped up this morning. Technology- sigh:)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Josh Swiller Interview

The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa
(September 2007) by Josh Swiller
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks

Don't walk! Run to your local bookstore and buy this book. After having the book in my possession for weeks, I finally picked it up and read it within two days (I do have a job or I probably would have finished it within one). Josh Swiller is honest, witty, at times frightening, and most of all tells a great story. He's the kind of guy you want to sit down and have coffee with... and as I noted about his Gallaudet presentation, he does like coffee. The story is fast-paced and I am still out of breath. As a writer, he will pull you in to become part of this story. Can it really be a memoir? Wow! As a reader, there were times that I adored him and there were also times that I wanted to throw the book across the room because he really bothered me. Although I met him before reading the book, I still wasn't sure if he would survive his experience in Mununga. Sounds silly but you've got to read this book! It's a little travel narrative and a little Hemingway (without all the wives and the cats). I hope you love the book (and him) as much as I do.

Meeting Josh just wasn't enough! I had to have an interview about his book. Read my recent interview below.
SPW: During your presentation at Gallaudet, you began by saying there are three significant meanings to the title but then you didn't elaborate. I understand because you hadn't received your coffee just yet. Would you mind explaining the title now?

JS: Ugh, I’m embarrassed. The three meanings are 1) unheard as in deafness; unheard words and cues, etc. 2) unheard lives. We hear all the time about "500,000 people in the Sudan are refugees" or "1 million people in the Congo are on the verge of starvation" and with such huge overwhelming numbers the sense that these are unique and fascinating individuals gets lost. They become numbers, instead of people. 3) unheard moments -- mainly that there are so many moments of peace and grace and beauty that pass us by because we're focused on our complaints and worries and oh-how-life-is-unfair. You would think that the people in Mununga would be more wrapped up in such a mindset than anyone, but in fact they were more open to the joy of the day-to-day than anyone I'd met.

SPW: Would you have changed anything about your experience? I'm assuming you would have given Jere your address right then, but would you have changed how you reacted to Maba stealing the pencils?

JS: Hey, no one's perfect. And I think it was important to show that about myself -- if I was going to portray everyone with all their flaws than I had to be fair and share my own. So, yes, I hopefully would react more appropriately to Maba's misbehaving, but I'm sure I'd screw up in other ways.

SPW: Administration said that they made a mistake by sending you to Mununga and wouldn't send future Peace Corps volunteers there. Do you believe that being sent to Mununga was the right place for your journey?

JS: Sure. Where we are now is the sum total of every moment in our life. To wish for one step to be different is to wish for a totally different creation...and this is our only life, our only trip. Regret is useless. It was exactly the right place.

SPW: Do you have any plans to go back to visit?

JS: Yes. Unfortunately the Hollywood writer's strike has put a crimp in some plans to make a documentary of a return visit; but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get out there by April.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people (or the young at heart) who are reading your book?

JS: Live large. Live without fear; or better, figure out the things you are most afraid of and go right for them. Are you afraid of public speaking? Then that is because there is someone in you who has a lot to say and knows how worthwhile public speaking would be. Are you scared of talking to a certain someone? Then that is because that person means so much to you. Did something someone said hurt you? That is because you care about them so much. The things we fear most, we fear because we see so much of who we are and what we could be in them. All the more reason to go and conquer those fears.

Also, always, always, always, always have a sense of humor. As long as you can laugh at something you will be ok.

SPW: In the book and during your presentation, you state that "deafness" is irrelevant. In your story, when noise bothered you during, you turned off your hearing aids. Then, when you didn't have your hearing aids, you really missed sound. That doesn't seem like deafness is so irrelevant. At times, it seemed like a convenience. Would you mind elaborating on that?

JS: True, but I don't mean irrelevant in a practical sense. But irrelevant in the sense that in the long run, deaf or hearing makes no difference. They are really only .000001% of what makes us the spectacular beings we are.
For more information about the book and the author, visit Josh Swiller's website.

'Sweet Nothing in My Ear' Play to be Adapted for CBS

'Sweet Nothing in My Ear' Play to be Adapted for CBS
Playwright Stephen Sachs has adapted his play, Sweet Nothing In My Ear, for a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie set to air on CBS in April. Sweet Nothing in My Ear had its world premiere in 1997 at The Fountain Theatre, where Sachs is co-artistic director. The television version of Sweet Nothing In My Ear (click link for NetSignNews story), now shooting, is directed by Emmy Award-winning Joseph Sargent and stars Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin and Golden Globe winner Jeff Daniels.

In Sweet Nothing in My Ear, Laura, who is deaf, and Dan, who is hearing, are a young couple who have been happily married for nine years. Their son Adam was born hearing, but by age six has also become deaf. When Dan decides to pursue the possibility of a cochlear implant for his boy a divisive wedge is driven between husband and wife that threatens to shatter their marriage.

Deaf Character book to be Released in March 2008

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park by Steve Kluger (March, 2008)
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Dial
Hucky is a deaf character. He is a six-year-old orphan who uses sign language to communicate.
For a review of the book, visit Jen Robinson's Book Page
Thanks Jen!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I finished Josh Swiller's The Unheard this morning.... I'm still in shock. I have had the book sitting on my nightstand for weeks now. Deaf Character books end up trumping all other books.... but after his presentation at Gallaudet University, I devoured the book! I think it is one of the best I've read all year. Not one of the best with a deaf person or deaf character, but one of the best (period).

This morning I received Paul Rowe's The Silent Time. I'm already on the third chapter and I haven't even boarded the train.

The Silent Time by Paul Rowe (September 2007)
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Killick Press

In the early 1930s, the small independent nation of Newfoundland is entering a silent time, about to submit to a form of dictatorship in order to resolve its straightened financial circumstances. As a result, Dulcie Merrigan, a young deaf girl living on a remote shore is being denied her right to an education. Neither she nor her mother, Leona, can successfully contend with the political and economic forces that so drastically affect their lives. After turning in vain to her friend and political representative, William Cantwell, Leona realizes that the time has come to unearth her tragic past. Specifically, a stolen shipment of valuable postage stamps, a remnant of the painful silent time that she herself endured, lies hidden in a nearby wood. Will they hold the key to Dulcies last chance for liberation and education?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Books with Jewish Deaf Characters

In honor of Hanukkah, below are two books which include Jewish Deaf Characters. Happy Reading!

Resistance (2005) by Janet Graber
Hardcover: 138 pages
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books

Reading Level: Grades 7-10.
In German-occupied Normandy, France, fifteen-year-old Marianne worries that her mother is exposing the family, especially Marianne's deaf younger brother, to great danger by volunteering for more perilous assignments in the resistance movement . They are hiding and nursing an Englishman in their woodshed when the local German colonel decides to lodge one of his soldiers in their home.

The Silent Hero (1994) by George Shea
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading Level: Grades 3-5

The true story of a young Deaf French boy, Pierre, who rescues a British pilot and helps him back across enemy lines during World War II. Thirteen-year-old Pierre witnesses the December 1940 downing of an Allied airplane by Germans near his home in St. Claire, France. With great difficulty, he manages to rescue the American pilot, Jim Rush, and hide him from the Nazis in a secret room under a woodshed until he can be safely returned to England. Based on a true event, Shea's book vividly portrays life in occupied France, with special emphasis on the activities of the French Resistance. Although classified as nonfiction (no sources are cited), the text reads like an adventure story. The short chapters and a relatively easy reading level will make the book attractive to young history buffs and also hold the attention of older reluctant readers.