Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ASLFilms "Wrong Game" showing in the VA Beach area this summer

Many of you may know that I am an extreme commuter (how else do I have time to read all of these books, right?) so going over to Tidewater Community College (TCC) for their ASL Club's hosting of a movie isn't a big deal (in my mind). The showing will be of the ASL film "Wrong Game", sponsored by Sprint Relay.

Wrong Game is a 2 hour feature-length film mystery/chiller film featuring Deaf actors and actresses performing using only American Sign Language. This film is rated PG-13.
For more information about ASL Films,to view a trailer, or to find out if the film is playing in a venue near you, visit:

Saturday, June 7, 2008 ▪ 2:00 & 7:00 pm
Tidewater Community College ▪ Virginia Beach Campus
Pungo Auditorium (Building F) ▪ 1700 College Crescent
Virginia Beach, VA 23453
$5 Admission
Tickets/Info: Star Glynis Grieser ▪ Email:
Proceeds to TCC ASL Club
Movie Trailer: ▪ rated PG-13 ▪ 128 minutes

Wrong Game takes place in a mansion filled with mysterious history. A group of people is called to the mansion to participate in a game where the winner receives $1 million. When the participants gather at the mansion, they learn the hard truth that the game is no original. Losing the game is not an option. To add further drama, each participant holds highly specialized skills and collectively, they must determine whose skills or expertise is most beneficial to the game. What the participants do not know is that the mastermind of this game is among them as a participant, judging each of them silently and strategically. With more unexpected twists and turns than any other movie, this film will keep participants guessing until the very end.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Deaf Character, A missing Mummy, and Immortality. An Interview with Christine Harris, author of Mask of the Jackal

Mask of the Jackal by Christine Harris
Paperback novel for readers 9-12 years,
150 pages
ISBN 978-0-646-48531-7
Vendor: Christine Harris/Launch Press

Australian author Christine Harris just published a thriller, called Mask of the Jackal which features a deaf character named Jordy. In a letter to me, she explains that she was at a writer's festival giving a presentation when an organizer informed her that there was a deaf girl in the front row. The festival had provided interpreters for the adult sessions but had forgotten about the young people. Christine felt horrible because with 400 other kids in the audience, it was impossible for this young girl to enjoy the presentation. This situation prompted the author to learn Australian Sign Language. She took classes in South Australia for one year and that was part of her inspiration for including the deaf character in the story.

Christine explains that she likes to include a variety of people in her books. She included the character, Jordy who is "feisty, likeable, resourceful, and proudly independent". She emphasizes that the book isn't about deafness and that Jordy just happens to be deaf. "This is not an adventure about a deaf character. Rather, a deaf character happens to have an adventure."

Main character Morgan starts a school assignment in the basement of a museum that is filled with mummies and Ancient Egyptian artifacts. When he hears a strange "sigh”, he wishes that best friend Jordy was there with him. Morgan seeks out his aunt, Lu to investigate. Without giving too much away, by the end of the story, Morgan and Jordy are involved in a kidnapping, and mingle with crazy adults, a stolen mummy, and a search for immortality.

I have been fascinated with Egyptian rituals and gods since I was young. Aside from the book having a Deaf Character (one of my prerequisites for reading these days), the book included the contemporary story of Morgan and Jordy and an Ancient Egyptian tale about the character Rahotep. Because of the fonts and chapter layouts, you certainly won't confuse the two stories. And because the story is a thriller, I'm not going to give away any spoilers about how the two stories overlap (or if they do at all!)

*******Read my interview with Christine Harris below*********
I've been fascinated with Ancient Egyptian stories and artifacts since I was a kid.

CH: Me too. As a child, I adored the small but exotic Egyptian room in the Adelaide museum. And I confess to sneaking up late at night to watch movies like 'Curse of the Mummy' on our black and white television set (and getting in trouble for it too!).

SPW: The day I received your book in the mail, I was wearing my Eye of Horus pendant. (pictured right: Eye of Horus, Thoth- god of writing, my name in hieroglyphics... I've had these pendants since high school)

CH: OMG. That is amazing.
SPW: In the About Me section on your website (which was great...especially the picture of you dressed like an alien), you mention that your books tell quite a bit about you. I'm curious how you see yourself fit into Mask of the Jackal.

CH: I am Morgan. I am Jordy. When I write a story, I temporarily become each of the characters that I write about. How else could I see through their eyes? Once I know my characters, I sometimes let them chat in my head, then write down what they say. But that only happens once I have spent time thinking and dreaming about them. I believe first drafts actually happen in the mind. It's like letting coffee percolate.

SPW: In your letter, you mentioned what inspired Jordy's character. I'm curious how you were inspired to write about Ancient Egypt. Would you mind sharing your research process?

CH: I read every book I could lay my hands on. There is now a stack of them about Ancient Egypt. I looked up various aspects of Egyptian life on the Net and I spent hours at the museum, staring at the exhibits. It was funny - in a sad kind of way - that when I was sitting in the museum, looking at a wrapped mummified body and remembering how it was done, and thinking about the hopes for immortality of the person who lay there, a group of high school students came in with clipboards and a girl took one quick glance around the room without leaving the doorway and said, 'Nah, nothing interesting in here' and walked off.
One role of the writer, I believe, is to open up a window to other worlds so they can be shared and experienced in some way. If that girl had seen those mummies as real people, her viewpoint would have been different.

SPW: In the story, you mentioned the ushabti (pictured above) or little servants that the Ancient Egyptians had buried with them. I remember seeing them for the first time in The Boston Museum of Fine Arts. They were fascinating. I’m curious; Morgan and Jordy were such great characters. Do you plan to include them or any other deaf characters in future writing?

CH: Oh yeah. I can't let them go yet. 'The Mystery of the Shrunken Head' is at outline stage and it has the same two main characters. Morgan needs Jordy, and vice versa. Still with a heavy theme of archaeology, but this time with a blackmail attempt, a secret, lots of stunt work and shrunken heads from Ecuador.

SPW: Ooohh! That is exciting! I can’t wait. What do you hope young readers will gain from your books?

CH: I hope they become absorbed into another world for a time, experience what it is like being someone else, some place else. If readers feel what my characters feel, then I have been successful. But I really think that each reader takes something slightly different from what they read. We love books that fulfill some need or interest in ourselves.

SPW: I always ask for a little professional advice for my readers. What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

CH: Enjoy.
For more information about the author, visit her website: and to read an excerpt of the book, visit:

**Just a quick note for young people reading Mask of the Jackal. You will notice that some words are spelled differently than in the United States. For more information about spelling differences, visit Wikipedia **

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Interview with Deaf Author and Professor, Gina Oliva

I'm a little embarrassed to say that I knew about this book for quite some time but thought that it was strictly research-related and just kept putting off reading it. When I was introduced to Gina Oliva at a holiday party in December and she described her book, I knew that it would be a perfect addition to my blog. The book sounded interesting so I bought it that day and started reading. While it is nonfiction and doesn't include any Deaf Characters, the personal comments of many of the "solitaires" (see below for definition) would resonate in the lives of many of my readers. Read my interview with Gina Oliva below.

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

Gina Oliva began school in 1955 as a "solitaire," a term she uses for being the only deaf person in a school. Oliva explains how she felt alone in school because she wasn't able to clearly communicate with her peers in group settings. At home, the situation did not improve although her father had a hearing loss. Her father refused to accept their difference and never learned sign language even after Oliva made her way to Gallaudet University and discovered that her experience as a solitary deaf person was a common experience among other mainstreamed deaf students. Alone in the Mainstream combines Oliva's 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 concludes that teachers are ill-prepared to teach deaf students and are uninformed about hearing loss. At times, Oliva's teachers did not even believe that she couldn't hear. They felt she was faking her deafness. Oliva also concludes that deaf students need to be able to communicate freely and know that they are not alone in the world.
Currently, Oliva is a Professor of Physical Education and Recreation at Gallaudet University.
SPW: After reading the book, it seems that you set out to find some commonalities between your experience and other mainstreamed deaf students and that your findings were overwhelming. How did this change your perspective about your k-12 and early college experience after conducting the research and writing this book?

GO: Hmmm…I would say that I did not expect to hear (read) so much (from my research subjects) about how important extracurricular activities and family support were to them. I didn’t expect them to go into detail on these topics. Also, I did not expect that a majority of the people who wanted to participate in my study were not Gallaudet graduates. In a way this is good, because it shows that even those who choose to attend mainstream colleges have common concerns that ought to be highlighted.

SPW: Since you made your plea at the end of the book, have you seen or do you know of any changes that are being made to include more solitaires? With the nature of the research, are you able to still connect with those who participated in the research?

GO: Since I completed my work on this book, I have launched on a kind of crusade to increase the number of weekend and summer programs available for hard of hearing and deaf high school students. I have a research project ongoing, where I am investigating existing programs, and have found myself with a substantial network of individuals and organizations around the USA that are trying to plan and conduct such programs as a way to bring mainstreamed students (at both the middle school and high school levels) together. Most of these efforts are independent of each other and there is a need for collaboration and mutual support. I hope that my work over the next few years will promote such collaboration and support so that the programs can become the best they can be, and that in particular they will be welcoming and accommodating of students who are not fluent in ASL, because there are so many such students in the mainstream today.

SPW: Do you have any plans to conduct follow-up research on the Solitary Mainstream Project?

GO: I do plan to do either a second edition or a second book. I want to include younger informants and also information about summer and weekend programs.

SPW: In the book, you mention that you'd like to learn more about your deaf family members. Have you been able to do so? And, have you come to terms with your father's denial of his own deafness?

GO: I did contact my father’s nephews, my cousins on my father’s side. The contact was sweet, bur brief, and I have not had time to do more in this area. One of these days I would like to go to Palermo, Sicily and see if I can find other cousins and/or relatives. I have become fascinated with the lives of my paternal grandfather, and his mother, who both had hearing loss, but again I have not had enough time to pursue this. As for “coming to terms,” I think I have done so, yes.

SPW: What do you hope young readers will gain from Alone in the Mainstream?

GO: I hope they would learn that being deaf or hard of hearing is not a liability, but an asset. They can choose to see it as an asset. Not everyone has an opportunity to be a part of two worlds. Sign Languages and Deaf Communities are rich elements of human life and it is my desire that more people would see them as such. I hope my book would encourage them and their parents to learn more about this world.

SPW: What advice would you give to young people who are reading your books for the first time?

GO: Professional Advice…hmmmm Study Hard! Read, read, and read some more. Remember that the world is full of not only truth but also prejudice, misconceptions, and myths, about everything. Prejudice, misconceptions, and myths about people with hearing loss affect the lives of most hard of hearing and deaf individuals, whether they are aware of it or not. Strive to learn more about the pioneers who came before you, and then strive to become a pioneer yourself.
For more information about Gina Oliva visit her Gallaudet University webpage or to purchase the book

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Deaf Character in episode of MEDIUM

This Monday, I will give myself permission to put down my books and watch a little television. I am looking forward to the portrayal of the Deaf Character in NBC's Medium.

"Do You Hear What I Hear" Season 4, Episode 4
Will Air: Monday, February 18, 2008
(check NBC for show times in your area)
Episode Description
Allison completely loses her hearing when a wealthy, young deaf girl is kidnapped, so Joe steps in to assist with her and investigator Cynthia Keener's actions on behalf of the parents.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Good eye, kid!" Football Fugitive by Matt Christopher includes a Deaf Character

"Good eye, kid"*, is the only sports related comment that I remember from my Dad. You're probably thinking, "What's with the sports talk?" I know, I was the one who had to ask my husband for various baseball terms when reading a baseball-related story. Yet, here I think "good eye, kid" also applies to the young adult reader who spotted a Deaf Character in Matt Christopher's 1988 Football Fugitive. I was in a grumbly mood when the email from the student's teacher appeared in my Inbox. I love when I receive emails from authors and publishers letting me know that their adolescent literature book includes a Deaf Character. Even more than that, I am thrilled when young people let me know about the Deaf Characters that they find in books! Yeah! I really needed that kind of email today. So thanks to the student and my friends at VSDB for letting me know about the book and for changing my mood!

*((My husband wants me to note that the expression "Good eye, kid" doesn't relate to football as much as it does baseball. Whatever. I'm trying to relate to my male readers!))

Football Fugitive (1998) by Matt Christopher
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 119 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
ISBN-10: 0316140643
List Price: $4.99 <--- Not only is the book still in publication, but it is inexpensive!!!

Representing a pro football player whom his son admires brings a lawyer closer to his young son.
Greg, "who had been deaf since birth" and "attended a special school where he learned to talk" plays right guard for the Digits (page 10). Greg communicates through lipreading. The only "signs" used are football signals.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Taking this show on the road....

This week I'll be presenting my research at the GCTE Conference in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Welcome Georgia Council Teachers of English! For those of you new to this blog, here is a recap of some of the blog's features. First, check out the 100+ and Counting List (to the right) which includes adolescent literature books with Deaf Characters. The list is now up to 172 books! I continually update this list but don't move the post from the February 17, 2007 date. Wow, it is almost my blog’s first birthday!
By scrolling down on the right, you will find sections entitled Blog Archives and the 2007 interviews. You can also search this blog in the top left corner and I’ve tried to add labels to the posts to help identify the categories. For example, if you’re looking for characters who use sign language, there is a label “uses sign language”, etc. Here is a recap of interviews.

1. Nadia Wheatley (January 19, 2008)
2. Dandi Daley Mackall (January 14, 2008)
3. Paul Rowe (January 13, 2008)
4. Steve Kluger (January 3, 2008)
5. Josh Swiller (December 5, 2007)
6. Tami Lee Santimyer (November 14, 2007)
7. Eleanor Robins (November 14, 2007)
8. Janice Greene (November 3, 2007)
9. Anne Colledge (October 27, 2007)
10. Megan McDonald (October 20, 2007)
11. J.G. Martinson (October 13, 2007)
12. Clint Kelly (October 6, 2007)
13. Jacqueline Woodson (September 29, 2007)
14. Sarah Miller (September 22,2007)
15. David Mack (September 15, 2007)
16. Jamie Berke (August 25, 2007)
17. Delia Ray (August 23, 2007)
18. Jodi Cutler Del Dottore (posted August 13, 2007)
19. Penny Warner (posted July 27, 2007)
20. T.C. Boyle (posted July 23, 2007)
21. Jean Ferris (posted June 30, 2007)
22. Ginny Rorby (posted June 23, 2007)
23. Jean Andrews (posted June 20, 2007)
24. Doug Cooney (posted June 18, 2007)
25. Lois Hodge (posted May 5, 2007)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Marlee Matlin may join the cast of Dancing with the Stars

Deaf Character author and Academy Award Winner, Marlee Matlin may be adding ballroom dancer to her list of accomplishments .

Rumor has it that Matlin could be joining the cast of Dancing with the Stars. Of course, we won't find out for sure until the end of the month when ABC announces the Season 6 cast.
"Choosing the deaf actress would be a continuation of Dancing's quest to defy casting expectations and prejudices", Hollywood Insider.

ABC declined to comment on the casting, although a spokesperson said, "there are a lot of rumors floating around out there right now." According to one knowledgeable source, the network even requires all cast members to sign confidentiality agreements.

Okay Jodi, can you top that? I can so see ballroom dancing in your future:)