Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer Issue of YADC (Young Adult Deaf Characters)

View the Summer issue of the YADC newsletter here: SummerYADC

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Peter Cook performs for Gallaudet

While this blog is primarily for adolescent literature which includes Deaf Characters, I like to add topics that may be of interest to young adults in general. As an educator (and a lover of books), I want young people to read; however, I also hope that they attend cultural events that encourage them to play with language. One example is last night's performance by Deaf poet Peter Cook for new students as part of Gallaudet's New Student Orientation. The term poet doesn't do him justice. Cook is a renowned performing artist whose work includes American Sign Language, pantomime, storytelling, acting and movement. With poignant facial expressions, his work hardly needs to be voice interpreted; however, last night's performance included CART allowing new signers to be equally entertained. Without missing a beat, Cook took full advantage of the added medium and even played with the written words as they scrolled across the screen.
This is the fourth time that I have seen Cook perform and each performance includes new surprises. Last night Cook began telling the traditional joke about a Deaf couple who stayed at a hotel. He playfully asked the crowd, "tell me when you've heard this one before". Immediately students knew the story but Cook continued teasing and explained that the husband in the story realized that he had left something in the car and had to go to get it. After retrieving the item, he headed back to his room only to realize that he had forgotten which room was his. Again Cook asked, "Are you sure you've heard this one before?" and then continued that the guy in the story had a bit of an epiphany and went back to car and began honking the horn for a few moments knowing that all the lights would come on in the rooms with hearing people. "Do you know this story?" Cook continued. The students were roaring because they thought they knew the ending... but they didn't. Cook's version ended with a twist along with a warm welcome to the new Class of 2012. You didn't think I was going to give away the ending, did you?
For more information about Peter Cook and to purchase videos, visit the poet's website. Below I added a commercial with Peter Cook that I found on YouTube and below that is a presentation of The Flying Words Project at UCSD. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunrise, Conference, Deaf Author, Fireworks.... literally

Va Beach Sun Rise
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I can't think of a better way to end the summer than the Pathways to Possibilities Conference in Virginia Beach. I attended some amazing presentations including former principal/educator/ mentor (etc. etc.) Rachel Bavister's "From the Inside Looking Out" and my current colleague and friend Tim Anderson's "Grasping the Future Now" on preparing students for college literacy.

While even my husband knows that I have a "professional" crush on Deaf Author Josh Swiller, my post title is literal; I actually saw fireworks!
On Wednesday night, I couldn't sleep well. That usually happens before I give a presentation... and this one was particularly frightening with former teachers and mentors in the audience. So around 5am on Thursday morning, I decided that I NEEDED to go to the beach to see the sunrise. My perfect morning turned into a perfect day.

That afternoon, Josh Swiller closed the Deaf/HH strand of the conference with his presentation, "Living Without Limits: One Man's Story". If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I can certainly go on and on about some authors. Mr. Swiller is no exception. He has a great book; he is a great storyteller; and, he is just fun to be around. But I'll let you read past posts (note the plural form and how I oddly don't even feel embarrassed: gushing post 1; gushing post 2; gushing post 3) for the gushing. Come on, how can you not adore a man who adds the word 'discombobulated' into his presentation just for fun?!?

The perfect day concluded with seeing fireworks on my drive home. What a perfect way to close summer:) In the next few weeks, the 5th issue of my YADC newsletter will be out. I'll add it on slideshare but if you'd like it sent to your email, just send me a note. Also, you'll be able to read my interview with the author who just stole my heart when we met, Myron Uhlberg about his upcoming memoir. In the meantime, if you know of some books with Deaf Characters that aren't added on my list, please send me an email. Below is my handout from my presentation and my PowerPoint slide.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Deaf Character (Joy of the American Girl books) Paper Dolls

Julie Paper Dolls (American Girl) (August 2008) by Jennifer Hirsch, Renee Graef & Susan McAliley
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: American Girl; 1 edition

Girls can play with the American Girls in a whole new way! With this kit, girls can dress paper dolls of Julie and her friends, Ivy and Joy. Removable sticky dots attach the outfits and accessories, so girls can mix and match again and again. Plus, girls can use the double-sided illustrated background to recreate their favorite Julie stories. When playtime is over, everything stores neatly in a handy storage pocket for safekeeping.

Deaf Character Books Recommended by Readers

These books were recommended by Blog Readers. I haven't read either of these books and just put them in my Amazon Cart. Enjoy!

Between, Georgia (2006)by Joshilyn Jackson
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Reading Level: Adult but appropriate for Mature Teens
There's always been bad blood between the Fretts and the Crabtrees. After all, the Fretts practically own the tiny town of Between, Georgia, while the Crabtrees only rent space in its jail cells.
Stacia Frett is a deaf artist with a genetic condition
(SPW Note: Usher's Syndrome) that is causing her to slowly go blind. She's lost the love of her life, and when her vision goes, she'll lose her career as well. She's asking God why He keeps her breathing in and out, until the night fifteen year old Hazel Crabtree shows up on her doorstep brandishing a stomach swollen with a pregnancy she'd hidden for nine months. Stacia thinks Hazel's unwanted baby might be God's answer, and so the Fretts decide to steal it...
Thirty years later, Nonny Frett is a successful interpreter living in Athens, Georgia. She understands the meanings of "rock" and "hard place" better than any woman ever born. She's got two mothers, "one deaf-blind and the other four baby steps from flat crazy." She's got two men; Her husband is easing out the back door and her best friend is laying siege to her heart in her front yard. She has a job that holds her in the city, and she's addicted to a little girl who's stuck deep in the country. And she has two families; The Fretts, who stole her and raised her right, and the Crabtrees, who lost her and can't forget that they've been done wrong.
In Between, Georgia, population 90, the feud that began before Nonny was born is escalating, and a random act of violence will set the torch to a thirty-year old stash of highly flammable secrets. This might be just what the town needs, if only Nonny wasn't sitting in the middle of it...

The Mermaid's Three Wisdoms (1978)by Jane Yolen & Laura Rader
Hardcover: 112 pages
Publisher: Collins World
Reading level: Ages 9-12

A mermaid who cannot speak is banished from her undersea home and sent to live on land as a human where she is found by a 12-year-old deaf girl.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Interview with Deaf Author Ann Clare LeZotte about T4 her forthcoming book told in verse

T4 (September 22, 2008) by Ann Clare LeZotte
Reading level: Ages 9-12
112 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
It is 1939. Paula Becker, thirteen years old and deaf, lives with her family in a rural German town. As rumors swirl of disabled children quietly disappearing, a priest comes to her family's door with an offer to shield Paula from an uncertain fate. When the sanctuary he offers is fleeting, Paula needs to call upon all her strength to stay one step ahead of the Nazis.

When I first mentioned this book on my blog, I had not yet read the story. Now that I have, I can not wait to share both the book and my interview with Deaf Author, Ann Clare LeZotte with you.
Ann Clare LeZotte is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and while this is her first novel, she has had her poems published in the American Poetry Review, the New Republic, and the Threepenny Review. When she isn't writing, Ms. LeZotte works full-time at a public library.

In T4, main character Paula Becker is a thirteen year old girl and a Deaf Character who uses sign language and lipreading to communicate. We are introduced to her life in Germany during Hitler’s time as Paula’s family places her in hiding to protect her since individuals with physical and mental disabilities were being executed under the orders of Hitler’s Tiergartenstrasse 4 (T4). Readers also learn about Paula's education and her family's acceptance of her deafness.
For me, the novel was both educational and enjoyable. I knew little about T4 when I started the book and I never expected that the book would be told in verse. The poems are not very long (great for struggling readers) but they are full of information and feeling. Less can be more.
I frequently ask for "wacky" pictures of the authors I interview because I think they're fun and several of my younger readers have requested more candid shots. While I love all pictures of authors (especially ones with their dogs), I must applaud Ms. LeZotte for appeasing my readers and me with this great Creepy Carrie photo (right). This just shows that creative writers can have interesting personal lives too.

I invite you to read my interview with the author below and I encourage you to buy T4 for your personal and classroom libraries.
SPW: T4 is such a serious topic for adolescent literature. What prompted you to write such a story?

ACLZ: I grew up on the north shore of Long Island, and a number of my friends were first and second generation American Jews, whose grandparents were survivors of the Shoah. As a little girl, my maternal grandmother, Dr Era Contes (and her family), escaped Turkey during the Armenian Genocide. So these twentieth century terrors were very real to me, in a palpable way. When I was in my early twenties, I became passionate about Deaf history. I read Horst Birsold's Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany. From that time on, it was a story I wanted to tell. I was a sensitive, thoughtful adolescent, and I think it's important to introduce serious topics early on, so they become part of the reader's consciousness.

SPW: What type of research did you do for your book? In the Notes from the Author section, you mentioned several books.

ACLZ: As well as the Horst book, I read just about everything I could find about the Nazi's so-called euthanasia program. I have a special borrower's card from the University of Florida Libraries and accessed my public library's online book services. The U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. has a terrific online exhibit too.

SPW: There aren't too many adolescent novels that are written in verse. Will you discuss your decision to write your story in poetry?

ACLZ: Believe me, I tried to write the book in prose! I always say written English (rather than spoken English or ASL) is my primary language. My natural voice expresses itself best in short lyric poetry. I don't know why that is. It may have something to do with the fact that I generally think in intense streams of emotion and perception (rather than in words or signs). Kind of like music. Anyway, the format of the book chose me. I was encouraged by the fact that Karen Hesse was so successful with her YA novel in verse, Out of the Dust.

SPW: What do you hope that readers will learn or take away from the book? I believe this is one of the only books in adolescent literature that I have read that doesn't take a Jewish perspective about the Holocaust.

ACLZ: I hope readers will realize that Deaf and Disabled people have been the victims of the most horrible kinds of persecution, and that we still live on, and value and enjoy our lives. There is a new form of eugenics today. Recently, I read the Nobel Prize winning Physiologist Sir John Sulston say, in response to a British Deaf couple who had "intentionally" given birth to a Deaf baby: "I don't think one ought to bring a clearly disabled child into the world." As we move forward, into a new era of medicine and science, the next generations will have to decide what place and position the Disabled will take. I hope that they will value the best of human diversity.

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

ACLZ: Stay true to your own voice. Work very hard as a writer. Read a lot of books. And revise your own work. Don't be afraid of change or criticism. Multicultural literature has been a hot topic for couple of decades. But Deaf and Disabled writers still haven't come to the forefront. Publishers and editors are always looking for a unique voice, or a story that hasn't been told a million times. And we've got plenty of them. Good luck!
For more information about the author, visit her blog: Ann Clare LeZotte's Blog on Amazon