I am very late in announcing the book review I was asked to write for Wordgathering.com because I’ve been caught in the Christmas fog which immediately followed my November Novel Writing Haze.
My glowing review of John Lee Clark’s latest work, Where I Stand: On the Signing Community and my DeafBlind Experience was published last month on their site—link HERE—along with some other great stuff, like Raymond Luczak’s Interview with one of my favorite poets ever, Ilya Kaminsky, as well as his review of the all deaf cast Ukrainian movie, the tribe:
I don’t think I’ve ever been made to equally want to see a movie and not want to see a movie at the same time before reading Raymond’s review of this! Hearing people especially, please read Raymond’s review of this movie before watching it. It may ruin some of the plot, but really, there’s not much to ruin. I’m pretty outraged that this is one of the few movies where people use a local sign language throughout the movie. Though be warned, there are no subtitles and it is in Ukrainian Sign Language, so if you don’t know that, you won’t really know exactly what the people are saying. I just really hope people realize that this is not an accurate take on the “Deaf experience” by any means (see Raymond’s review for more details).
So check out Wordgathering, a journal of disability poetry and literature. And if you want to read some insanely amazing poems that open their doors and draw you inside their world, go out and find Ilya Kaminsky’s book Dancing in Odessa:
If you are at all curious about the Deaf community, I urge you to pick this up. It had great range, from fiction to poetry to non-fiction, and features some very talented writers.
From the introduction by John Lee Clark:
“…this book represents the latest blow to the audist vision of deafness as a calamity, as something that must be fixed at all costs.”
The cover of the book, a dandelion, is a tribute to Clayton Valli, a ASL poet and linguist. His famous ASL poem “A Dandelion”, which is about the persistence of ASL despite oralists attempts to weed it out, is transcribed in the book, though I love the ASL version below:
[A note from Wikipedia:
“Audism is the notion that one is superior based upon one’s ability to hear, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.”]
[A note from me:
Many hearing people are audists without even realizing it.
They are audists when they feel bad for someone who is deaf—because of their deafness.
(Though when they just feel bad about a deaf person being left out, or when they wish to learn ASL to communicate better with a deaf person, that’s not audism.)
They are audists when they see a deaf person as disabled, or hearing impaired, or suffering from hearing loss.
They are audists when they think that person should have hearing aides or cochlear implants, or speak with their voice rather than their hands.
When you are part of the Deaf community or use ASL, hearing loss is not something that is “suffered.” Hearing loss then becomes deafness. It doesn’t include words like “impaired” or “loss” or “disabled.”
I do feel disabled when I am surrounded by hearing people who cannot sign. Or when someone turns on a movie that doesn’t have captions or subtitles. But that doesn’t really make me disabled. It just means I can’t hear English, despite the fact that I speak and write in English.
English was my first language, and Hearing culture was my first culture. Gradually, I’ve become a part of Deaf culture, too, and I’ve realized, it’s okay to be both. It’s okay to feel a part of two different cultures—the same way I feel at home in India or Ireland, but I was not born of those cultures, either.
I love ASL, but I’m not a master of it. I need it, but I cannot sign nearly as well as I can speak or write. This is why—this is exactly why—I’ve chosen to read my writing aloud, in English, because it was written in English. But if Deaf individuals attend my readings, I will always deeply want to sign for them.
I wish to take hold of my own voice with my hands as well as with my mouth. But I don’t feel adept enough to translate my English into ASL. And for a true ASL performance, I would need to read my work aloud, and then sign it in ASL. Not every venue would be open to that (being that it would take twice as long to do a reading), but that is something I might later wish to attempt in the performing of my own work.
Until then, I’m proud to be a part of anthologies like this—where my words can exist alongside other deaf writers speaking about the Deaf experience from their minds and from their hearts.]