14 Fantastic Books for Deaf Awareness Week – Thought-provoking Non-fiction, and Fabulous Fiction That’ll Thrill You, Chill You, and Stir Your Soul

With Deaf Awareness Week running 2nd-8th May, we’ve curated a collection of brilliant books that explore deaf culture, deaf history, and the lives of deaf characters. By turns stirring, moving and exhilarating, there are novels here for all tastes, whether you’re into literary fiction, top-notch crime thrillers, or coming-of-age page-turners.

Talking of which, we simply have to highlight Sara Novic’s True Biz, a recent favourite we can’t stop raving about. Set in an American residential school for the deaf, this powerful, tender, illuminating story relates the coming-of-age turmoil and political awakening of a teenage girl who’s been let down by doctors and the medical system. The novel also shares insights into deaf history and American Sign Language – I really couldn’t put it down. 

If you’re into crime and mystery, Will Dean’s Dark Pines is a brilliant slice of Scandi-noir, with main character Tuva determined to make her name as a journalist, overcoming negativity towards her deafness as she strives to fathom an unsolved murder from twenty years ago. 

Then there’s the prize-winning page-turner by Emma Viskic - Resurrection Bay sees deaf insurance investigator Caleb Zelic investigating the death of a friend in an exhilaratingly twisty plot. Meanwhile, Jeffery Deaver’s A Maiden’s Grave sees a group of deaf students taken hostage by escaped convicts, with their trainee teacher seizing the chance to use sign language to concoct an escape plan.

For younger readers (or the young at heart), we have a whole Collection devoted to children’s books featuring unforgettable deaf or hard-of-hearing characters. Here we’d like to highlight Cece Bell’s El Deafo  - an empowering, multi-award-winning graphic novel memoir about the author-illustrator’s hearing loss as a child.

Looking for fine non-fiction on the theme of deafness? Try Inside Deaf Culture and Oliver Sacks’ Seeing Voices.

Seeing Voices

Seeing Voices

Author: Oliver Sacks Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2012

Imaginative and insightful, Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks offers a way into a world that is, for many people, alien and unfamiliar - for to be profoundly deaf is not just to live in a world of silence, but also to live in a world where the visual is paramount. In this remarkable book, Sacks explores the consequences of this, including the different ways in which the deaf and the hearing impaired learn to categorize their respective worlds - and how they convey and communicate those experiences to others.

True Biz

True Biz

Author: Sara Novic Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/04/2022

Driven by the interlinked lives of a headteacher and one of her pupils, Sara Novic’s True Biz is an incredibly compelling, stirring story that takes in civil rights and disability rights through the coming-of-age tumult of a rebellious deaf teenager. As Charlie tackles the challenges of being brought up in a hearing household and how she’s been treated by the medical profession, headteacher February faces a fight to keep her school open, and her marriage on track. Until she starts at River Valley School for the Deaf, Charlie has never met a deaf person. Her hearing parents are divorced, and her relationship with her mother has always been a fractious tinderbox. Amidst this turmoil, Charlie arrives at her new school unable to sign, with a cochlear implant that’s done little to help her — “the language acquisition skills the doctors had promised post-implant had been slow to materialise”. Through Charlie’s longstanding, painful problems with her implant, True Biz addresses the ethics of non-consensual implants, and also tells of “hospital horror stories” experienced by deaf patients, with medical professionals overlooking, disregarding, or not recognising cries for help. The story is also interspersed with information on ASL (America Sign Language) and Deaf history. For example, we learn how Alexander Graham Bell propagated eugenics in his belief that sign language should be eradicated, and that Black ASL (BASL) developed as a result of the segregation of students. True Biz also reveals enduring racism towards BASL — how the language is stigmatised. At school, while Charlie tries to fit in and find friends, she experiences the awakenings of first love and lusts, and comes to a political awakening, too. The various characters’ stories are brilliantly interlinked, and make for a tremendously powerful novel that’s tender, absorbing and altogether illuminating.

Books of the Month
Girl at War

Girl at War

Author: Sara Novic Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/03/2016

Growing up in Zagreb in the summer of 1991, 10-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy; she runs the streets with her best friend, Luka, helps take care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But when civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, football games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. The brutal ethnic cleansing of Croats and Bosnians tragically changes Ana's life, and she is lost to a world of genocide and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival. Ten years later she returns to Croatia, a young woman struggling to belong to either country, forced to confront the trauma of her past and rediscover the place that was once her home.

eBooks of the Month
Dark Pines

Dark Pines

Author: Will Dean Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/06/2018

A fun and gripping first in a new series of Scandi-noir - unusually written by a British writer who grew up here but now lives in Sweden. Our heroine - Tuva Moodyson - has also recently moved there, she grew up in rural Sweden but left for the bright lights of London and has returned to near home because her mother hasn't got long to live. Not wanting to give up her career as a journalist she's moved a few hours away from 'home' to work at a local paper. It's pretty sleepy till the entire community is sent reeling when a body is found in the forest during hunting season, shot but with it's eyes removed, no accident and a chilling copy of a spate of murders from twenty years before. Tuva goes on the hunt for the story of her career almost risking everything to find the killer. Adding to the drama is the fact that Tuva is deaf and her ability to both operate without her hearing aids in complete silence when she wants to, and the danger she faces from her hearing aids failing, both up the ante significantly. Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!

eBooks of the Month
A Maiden's Grave

A Maiden's Grave

Author: Jeffery Deaver Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/11/2016

DEAVER. DANGEROUSLY GOOD. When a trio of desperate convicts hijack a bus carrying a group of deaf and mute schoolgirls, everyone is braced for a terrible tragedy. FBI agent Arthur Potter is flown in to negotiate. But he has competition: local police, state troopers, politicians and the media are swarming. Not everyone has the same agenda. And the killers will murder one innocent child an hour, on the hour, until their demands are met...

Resurrection Bay

Resurrection Bay

Author: Emma Viskic Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/04/2018

Caleb Zelic can't hear you. But he sees everything. The prizewinning debut thriller from the new name in crime. CALEB ZELIC IS ON THE HUNT FOR HIS FRIEND'S KILLER His childhood friend has been brutally murdered - fingers broken, throat slit - at his home in Melbourne. Tortured by guilt, Caleb vows to track down the killer. But he's profoundly deaf; missed words and misread lips can lead to confusion, and trouble. HE NEVER FORGETS A FACE Fortunately, Caleb knows how to read people; a sideways glance, an unconvincing smile, speaks volumes. When his friend Frankie, a former cop, offers to help, they soon discover the killer is on their tail. IT MIGHT JUST SAVE HIS LIFE Sensing that his ex-wife may also be in danger, Caleb insists they return to their hometown of Resurrection Bay. But there he learns that everyone - including his murdered friend - is hiding something. And the deeper he digs, the darker the secrets...

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn

Author: Colin Dexter Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/04/2016

The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn is the third novel in Colin Dexter's Oxford-set detective series. Morse had never ceased to wonder why, with the staggering advances in medical science, all pronouncements concerning times of death seemed so disconcertingly vague. The newly appointed member of the Oxford Examinations Syndicate was deaf, provincial and gifted. Now he is dead . . . And his murder, in his north Oxford home, proves to be the start of a formidably labyrinthine case for Chief Inspector Morse, as he tries to track down the killer through the insular and bitchy world of the Oxford Colleges . . . The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn is followed by the fourth Inspector Morse book, Service of All the Dead.

El Deafo: The Superpowered Edition

El Deafo: The Superpowered Edition

Author: Cece Bell Format: Hardback Release Date: 13/10/2020

A special edition of the New York Times bestselling and Newbery Honor-winning graphic novel memoir This deluxe edition of the critically acclaimed, bestselling graphic novel will include 40 extra pages of back matter, including photo references, early sketches, interviews, and more. Funny and deeply heartfelt, El Deafo chronicles the author's hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a powerful and very awkward hearing aid. The Phonic Ear allows her to hear but it also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a friend. Eventually, she's able to harness her own power and become El Deafo, Listener for All -and more important, declare a place for herself in the world. This is a moving and humorous memoir that helps show kids that what makes them different is what makes them extraordinary.

Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck

Author: Brian Selznick Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/09/2011

Ben's story takes place in 1977 and is told in words. Rose's story in 1927 is told entirely in pictures. Ever since his mother died, Ben feels lost. At home with her father, Rose feels alone. When Ben finds a mysterious clue hidden in his mother's room, and when a tempting opportunity presents itself to Rose, both children risk everything to find what's missing. Rich, complex, affecting and beautiful, WONDERSTRUCK is a staggering achievement from a uniquely gifted artist.

Song for A Whale

Song for A Whale

Author: Lynne Kelly Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/02/2019

A stirring and heart-warming tale of a young deaf girl who is determined to make a difference, the perfect read for fans of Wonder. Iris was born deaf, but she's never let that define her; after all, it's the only life she's ever known. And until recently she wasn't even very lonely, because her grandparents are both deaf, too. But Grandpa has just died and Grandma's not the same without him. The only place Iris really feels at home anymore is in her electronics workshop where she loves taking apart antique radios. Then, during a science lesson about sound waves, Iris finds out about a whale who is unable to communicate with other whales. The lonely whale awakens something in Iris. She's determined to show him that someone in the world knows he's there. Iris works on a foolproof plan to help the whale but she soon realises that that is not enough: Iris wants to find the whale herself. One stolen credit card, two cruise ship tickets, and the adventure of a lifetime later, Iris and the whale each break through isolation to help one another be truly heard in ways that neither had ever expected. Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, young children category, for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

Deaf Republic

Deaf Republic

Author: Ilya Kaminsky Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/06/2019

BBC Radio 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK FORWARD PRIZE 2019 SHORTLIST POETRY BOOK SOCIETY CHOICE 2019 The long-awaited new collection from Ilya Kaminsky: a remarkable parable in poems which asks us, what is silence? Deaf Republic opens in a time of political unrest in an occupied territory. It is uncertain where we are or when, in what country or during what conflict, but we come to recognise that these events are also happening here, right now. This astonishing parable in poems unfolds episodically like a play, its powerful narrative provoked by a tragic opening scene: when soldiers breaking up a protest kill a deaf boy, the gunshot becomes the last thing the citizens hear - in that moment, all have gone deaf. Inside this silence, their dissent becomes coordinated by sign language. The story then follows the private lives of townspeople encircled by public violence: a newly married couple, Alfonso and Sonya, expecting their child; the daring Momma Galya, instigating the insurgency from her puppet theatre; and Galya's puppeteers, covertly teaching signs by day and by night heroically luring soldiers one by one to their deaths behind the curtain. At once a love story, an elegy, and an urgent plea, Deaf Republic confronts our time's vicious atrocities and our collective silence in the face of them.

Inside Deaf Culture

Inside Deaf Culture

Author: Carol Padden, Tom Humphries Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/11/2006

In this absorbing story of the changing life of a community, the authors of Deaf in America reveal historical events and forces that have shaped the ways that Deaf people define themselves today. Inside Deaf Culture relates Deaf people's search for a voice of their own, and their proud self-discovery and self-description as a flourishing culture. Padden and Humphries show how the nineteenth-century schools for the deaf, with their denigration of sign language and their insistence on oralist teaching, shaped the lives of Deaf people for generations to come. They describe how Deaf culture and art thrived in mid-twentieth century Deaf clubs and Deaf theatre, and profile controversial contemporary technologies. Most triumphant is the story of the survival of the rich and complex language American Sign Language, long misunderstood but finally recently recognized by a hearing world that could not conceive of language in a form other than speech. In a moving conclusion, the authors describe their own very different pathways into the Deaf community, and reveal the confidence and anxiety of the people of this tenuous community as it faces the future. Inside Deaf Culture celebrates the experience of a minority culture--its common past, present debates, and promise for the future. From these pages emerge clear and bold voices, speaking out from inside this once silenced community.

Forbidden Signs

Forbidden Signs

Author: Douglas C. Baynton Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/06/1998

Forbidden Signs explores American culture from the mid-nineteenth century to 1920 through the lens of one striking episode: the campaign led by Alexander Graham Bell and other prominent Americans to suppress the use of sign language among deaf people. The ensuing debate over sign language invoked such fundamental questions as what distinguished Americans from non-Americans, civilized people from "savages," humans from animals, men from women, the natural from the unnatural, and the normal from the abnormal. An advocate of the return to sign language, Baynton found that although the grounds of the debate have shifted, educators still base decisions on many of the same metaphors and images that led to the misguided efforts to eradicate sign language.

Mean Little deaf Queer

Mean Little deaf Queer

Author: Terry Galloway Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/06/2010

In 1959, the year Terry Galloway turned nine, the voices of everyone she loved began to disappear. No one yet knew that an experimental antibiotic given to her mother had wreaked havoc on her fetal nervous system, eventually causing her to go deaf. As a self-proclaimed child freak, she acted out her fury with her boxy hearing aids and Coke-bottle glasses by faking her own drowning at a camp for crippled children. Ever since that first real-life performance, Galloway has used theater, whether onstage or off, to defy and transcend her reality. With disarming candor, she writes about her mental breakdowns, her queer identity, and living in a silent, quirky world populated by unforgettable characters. What could have been a bitter litany of complaint is instead an unexpectedly hilarious and affecting take on life.

Comments (0)


Leave A Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.