Recommended Reading: The Words in My Hands by Asphyxia

The Words in My HandsThe Words in My Hands by Asphyxia
Summary: Part coming of age, part call to action, this #ownvoices novel about a Deaf teenager is an exploration of what it means to belong. Set in an ominously prescient near future, this is the story of Piper. Sixteen, smart, artistic, and rebellious; she’s struggling to conform to what her mom wants–for her to be ‘normal, ‘ to pass as hearing, and get a good job. But in a time of food scarcity, environmental collapse, and political corruption, Piper has other things on her mind–like survival. Deaf since the age of three, Piper has always been told that she needs to compensate in a world that puts those who can hear above everyone else. But when she meets Marley, a whole new world opens up–one where Deafness is something to celebrate rather than hide, and where resilience and hope are created by taking action, building a community, and believing in something better.

Set in Australia a few decades into the future, this compelling novel presents a world where most of the population is dependent on Organicore, a food substitute that has improved nutrition and eradicated cancer and other diseases, but at the cost of estranging the population from so-called “wild food” – and possibly introducing other health problems. In the midst of this we meet Piper, a deaf teen who has grown up as an oral deaf person, relying on hearing aids and speechreading to get by. When the economy tanks and there are shortages of everything – including Organicore – Piper and her mother rent out their house and move into a tiny guesthouse, conserving the little power that is left to them. Piper meets a handsome CODA (child of deaf adult) named Marley and through him is introduced to Auslan (Australian Sign Language) for the first time. As she falls for Marley, she meets his Deaf mother and learns about growing things in the earth and growing a sense of identity and language in her soul. Piper lives out what Deaf educator Gina Oliva calls the “MET DEAF WOW” moment that so many orally educated deaf young adults experience. (… ) She begins to understand that she is not alone and there is a whole community of people like her, with deep connections and ease of communication. As she becomes more engaged in their world, her confidence grows and she joins the wild food revolution, converting the public space on her street into a thriving community garden. Interspersed with Piper’s drawings, the text pulls the reader in from the first page. Unlike many books with deaf (and Deaf) characters, The Words in My Hands never glosses over the relentlessness of the struggle for communication in the hearing world, and how much of that burden usually falls on Piper. When Piper is forced to rely on speechreading, the reader is shown the nonsense that she gets from the other person’s lips and sees in real time the work she has to do into order to construct meaning. The readers also gets to experience the blossoming of communication alongside Piper as she learns Auslan and comes into her own Deaf identity. An extraordinary book on many levels.

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