Deaf Characters in Fiction
This is a digital version of a list that was up in the shop for a good few months, so it’s high time it made it up here.
I started learning British Sign Language last year, and as soon as I had the vocabulary for it, asked my tutor what his favourite book was. He didn’t have one! I was astonished, but it turns out the reason is simple; as a profoundly deaf man, English isn’t his first language. He likes horror movies anyway, but he very eagerly told me how much he loved A Quiet Place. The reason? He was one of the only people in the audience who didn’t need subtitles, because the characters sign almost the whole way through.
That got me thinking. I’d read Lynne Kelly’s ‘Song for a Whale’ a few months earlier, and it was one of the things that pushed me to take up BSL classes again, so long after I last studied the language at secondary school. Surely, I thought, there must be more books out there with deaf characters? Surely there must be books that contain, as closely approximated as you can manage with a non-written language, sign? And surely some of them, just like ‘Song for a Whale’, must be stonking good reads?
The answer is of course there are! Two weeks later, Frances Hardinge’s ‘Deeplight’ was released. It is dedicated to a girl called Ella who wrote to Frances, saying that she loved her books and would she think about writing a book with a deaf character someday? Frances Hardinge sat down, thought about it, and wrote an absolutely incredible YA book about swashbuckling deep-sea smugglers, the legacy of dead gods, and a world in which a large proportion of the population is deaf (see: deep-sea smugglers). It was so good it knocked me sideways. Thus the quest began.
Here are the spoils of that small odyssey: a collection of truly fantastic novels, some written by deaf people, some written by deaf interpreters, some written by hearing people. All fantastic reads.
All books on this list
- El DeafoCece Bell£8.99
- Hello, UniverseErin Entrada Kelly, Isabel Roxas£6.99
- DeeplightFrances Hardinge£7.99
- Butterflies in NovemberAudur Ava Olafsdottir, Brian Fitzgibbon, Nathan Burton, Petra Borner£9.99
- A Quiet Kind of ThunderSara Barnard£7.99
- Song for A WhaleLynne Kelly£6.99
- Deaf RepublicIlya Kaminsky£10.99