February 22, 2013

Strong Deaf - review

Strong Deaf
author Lynn McElfresh
publisher Namelos
source NetGalley

Combine sibling rivalry within a "strong Deaf" family that includes a hearing daughter leads the reader to understand a bit about Deaf culture.    Jade is twelve,  her sister Marla fourteen.   Marla attends a residential school for the deaf and comes home for the summer and weekends.   Neither girl likes it when Marla is home, and the rivalry becomes intense.  Their parents and one set of grandparents are Strong Deaf, more about that below.

The story is told from both girls' perspectives.  Jade's narrative is in perfect English.  Marla's is typed as if signed in ASL.  The casual reader may find reading ASL a bit off-putting.  Even though I know ASL, I had a hard time reading it at first.  Consider Marla's narrative as a dialect told through the hands, instead of voicing.

The author does a great job showing unspoken motives behind the characters' actions.   One example:
that summer Dad decides he doesn't want to have to drive to two different softball practices and games.  He, therefore,  convinces the softball league organizer that Jade should be on Marla's team, even though she isn't actually old enough.  His excuse is for Jade to act as an interpreter.   Interpreter?  No way!  This only adds fuel to the fire of sibling rivalry.

The parents are so Strong Deaf that they drive to Gallaudet University when there is an uprising about hiring a new president.   They leave the girls behind with Grandma H (the hearing grandmother).

Lynn McElfresh, the author, herself  had a deaf sister.  She  "was a high-demand babysitter for families with deaf children. As a teenager, Lynn volunteered for Summer School for the Deaf and a deaf Girl Scout troop. Those experiences allowed her to observe a variety of interesting family dynamics between hearing and deaf cultures."

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