November 26, 2010

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Deafula

Written by "The City On Fire"
Self-Published

[Note: The author of Deafula did not give an indication of how she's like to be identified, so I'm using part of her e-mail address as my best guess. Anyone who knows a better attribution, please let me know.]

Deafula is the personal story of a young woman who began to lose her hearing at the age of five, from scarlet fever. She counts herself lucky, as she had some understanding of English before the hearing loss began. This has allowed her to communicate so well in verbal language that it "blows some people's minds." Our author is well aware of how lucky she is, and goes on to explain that despite the fact that people tend to think of the deaf community as a solid block, there is really quite a variety of people within it.

That makes perfect sense, of course. Why should the roughly 28 million deaf people in America be all the same when other minority groups are not. I have to admit, however, I never really thought about it until this zine brought it up. That made me feel pretty bad, actually, as I was reading. Given that I've known several hearing impaired folks over the years, I should have already known of the variety of hearing loss levels and how individuals deal with it. Shame on me.

Our writer is quite clear that she does not feel bad about being deaf. She was mainstreamed and treated as normal, which helped, but that didn't shield her from the cruelty of her peers, who would literally talk behind her back. I also could strongly relate to her social awkwardness. Imagine literally feeling lost in a dark limo, because your ability to read lips was gone! I certainly never had to deal with those kinds of problems, but I think any of us who are outcasts in one way or the other will see echoes in her frank discussion of the drawbacks of her disability. The idea that the author is caught a bit between the worlds because of her communication skills and lack of ASL proficiency really struck me. Again, this was not something I'd considered.

The best part of the zine, however, is that the author refuses to allow anyone to think that being deaf is a way to withdraw from life, and is quite understanding that for people who take sound for granted, it can be hard to make sure you are accommodating a deaf friend or new acquaintance. The last section of the zine is full of helpful hints, including the fact that it's okay to ask about the disability, as long as you do it in a respectful way. The tone is a bit playful, but also informative. I'd never thought about conversational breaks being an issue if you aren't catching tone, but it makes sense.

Deafula was a perfect zine, in that it tells a personal story that is both unique to the individual but also has a lot of things that can bring any reader into the narrative. That's what any good story, fiction or non-fiction, should do. This zine is definitely recommended, if you can find it. I wasn't able to discover any web links to it being distroed at this time.