In The Sound of Us (by Sarah Willis), Alice Marlowe, an interpreter for the deaf, receives a phone call in the middle of the night that is clearly a wrong number. On the other end of the line is a six-year-old girl who is all alone and trying to reach her aunt. Alice knows she shouldn’t get involved, but she does anyway, and eventually she applies to be a foster parent for the little girl. It’s typical of Alice to insert herself in people’s lives this way, an inclination she struggles with in her daily work as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. I really liked this novel for the way it looks at how we communicate and connect with people. The little girl, who is not deaf, learns to finger spell and also learns a few special signs that are both a self-comforting tool and a way to talk with Alice. I also like the way that the assumptions we make about people’s levels of responsibility or parenting skills are often short sighted, and how Alice’s world changes through her relationship with this little girl and the young mother who is struggling to get on her feet. The author also gives us a glimpse into deaf culture and ASL, which is a complete language with its own syntax that is quite different from spoken or written English. Another book I enjoyed is Between, Georgia, by Joshilyn Jackson, for the way the author wove ASL and deaf culture into the story.
Both of these books come to mind now that it’s March, which is officially Disability Awareness Month. Individuals’ disabilities aren’t the focus of either book, but the characters’ stories have an added layer. Sort of like life. I also really enjoyed these four suggestions (two fiction and two nonfiction) mentioned earlier this month, right here on Shelf Talk, when my colleague Anne talked about Disability Awareness Month.