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This written episode will cover our discussion on the first half of True Biz by Sara Novic, also discussed in Part 1 of the podcast episode. 

M: Madison

A: Alexis

M:

So now we're going to jump into our discussion on True Biz and always at the beginning, we like to introduce you to the characters and give you a run down of who everyone is. We are actually pulling these descriptions from the Author's Instagram. She actually put up these descriptions of the characters and I don't think there's anyone else better to describe them. 

A:

If you want to look at it on your own Instagram it's back from April 7th. In our Part 1 Recap we are going to be covering the first half of the book from page 1-158, we're going to be covering up until then. But I'm going to go ahead and introduce our characters. 

First up we have Charlie, as a child of hearing parents, Charlie is a teenager searching for her place in the world when she lands at River Valley School For The Deaf. With a malfunctioning cochlear implant and a limited grasp of ASL, Charlie has been deprived of language for most of her life.  But she's not going to left that stop her.

And then in the bottom right hand corner you have the Author, Sara, and she spells the name then shows her sign name for her as well.

So next we have February, beloved headmistress of River Valley, the hearing child of deaf adults and the wife of Mel. She's keeping it all together until a spell of bad news throws her off balance. 

Next we have Austin, River Valley's resident heartthrob and the fifth generation of a proudly deaf dynasty, with a little sister of the way, roommates with Elliott, and Charlie's peer mentor.

Mel is February's wife, a brilliant lawyer and loving daughter and law. Also hearing, Mel reminds February not to lose sight of herself during challenging times. 

M:

I love Mel and I love how supportive she is of February and I just kind of love that because we don't really see a lot of main characters that are gay or in the LGBTQ+ community at all. So I think it's pretty cool that the main character is married to Mel and I love Mel's character. 

A:

Yeah. And HAPPY PRIDE MONTH! It's June. Perfect Timing. 

But the last ones, we have the roommates. Austin's roommate Elliott his mysterious burn scar and rebellious vibe are the subject of much River Valley gossip. And then we have Kayla, who is Charlie's roommate and her first friend at River Valley. She helps Charlie understand the nuances of deaf culture from vlogging to Black ASL. 

We haven't really gotten to know Kayla that well yet in the first half, but I'm excited to see her a little bit more in the second half. 

M:

So, how the book starts off is first of all, it is primarily taking place at River Valley School For The Deaf. So as Alexis said, we have February, who is the headmistress, and then we're also following the stories of a few of their students. 

A:

It starts off with like a flash forward and then it comes back to the beginning of the school year. But in the flash forward, we see that Charlie, Austin and Elliott are missing or something, and February is like freaking out. We don't know what's going on. So that's the big chaos at the beginning of the book, and then it flashes back and then Austin, Elliott and Charlie don't even know each other yet. So we're kind of seeing how they all meet and we're wondering how do they go from not even knowing each other to running away together. So we're filling in all of the gaps in between.

But River Valley is a boarding school, so they're all staying there. I love it, it's kind of giving me Gossip Girl, upper east side, like they're in New York somewhere, in the Tri-state area, so it's kind of like a big oak trees, old buildings, very historical. A little preppy but not too bad, nothing too serious. 

M:
Yeah. I kinda love how it's set up like the setting and the scenery and everything. Because I truly feel like we're learning along with the students, with we talked about that a little bit in our last episode, about how you took ASL and I tried to take it ASL in college but couldn't get in, because you like had to be accepted, it wasn't a widely taught class. 

A:

Which is just crazy, if you didn't listen to the last episode, for some reason they accepted me and didn't accept Madison, I don't understand why. 

M:
It's because you're smarter than me, I'm telling you.

A:
No, no, no, it was crazy. But we kind of talked a little bit about it, this is kind of a learning experience for us too, I personally don't know that many deaf people, so I'm really excited to learn more about the deaf culture. 

M:

So I also like to see Austin, Charlie and Elliott, especially Austin and Charlie, they come from such different backgrounds but then they end up, kind of being the rebellious ones I guess. Austin, you know, comes from a deaf dynasty, it's not new in his family. When his little sister is born, she's hearing, and that kind of creates a jealousy in him I think. 

A:

His dad is hearing, but his mom is deaf. And their whole family, it's not that they dislike hearing people, but you know they've been subjected to oppression their entire life, like for generations, so they definitely are a tight knit family, they aren't really open to hearing people I would venture to say. His dad is the only hearing person in the family and now it's his sister. 

So he's kind of jealous that his dad and his sister are going to have this bond. His grandad called it the quote on quote "easy life", so he definitely feels excluded in a way. 

M:

And then we have Charlie who is born deaf, her mom is really having a hard time coming to terms with it, she's kind of forced to get the cochlear implant when she was born and it's just been a hassle to her, her whole life, and she was also encouraged not to learn ASL because for some reason they think that if you learn ASL with a cochlear implant, then your more prone to rely on ASL then you would be to give your implant a chance. 

A:
Yeah, which ends up backfiring because Charlie doesn't like her cochlear implant, it doesn't really work that well for her, it just kind of causes her pain and irritance, and then she gets frustrated because she doesn't have a language and she misses everything in conversation. It kind of backfires on her and her mom's relationship because they don't really have one. 

M:

Right, and even though she's now going to school and she's like the most underdeveloped in ASL I would say, so everyone is way more advanced than she is, and she's starting at a later age.

A:

Yeah. and she actually throws a temper tantrum in class, which was so hard to read, it was very heartbreaking. It talked about how she threw a lot of tantrums in hearing school, because she couldn't follow what was going on, and then she got to River Valley and she got really triggered in class because she was missing stuff. And it made her feel like she was right back there in hearing school, and she stormed out of the classroom after calling the headmistress a b****, and she started kicking the wall. 

February handled it beautifully, like I loved the scene with her and Charlie in the office and they were talking about why she feels that way, and language deprivation, and she was like I completely understand why you feel this way, you're not crazy you just don't have the words to sign how you feel. 

M:

I loved the way that February handles, really all of the situations. Even when she caught Austin smoking the cigarette. I like that she is the headmistress because she's a character that I'm really rooting for, even though she isn't one of the younger students. She still is dealing with her own issues too, because of her mother being deaf and all of that as well. 

A:

Yeah, so February's mom is deaf, she went to the same school, River Valley. And then, her mom has Alzheimer's or early Dementia. But she's starting to lose her memory, she doesn't know where she is. And she's living with February and Mel, and there's actually a scene right near the middle of the book, where we finished, where the mom ends up running out of the house in the middle of the night and runs to River Valley. The security guard department has to call February and say "hey, your moms running around naked at the school, please come get her."

It was just heartbreaking to see that, but I also think that's a situation that a lot of us can relate to. I remember when my grandma started getting early onset Alzheimer's and like, you know, it was the same. It's a hard situation. 

But I'm really enjoying reading February's storyline as well, because we get Mel, her mom, February's relationship with the superintendent and all of the crazy stuff going on about the budget cuts. There's a lot of stuff going on in her world too, even though she's not a student at the school. 

M:
We're also getting to see like how being deaf effects you at every age, because we see from her, who's kind of grown but she's dealt with it pretty much her entire life, so I kinda like how we get to see the age gap, but kind of how similar their struggles still are. 

A:

February is hearing, and she grew up with deaf parents, so she's got both worlds, it's like a really interesting way to see like you don't have to exclude people because you're deaf, it doesn't have to be that way. Her mom is a part of her life every single day even though Mel and February are hearing, you know, she doesn't miss out on a conversation or she doesn't miss out on anything. It's a really good example of what hearing and deaf people could do together if we just could learn. 

Okay, I would love to talk about the doctor's appointment, the cochlear implant checkup with Charlie, her mom and then the doctor, because that was so interesting to read. So in the book, Charlie's mom picks her up and takes her to the doctors office, and for the first time Charlie asks for an interpreter, because for the first time her mom is like "for what?" because that says so much about how her mom doesn't know anything about deaf culture or what it's like to be deaf, or the deprivation she's caused her child. She's so out of touch with it.

The interpreter comes in and Charlie is actually able to be apart of her doctor's visit for the first time and she's like able to talk about, well sign to the interpreter, she's able to sign and discuss what is going on with the implant and she's able to understand what the doctor's saying via the interpreter. And it was just such an amazing scene. 

M:

I agree! I'm glad you brought that up.

A:

And the doctor I think, just is the worst. The doctor sucks. 

M:

No, I totally agree. And I think that shows that they don't even have help or support from healthcare either.

A:

That was actually something we talked about in our ASL classes, my teacher Tabitha, she would tell us about cochlear implants and how a lot of the time they don't work, they cause irritation, and it's kind of a cop out for hearing people because instead of parents being like okay, I will learn a language that will allow both of us to benefit here, they say, you just have to adapt to me, even though you're not going to be able. 

And obviously I don't have one, I don't know what thats like, and I know there have been a lot of success stories through cochlear implants, so I don't want to make it sound like I'm sitting here hating on something that I don't know about, but I do think that it's a world that's just starting to get recognition. I think for such a long time you know deaf people weren't recognized, and now we're kind of working towards this world of more accessibility and more opportunities and we're learning more. and I also think that I don't understand why we're trying to make it a thing where parents don't learn sign language. Sign language is a good thing, we should be learning sign language. Thank you for coming to my uneducated TedTalk. 

M:

This book has taught me so much, like so many things that I didn't know. I love, I know I said this earlier, but I love how they show us how to sign it ourselves, and at the bottom it even says "You Try!" Like you try with your partner or a friend or whoever, and I just love that because I actually catch myself acting them out and trying them. 

A:
Yeah, I actually like doggy eared some that I wanted to read, let me see. So the first one was talking about ear versus eye, deaf mythology. It was talking about the whole idea. It says "in the deaf storytelling tradition, utopia is called Eyeth, because it's a society that centers around the eye not the ear, like here on Earth." 

Like talking about replacing ear in Earth with eye, and it was talking about a world that centers on visual communication instead of oral. And then at the end of it, it just asks questions, it says: "Work with a partner to design what Eyeth means to you. What deaf friendly architecture, technology and or other design elements would you include, how would you manage accessibility for a hearing visitor on Eyeth?"

And I just think it's so interesting, you know, she really makes you stop in the story and reflect on it, and think about what we could change, you know? Love that! 

M:

And OMG, the sex signs!! That was hilarious! I died.

A:

So funny! It was 69 for me. ​That was so good. 

M:

That was hilarious! I'm glad she threw that in there, because I mean, that's important stuff to know. 

A:

Which, let's back up and talk about why they were showing us the sex ASL stuff, because Charlie is a little baddie, okay? I was not expecting that at all. So Charlie is a little rebellious lady, she likes to do shots, she likes to go to crazy situations and throw herself at... I was just so shook.

M:

Yeah, I mean, and I think that is her just trying to break out of her shell, and do things, like when she was at that show, and she could actually feel the vibrations of the music, that was something that she had never experienced. So , I think she's starting to open herself up to all of these new things.

A:

Yeah, I think it was really cool. And I think she's starting to make small friendships, you know she's starting to meet people at River Valley, but she doesn't have a good friend yet. So this was kind of her closing the chapter to who she was before River Valley, she was seeing Kyle/Slash, she's seeing him one last time, going to his concert and now she's done with it. 

M:

Yeah, so I'm really liking the characters so far. Like I said, I'm really curious to see how February's storyline plays out, but yeah, I think it's a lighthearted read, but at the same time it's really educational but she keeps it lighthearted. So you don't really feel like you're reading something you know, really depressing or sad, she's keeping it in a upbeat kind of way, while discussing important topics. 

A:

Yeah, very information. I have learned a lot already. I really am enjoying it. I don't know where it's going to go. I have no idea what direction this book is going to take. I don't really have a lot of theories. I obviously think that Charlie and Austin are about to start having their little fling. Yeah, I don't really know where it's about to go. I'm really excited.

M:

I'm really rooting for Charlie as well, I mean obviously I'm rooting for all of them, but especially Charlie. I don't know, I just think she's kind of had it really tough, and I just want to see her come out on the other side of this. 

A:

Yeah, I'm excited to see more of her personality come out. Because I think the more language she has, the more she'll be able to express herself. So I think she's about to really blossom. I'm excited to see what kind of friendships she makes. I'm really excited to see how Austin having a hearing baby sister. But I feel like something crazy is going to happen with like them trying to save the school, which I totally forgot to talk about. The school's going to be shutdown. 

M:

Yeah, I think we talked about it a little bit, but yeah I think that is going to be the main issue here.