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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:

Before we jump into our discussion we wanted to touch on a few things. It is not lost on us that we are talking about a book about Deaf culture on an audio platform. The reason why we chose this book, I think for both of us, is we have always been interested in Sign Language. We talked a little bit about how we both wanted to take a class on it in college and the class was pretty limited. I actually wanted it to be my minor, so we have always had an interest in it. Then number 2, we learned SO MUCH in this book. I know that I learned so many things that I did not previously know. I think it is important to recommend this book because I think so many people can learn about the Deaf community from this little love letter to Deaf culture.

 

A:

We’ve learned so much just from this one book. I feel like True Biz has shown a completely different side of Deaf culture that I have never even known about. Ya know? I don’t know many Deaf people. It’s not talked about in history class. It’s not something that I’ve had a lot of access to besides my classes in American Sign Language and you don’t get that history that should be taught. You just don’t get that. 

 

It’s really important to us going forward that we make our podcast accessible. We need to hold ourselves accountable and make it a more accessible podcast across platforms, so we are going to start releasing transcripts for every episode. That’ll be up on our website at booksbitesbooze.com and we are going to make sure that is up there because this is really important. We are sitting here talking about Deaf culture and we recognize the privilege that we are talking about it on a platform that isn’t even accessible to the people that we are talking about. We just want to cover that before we get into our discussions. Without further adieu, let’s talk about it.

 

M:

So, if you haven't already listened to part 1, definitely go back and catch up on our character introduction and everything we discussed in the first half of the book. This part is going to cover everything we learned in the second half. Then we will wrap it all up with our reviews and our rating at the end. 

 

Where we left off, Charlie had a night out with Slash. She was being a little more rebellious. February had learned about the budget cuts, River Valley possibly being closed, and then we also had Austin’s baby sister being born hearing. Considering he was from a Deaf dynasty, that was a very big shock to them. We see the beginning stages of him learning to deal and cope with that. In the second half, we have a few new introductions. We have Kayla.

 

A:

LOVE the roomie. Do you know the Uncomfortable podcast? I think the host’s name is Dom Roberts. She is an African American activist. She has her own podcast and instagram platform. Very much the same vibes as Kayla - very educated and well spoken. She knows exactly what she is trying to educate people on. Every time I pictured Kayla, that’s who I pictured. She’s a bad bitch.

 

M:

Yeah and she loves the internet. Very tech savvy. She wants to be TikTok famous and make a bunch of money to take care of her mom and aunt because they have done so much for her. I love Kayla and her character introduction. She is what this story was missing in a way. She just kind of fit in so well to the group, so I loved that.

 

A:

It kind of highlighted another opportunity to talk about something that a lot of people may not know about like Black Sign Language and racism in the deaf community. That’s something I would not have known about if not being mentioned in this book. I never would have thought about the different dialects of sign language within America. That’s not something I even knew existed.

 

M:

Yeah I mean I never thought about that either. I didn’t think about how Deaf schools were also segregated back in the day, so there were two different curriculums, kind of. Now, you have both ASL and then Black ASL. They are different and so we saw Austin correcting Kayla’s sign language. Obviously, we see her being very protective of it. Just because she signs it a different way doesn’t make her way wrong. It’s just different. They also talked about how the older generation signed differently as well because they are older. They signed more like the older generation does versus the younger kids.

 

A:

I agree. It reminds me how our grandparents have sayings that we don’t use anymore. Like my grandmother is super Southern and from a small town so she says things like “I do declare!” and all that stuff. When [Kayla] started signing and [Austin] corrected her. She called him out on it. She told him exactly why it was wrong and didn’t go easy on him, but then when he apologized she gave him an opportunity to do more. They made a TikTok together that was teaching people the difference and what Black Sign Language is. It was exactly what needed to happen and it was a really good thing for Sara to include in the book. This is how to handle it correctly.

 

M:

I think Austin learned. That was an educating moment for him as well and he actually realized what was wrong. I don’t think he truly realized at first that he had done anything to offend her until she opened up more about it. I think the fact of him being worried that people were going to have misconceptions about him because of that one mistake, but he was actually willing to learn and she was willing to move on from it. Yea, I thought it was a very good learning moment there. 

 

Another character that we got introduced to was Elliott. Who we kind of learned a little bit about in the first half, but we didn’t know his back story or how he came to River Valley.

 

A:

It was hard to read. It was really to read his background. So we will talk about his background and what the deaf “cures” were. Elliott was in a car accident with his mom and dad. His dad ended up passing away really tragically. They watched him die and it was devastating. His mom started looking for a way for her to move forward and heal when she became involved in a church. Elliott goes to support his mom, but he can’t follow along with what is being talked about in church because there is no sign language. It’s just a pastor preaching from up top and Elliot can’t read the words from far away. One day they go to a special “revival” sermon and they’re in the church and they start calling Elliot up to the front. They bring him up to the front and start pouring hot oil into his ear and try to recreate the story from the Bible where Jesus spits into someone’s ear and heals their “deafness”. They’re trying to recreate that and it burned his face. He has a big burn mark on the side of his face from this hot oil. After that he ran away and escaped to River Valley and that’s how he came to the school.

 

M:

A few of the “cures” listed in the book are dated back even to ancient times. There is an Egyptian recipe said to inject olive oil, red lead, bat wings and goat urine into the ear that hears badly. Like Alexis said, the story of Jesus using saliva. There were faith healings, hearing rituals, herbal and spiritual methods in the early 17th century.

 

A:

Ear trumpets.

 

M:

Yeah. They used ear trumpets. Those gained a lot of popularity in the 18th century. You have a variation of harsh chemicals like mercury, silver nitrate, cauterization, electricity, UV light, and all of these terrible things that as you can probably imagine were very painful for a lot of people.

 

A:

It goes on for pages. It’s three pages long and she lays it out, she being Sara the author, she lays out how far back it goes, what they did, what time period. It goes on and on. It’s devastating reading it. This was one of the hardest things to read in the book. If you have the book its pages 205, 206, and 207.

 

M:

She also adds discussion questions in the book, which I love. One of them is “At what line does the practice of designer babies become unethical and who gets to decide?” So that was a huge problem in the book. We see Charlie has a cochlear implant and it doesn’t work very well for her.

 

A:

Ends up ELECTROCUTING her.

 

M:

It does. That was crazy. She got electrocuted by her own implant that was inside her head.

 

A:

And the cochlear implant that she had ended up being recalled for that very reason. That was a very interesting scene with her mom. In that doctor’s appointment it’s her, her mom, the doctor, and the interpreter. The doctor says there has been a recall on that particular implant and her mom is like “Why didn’t you tell us?” and he said they were just doing self reporting. If there's a problem, it can be taken out and the other side of her head can be tried. Obviously, Charlie is freaking out and said “No, I don't want that or another surgery.” Then right after they don’t take it out, she gets electrocuted. 

 

M:

Then Austin’s parents were kind of in a debate/argument about getting his sister one. She slowly starts losing her hearing over time and she will actually not be hearing. They talk about implanting her. So I guess that’s really where the question came from. Should parents be able to implant their child or should the child be able to make its own decision when it gets older? For me, I feel like when you’re told by a medical professional that something is wrong with your kid and something will increase their quality of life, you’re obviously going to take that route. You want to increase your child’s quality of life. A big issue is the information that is coming from medical professionals to these parents of deaf children about cochlear implants and whether they are safe or not, whether they are safe, what the success rate is. I definitely don’t think they should be hindering them from learning ASL. I mean that should be the primary language that they learn.

 

A: 

100% that was shocking whenever the doctor told Charlie’s mom “Do not teach her ASL because she will rely on it instead of the cochlear implant.” Okay. That’s so fucked up in so many ways. I didn’t understand what a cochlear implant was until this book and they literally drill into your skull and it’s not giving a person the ability to hear the way a hearing person can. You can pick up on stuff but it won’t be the same. It's different for every person who has it. It was an eye opening situation to hear Charlie’s mom say she drained her inheritance to pay for the cochlear implant because the doctor said this would be the right thing to do. I understand why Charlie’s mom did it, but it was because of a lack of knowledge. It was a lack of education. Then as Charlie got older, her mom didn’t listen to Charlie who is the Deaf person. She continued to listen to the doctor. It was interesting. The scenes with Charlie’s mom were some of my favorites because of the tension. I feel like that is a very real thing that a majority of the deaf community goes through.

 

M:

Charlie just wants to be heard at the end of the day. I think all of these things she does to act out like robbing the hardware store, the protest at the end, everything she is trying to accomplish is getting people to understand what she is trying to tell them. I agree with Charlie. Charlie’s mom was trying to make her own life easier instead of trying to make her daughter’s life easier. But I also agree with what you said, she is uneducated. She is getting information from medical professionals that she should be able to trust, when really they do not know everything they seem to about Deaf culture.

 

A:

I feel like there has been so much misinformation spread throughout history and this book does an amazing job showing exactly what happened and where the stereotypes came from along with the implications of those stereotypes. From the Egyptians to Alexander Graham Bell to the present day, the book lays out exactly what happened. Overall I enjoyed the fiction part of the book obviously. That's what we do, we review books. But it was the non-fiction part of True Biz that really drew me in.

 

M:

The little like snippets that Sara added at the end of every chapter, yea those were some of my favorite parts because it was all statistics and history lessons from over the years that were correlating to what she was talking about in the book. 

 

A:

I do want to jump into February and Mel’s relationship and how there was just no conclusion at the end.

 

M:

Okay yea, I want to talk about February. She goes through a lot in this second half. We talked in the first half about how we were rooting for her. Her mother died which was HEARTBREAKING. I hated it.

 

A:

I cried. I had tears coming down from my eyes because it was so sad. She didn’t even get to say goodbye.

 

M:

A part of me, if I was February, can’t say that a part of me would not resent Mel a little bit. I feel like Mel pushed her to make that decision and move her mom into a home. 

 

A:

Yea I think it was the right thing because her mom is escaping from the house due to her brain deteriorating. Ya know, that’s what’s happening. It’s to a point where they either need a full time caregiver watching or move her to the Towers, which is what they did. Like I understand why they did it, but I agree there would be some resentment there for me.

 

M:

That was just something else thrown on February’s plate that she had to deal with and get over.

 

A:

And on top of that, she’s dealing with the school closing. She just has so much weighing her down. I honestly felt she was not feeling comfortable with Mel. Maybe not feeling uncomfortable, but we all know that feeling when you’re just weighed down with something. It takes the right person to get you to open up. That person is not necessarily always your significant other.

 

M:

That’s a good point about her and Wanda’s relationship. At first, I was like okay this is weird. Is she going to turn her back on Mel now and go back to Wanda. Yes I agree, I think Wanda gave her some sort of solace that Mel couldn’t give her.

 

A:

I think it was wrong not to prioritize her wife. Feb should have told Mel about the school closing right off the bet because that directly affects her wife too. That’s her wife’s home. It was just one thing after another. I do think February was wrong, but I understand it. But, it was so weird not having a conclusion.

 

M:

It was so weird! I wanted a conclusion to their relationship 100%. Yea so at the end, River Valley ultimately closed its doors which was super sad.

 

A:

Yea and the protest didn’t happen. The school closed its doors. We never found out what happened with anybody. Which I like but -

 

M:

I mean I kind of like it but I would have liked a little more closure. I don’t know what happened! Where does everybody go? Elliott. The students. We didn’t learn very much at the end, like where did they go.

 

A:

The protest gave me anxiety the whole way through.

 

M:

Me too.

 

A:

Every scene that Slash was a part of made the maternal instinct in me just rage. Ya know? Freaked me out.

 

M:

What were your ending thoughts? What would you rate the book out of five stars.

 

A:

Okay. I really think this book is a MUST READ. I am calling this a Books Bites Booze a must read book. Like I’ve already told my mom that she is reading this book. After we finish recording I’m taking it to her to read. I’ve been recommending it to people. I think it’s so important that we, as hearing people, educate ourselves and that’s exactly what this book does. The fiction part of the story I really enjoyed. I enjoyed the characters and their struggles and their stories. I didn’t like the ending, but at the same time it’s such an important book that I want to give it five. I want people to read this book. I want people to take away from this episode and go buy this book and share it with everyone.

 

M:

Yeah.

 

A:

The actual content of the book I would probably give a four, but I’m going to give it a five because I want people to read it. I want people to read it and learn.

 

M:

For me, I’m giving it four stars. You know I’m still waiting on that “wow” book to blow me away and give it that fifth star. As far as just the fiction part of this book, I honestly probably would have given it three starts, but like you said, Sara bringing in the history, statistics, and diagrams of ASL in the book made me feel like I was learning along with Charlie. I loved the setting of RVSD and the school feel. I loved the characters. I thought it was a great coming of age story. I didn’t feel like this was a heavy book. It educated me,but enlightened me. I was happy reading it instead of sad.So for all of that, I’ll give it a four out of five. For sure, I think it’s important and I think everybody should read it, if nothing else for the history lesson.

 

A:

Okay so I’m going to give it four stars but I’m calling it a “must-read”.

 

M:

Okay. Four stars from both of us, but its definitely a must read.

 

A:

I have never doggy-eared a book like this. I’m not that person. I don’t do that. I like to keep them in good condition, but like you can’t see it, but there’s doggy ear after doggy ear in this book because there is so much stuff I want to re-read and learn about. Like there’s a page here where Sara lists interesting people where it says “notable people” with a list of names you can look up. And like….I’m gonna do it. I want to keep reading and keep learning. And extra homework, if you want an extra gold star at the end of the day, I’m going to go ahead and give the textbooks that I got from my ASL class.

 

https://www.dawnsign.com/products/details/signing-naturally-units-1-6-student-set

Signing Naturally Units 1-6: Student Workbook

 

https://www.amazon.com/Sign-Language-Made-Simple-Introduction/dp/0385488572

Sign Language Made Simple

 

These two books are amazing like you go through and it explains how you make the hand moments. It talks about ways to form sentences grammatically. It has a lot of information in it. If you’re looking to expand your knowledge on Sign Language I highly recommend those two books.