Arts & Culture

Deaf Writers and Book Group

Monday 10 September
Deaf Writers and Book Group

- September 10 at 8:30 AM

by Lizzie Ward

Across the UK, people meet in each other’s houses, at cafés and literary haunts to dissect that month’s chosen book. Or at least, that is how I imagined it to be. Since I was a child, spending hours with my head bent over a book, imagining new worlds and characters, I’ve wanted to share my love for reading and discuss the things I had imagined. Was it the same for other people? Did this book make them think differently?

Being deaf, too, has made me wonder how to access a book group of primarily hearing people. Although I would have tried to bring in an interpreter or a palantypist, I also wanted to have a chance to discuss books and writing with other deaf people – to share books and literature with each other. I’ve learnt that if you think something is missing – then there is no reason why you can’t set it up yourself. So, with the help of Facebook groups and Goodreads, I set up the first London Deaf Writers’ and Book Group, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I want to encourage deaf bibliophiles to set up their own groups – book groups seem to work best with eight to ten members, especially to encourage good communication.

The ‘Writers’ part of the group is also important. The haphazard and informal atmospheres and communication within writing meet ups can be inaccessible to deaf people. This part of the group is to support each other as deaf writers and to bounce ideas off each other, as well as working on anything that needs working on, such as dialogue, showing versus telling and so on. The aim is to foster an open and inclusive atmosphere where everyone gets a chance to share their ideas. The Writers’ group meets separately, usually a few hours before the book group meeting on the same day.

The first meeting we had was the set up meeting in April, where we discussed what we wanted from the group. What I found interesting was that everyone wanted to try reading books written with deaf characters or written by a deaf author, at least as a starting point. There are not many books with deaf characters, so it is as good a place to start as any. It also gives us a lot to discuss – bringing our different experiences to the table and thinking about how the ideas and situations in the book apply to us, or may be stereotypical.

I’ve had somebody say to me that they hope we’re not ‘discriminating’ against hearing authors – when really it might be considered the other way around, with the lack of solid, sensitively written or empowering deaf characters in fiction. Ninety five percent of the time, what I read, or what we read, is fiction written about hearing protagonists – most of my favourite books have hearing characters. The book group, at the present time, is drawn towards exploring what there is to offer in the realms of deaf fiction.

The book group is also a brilliant chance to explore the literary cafes and bookshops of London – our second meeting was at the legendary Foyle’s Bookshop, where we spent a few hours discussing Isles of View by C.F. Brunner, eating cake and drinking truckloads of tea. There may have been some book buying involved too. Definitely a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon...

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