Children, Deafness, and Deaf Cultures in Popular Media

Univ. of Mississippi. (Children’s ­Literature Association Series). Dec. 2022. 286p. ed. by Stephens, John & Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, eds. Tr $99. ISBN 9781496842046; pap. $30. ISBN 9781496842053.
A collection of essays that focus on how deafness and Deaf Culture is represented in popular children’s texts, including fiction, graphic novels, comics, and film, across different geographies and cultural settings. Traditionally, deaf studies has been dominated by the United States and Great Britain, and this collection attempts to offer a more global perspective. Contributions come from the U.S., Australia, and several Asian countries but are absent from countries in Africa and Latin America. Essays are grouped into three categories: “Narratives of d/Deafness” examines traditional print texts; “Deaf Cultures in Visual Texts” focuses on multimodal texts, such as graphic novels and film; and “Deafness and Cultural Difference” looks at what it means to be deaf within a specific culture. In this collection, deaf is an audiological condition, while Deaf implies a social and cultural collectiveness: hence, contributors use d/Deaf to represent deaf, hard of hearing, and culturally Deaf people. One essay that stands out is “Caped Crusaders and Lip Reading Pollyannas,” in which Nerida Wayland examines how Cece Bell’s graphic novel El Deafo, Libba Bray’s young adult novel Beauty Queens, and Troy Kotsur’s film “No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie” all utilize humor to encourage empathy and familiarity, while simultaneously encouraging readers to examine the power inequities and ableist society we inhabit. The editors note that this title “is one of a few theoretical writings and empirical research that exists on deaf studies and children’s texts.” As such, it is informative and illuminating; it is not a guide on how to build an inclusive collection of titles that include deaf/Deaf representation.
VERDICT Recommended for those who are interested in the field of disability studies, in particular the d/Deaf community.

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