Thursday, April 26, 2012

An Update and a Call for Written ASL

It's been some time since I posted last. Life can keep you busy at times, and no one is immune. However, I did want to acknowledge that there will be very few book reviews until sometime in August, when the Global E-Book award winners are announced. Most, if not all, of my reading over the last few months have been ebook submissions on which I am judging. I am currently judging in the categories of poetry, short stories, horror fiction, and fantasy (set before the 1940's). I have read 8 submissions so far and working on the ninth. In a few more days any further entries will have been submitted, so who knows how many more there may be for me to read. The awards people have asked that no jusge posts a review of any kind until the award winners are announced. It's something I agree with because it could have an influence on other judges and therefore effect outcomes unfairly. Suffice to say that when August comes, there will be a plethora of reviews for me to post.

As far as my next book is concerned, it is coming along well. I have completed writing about one third of it and am plugging away. I think when the writing itself is done, it will be the editing that shall be the most painstaking and agonizingly long part of the process. I still hope to have it ready by sometime in the fall, and if not, by years end.

That's it for updates. One thing I have been thinking about lately is signed languages across the world, whether it's ASL, LSF, BSL, MSL, or any other signed language in the world. Historically, none of them have ever had a written form of the language. My personal opinion on the reason for why is this; they never had an opportunity to get to an academic level. As for today, many signed languages are being used at academic levels, but because of its larger society's use of spoken langauge, the theory is that if a deaf person does not learn to communicate and get by in a hearing world, their chances for success are dismal. Somehow in all of this, Deaf cultures across the world haven't really developed any system of writing based on their signed languages. I find this to be highly detrimental in helping deaf children to learn to read and write. They don't even have one of their own.

I have seen one developed based on ASL, but it has never really caught on within the Deaf community. I'm not entirely sure of the reasons for this, but I do believe one thing. Without an arbitrary system for reading and writing in ASL, deaf children in bilingual education are still at a disadvantage in learning their second language of written English. If ASL had a written format, then deaf children could learn it as we learn to read and write English. I think it's fair to say that if a child can read in one language, learning to read in another becomes exponentially easier to do. I could list a million examples of this to back it up, but I want to keep this relatively short.

I really want to stress how important it is for ASL to have a written form. Deaf people could argue that written ASL would be boring, especially in the technological age we are in right now. Ok, fine. But guess what? So are written versions of spoken languages. Is it any wonder why movies are so much more popular than books? Written language can still be beautiful however, and it seems to me that if ASL had a written version, more educators, doctors, and people in general would take American Sign Language more seriously. It would do much to further its legitimacy in the eyes of those who commit acts of Audism based on their notions of superiority. Why shouldn't Deaf people level the playing field a bit more? If American deaf children could read and write in their own language, and that led to improved literacy in English, I would think this would be a huge win-win for Deaf people, culture, and their community. I'm not speaking for Deaf people here, this is just my observation.

Should anyone wish to question this or have any opinion whatsoever about it, the comment box is open.

R. M.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Look at a CODAs Deaf Family

In my last post I talked about "doors being closed" when a CODA loses a Deaf parent or both of them. When I lost my father his door had closed, but thankfully I had opened others before his passing. It was a gift that my parents had given me as a child and I realized I can keep all through life. It’s the ability to see the doors I can open. It keeps me in a Deaf family, and "family", whether it's your real kin, or the closest of friends that feel like kin, it means your home. Wherever home is, your family is there.
My family is ELF, the many Deaf people whom I love dearly, and my hearing family and friends. They probably rank in that order, too. Any time I am with any of these people, I feel like I am home. I find I cannot stay away from Deaf people for too long, or I start to get homesick. A big part of me belongs there, and sometimes being between the hearing and Deaf worlds can be a tricky balancing act.
My parents are the only Deaf people in my biological family. Everyone else in that family is hearing from my siblings to my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, you name it. I do love them, but being around them doesn’t give me that same feeling of being home as it does being around other Deaf people. Often times I have wondered how great it would have been to have had an entirely Deaf biological family.
I bring this up because a Deaf man I know is going through what is likely to be the last stages of his life. He is a man that would be around my grandfathers' ages, and he may be one of the kindest people I have ever met. We met through our jobs and even though we don’t see each other perhaps more than a couple of times a month, I feel a bond to him.
Every time we come across each other and have a conversation, we almost always talk about our families and update each other. It's kind of a Deaf culture thing to do, and like many Deaf people do with each other, the conversations can go on, which is never a bad thing. It's been like this with the two of us, too. When my father passed away, I really began to look at this man as that kind of a father figure. He always made that time to talk to me and ask me how I've been doing, and he's always kept me updated on his family. In truth, he feels like what I would have wanted in a grandfather.
My actual grandfathers were not the most horrible people in the world by any stretch, but when I saw them struggle to communicate with my parents because they never took the time to learn sign language of any kind, it really bothers me deep down inside. Despite my knowledge of how Audism kept them from choosing to do the most sensible thing, part of me is still upset with their choice to not learn. It's a hot button for me, I suppose, and seeing deaf children with hearing parents who are doing the same thing always reminds me of it. It makes me realize how much influence Audism has and how few of us really know the truth of it. Either way, though, they were my grandfathers and I loved them both. But they were not Deaf.
The things I loved about my real grandfathers are things I love about my dying Deaf friend. He treats me like family and I love him for it. So in that sense I have to say he is the grandfather that I always wanted. I'm not upset that he isn’t, or that I had the grandfathers that I had instead of him. In truth, I am very thankful to have known this man because when I'm around him I feel at home, with my Deaf family.
I saw him yesterday in the hospital and he was looking ok. He was up for conversation, and we talked about fishing spots in the small town where I grew up. Apparently he had fished around the same places when he went up to visit his son who lived even further north from where I had. Small world, right? Just adds to that family feel, I guess. I don’t know if I will get to see him again before he leaves this world, but I believe our last conversation is just what it should have been, like nothing had changed. Here's to you, my friend. May whatever lies ahead for you be everything you ever wanted in this life that you did not get. You are more than deserving of it.
With much CODA love,
R. M.