Pittsburgh is home to lots of great kidlit authors, and one of the newest is Laura Lee Anderson, whose YA debut, SONG OF SUMMER, releases as an e-book today! Let's hear from Laura as she tells us about her book and about one of the main characters, whose deafness plays a key role in the story!
The thirteen qualities of Robin’s Perfect Man range from the mildly important “Handsome” to the all-important “Great taste in music.” After all, Westfield’s best high school folk musician can’t go out with some shmuck who only listens to top 40 crap. When hot Carter Paulson walks in the door of Robin’s diner, it looks like the list may have come to life. It’s not until the end of the meal that she realizes he’s profoundly deaf. Carter isn’t looking for a girlfriend. Especially not a hearing one. Not that he has anything against hearing girls, they just don’t speak the same language. But when the cute waitress at Grape Country Dairy makes an effort to talk with him, he takes her out on his yellow Ducati motorcycle. Music, language, and culture sing back-up as love takes the melody, but just how long can a summer song last?
From the first moments that I envisioned Song of Summer, I knew that I wanted it to be in dual point of view- from Robin's perspective as well as from Carter's perspective. Which meant I had to do a LOT of research. I'm not deaf, I didn't have any deaf friends, and it had been a long time since third grade, when I taught myself the ASL alphabet so I could communicate with my best friend during Library class. Here are some things I learned about deaf culture while I was researching Song of Summer:
1) Sign language cannot be written. Like, it CANNOT be written. It is a visual language. Direct word-for-word translations are incorrect because facial expressions and body language are SO important! All of Carter's (and his family's) signed sentences are translated into English in the books because they have to be! It's impossible to write sign!
2) People who are deaf deal with: Hearing people questioning their driving ability/right to drive, hearing people shouting at them, hearing people offering them Braille menus, hearing people staring at them, hearing people showing them the one (rude) sign that they know... the list goes on. I tried to incorporate these into the book to educate hearing people on all the crap that people who are deaf go through! Go here to see more! (warning: swearing in video)
3) There are different stages and types of deafness. Most people who are deaf have some hearing available to them. The idea that people who are deaf have absolutely no hearing is usually false. Carter has next to no hearing and tells Robin that he's in the minority because of it.
4) Hearing aids are completely different from cochlear implants. So much so, that when I originally had Carter explain a cochlear implant as, "a really invasive, high-tech hearing aid," one of my friends corrected me. She told me that it would never be described as a hearing aid because the two are so different. Rather, it would be described as a "device that helps with hearing." So that's what Carter calls it in the book now! Also, cochlear implants are covered by medical insurance. Hearing aids are not usually.
I learned a lot more when I was preparing to write Song of Summer, and I am blessed to have learned a lot of it from the wonderful people at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, where I took two semesters of ASL classes and got to know some great people. One of my favorite experiences is chronicled here: When I arrived to the first class 15 minutes late and nobody was allowed to speak.
If you want to read more about Carter and his culture, go ahead and... Click here to order on Kindle from Amazon. Click here to order on Nook from Barnes and Noble. Click here to order from Kobo. Click here to order from ibooks.
Thanks, Laura! If you want to learn more about Laura and her writing, visit her website!