A Piece of Home

Sara Nović on a real-life news story, middle schoolers, and her own experiences that inspired True Biz

Apr 5, 2022




TRUE BIZ had its earliest origin in a news clipping I read about a cochlear implant company facing legal repercussions for implanting malfunctioning devices in deaf patients. Even after they had evidence that a large number of the devices were faulty, they’d continued to sell them.

The idea that a company had approved defective apparatuses for surgical implantation into people’s heads, knowingly and for years, struck me deeply. I spent a lot of time thinking about why the scandal hadn’t been a bigger news story. I spent even more time wondering what that experience might feel like for the deaf person.

"I spent a lot of time thinking about why the scandal hadn’t been a bigger news story. I spent even more time wondering what that experience might feel like for the deaf person."

At the time, I was out in Cincinnati feeling a little bit like an alien. In the U.S., I’d lived only on the East Coast, and I was accustomed to a faster pace and a certain brashness that some mistook for rudeness but in which I found a familiar comfort. In Ohio things were slower, and people were allegedly nicer. But I found them more wary of my Deafness than in New York or Philly, where people aren’t surprised by much of anything, let alone me.

So I spent a lot of those early days in Ohio wandering around alone, photographing abandoned buildings, writing, drinking too much coffee, and generally sticking out like a sore thumb. Then one night I walked by St. Rita School for the Deaf and saw a few girls, middle school-aged, who had come down from the dorms, giggling and brimming with secrets. I waved to them and stopped to talk. Our conversation unfurled the way Deaf conversations often do — as if we’d known each other for much longer. One day, they said, they too wanted to make it to New York City. Normally, talking about things back home made me wistful, but that night I realized a piece of home was in the arc of those girls’ hands, encoded into the language itself.

Society creates a lot of barriers for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, challenges that we take on daily with little recognition from the hearing world, and these are no doubt at the core of this book. But there is also an immense joy in Deafness, in sign language, and being in community with other Deaf people. I hope you find some Deaf joy here, too. Thanks so much for reading.

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