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13May

‘The vehicle for my feelings’: how sign language helped a deaf author find her voice

Sara Nović on writing a novel amid the current Deaf creative revolution and how ASL allowed her to understand herself

In the years since I wrote my first book, deaf creatives have undeniably gained mainstream visibility, particularly in film and television. Thanks to the tireless work of deaf and disabled advocates, the majority of deaf characters on screen are now being played by deaf actors. From the Oscar-winning ensemble of Coda and superheroes in Marvel’s Eternals to the recent Spider-Man video game and reality stars such as Nyle DiMarco and Rose Ayling-Ellis, deaf performers have repeatedly smashed through longstanding barriers. Deaf screenwriters Josh Feldman and Shoshannah Stern even showcased dual talents by starring in and writing the Sundance television series This Close.

In literature, too, we have seen prominent works by deaf writers. In poetry, the brilliant Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic was published to widespread critical acclaim, and Raymond Antrobus became the first poet ever to win the Rathbones Folio prize. Last month there were two deaf authors – DiMarco and me – on the New York Times bestellers list.

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