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Strong Deaf Hardcover – December 1, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old Jade is hearing; her fourteen-year-old sister, Marla, like much of their family, is deaf. Tensions mount between the sisters when they play on the same summer softball team. Set against the 2006 Gallaudet University student/alumni protests, the story gets a lot right: Jade's experience as a hearing child in a deaf family; Marla's defensive adolescent arrogance; the oppressive assumptions of hearing people the family encounters; the empowering values of Deaf Culture as depicted through successful Deaf adults with typical expectations of their children, whatever their hearing status. Unfortunately, the book's format may lead to misconceptions among readers not versed in American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Culture; Jade's point of view appears in standard English, but Marla's point of view and signed communication are rendered in a stilted, present-tense-only patois that seems to be trying to approximate the order of ASL signing but only makes the characters sound illiterate and unintelligent. Jade incorrectly describes her signing style as "Exact Signed English" (the actual term is "Signing Exact English") and her family's ASL as "sort of a sign language shortcut." While it is believable for a child her age to misunderstand that ASL is a real language with its own grammar and linguistic structure separate from English, the fact that her misperception is never corrected for readers, not even in an author's note, is inexcusable.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MDα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Fourteen-year-old Marla has just returned home from her residential school for the deaf, and her younger sister, 12-year-old Jade, is already acting immature. Jade, who’s been anxiously awaiting softball season, is crushed when she’s forced to be a benchwarmer on Marla’s team in case Marla needs an interpreter. Told from the perspectives of both Jade, in standard prose, and Marla, in translated American Sign Language, which uses many language shortcuts (“Weekend fun. Play many game”), this realistic story explores the dynamics of a family with both hearing and deaf members. McElfresh also tackles controversial issues in the deaf community: Jade, the only hearing member of the family, wonders how Marla’s life would have been different with a cochlear implant, and their parents attend a Gallaudet University protest, which is based on an actual event. Just when the sisters’ sibling rivalry comes to a head, their responses to an accident help them see each other’s strengths. An enlightening book, no matter one’s abilities. Grades 5-8. --Angela Leeper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 122 pages
  • Publisher: namelos (December 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608981266
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608981267
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,799,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Shannon Hitchcock on December 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a classic novel about sibling rivalry with a twist: one sister can hear and the other is deaf.

Jade is the only hearing member of her immediate family. Both parents are deaf and her sister is deaf. This leaves Jade feeling isolated and alone. Marla, the older sister, treats Jade like a brat. This story is told in alternating points of view between Jade and Marla. It's interesting to contrast how the two sisters interpret the same family episodes so differently.

Before reading this book, I hadn't thought very much about the deaf community. STRONG DEAF explores the cultural dynamics between those who can hear and those who can't, and it does so in the context of a very touching story.

I wasn't surprised to read that the author has a deaf sister. This book is clearly written by someone with intimate knowledge and sensitivity toward those who can't hear.
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This was a short, simple book, but an important one. It is essentially a story of sibling rivalry, but what makes it fascinating is the relationship between the two girls. I've read a lot about Deaf history and Deaf culture, and there is a lot of talk about how it is for deaf kids to grow up in hearing households with varying levels of Sign fluency. This is the first book I've read / discussion I've seen about what it would be like for a hearing girl to grow up in a Deaf household.

That part was fascinating. For example, Jade mentioned that though she had grown up immersed in Sign, she signed more like Signed English instead of with ASL grammar, and had a hard time keeping up with the shortcuts and slang that are constantly changing in the language. Theoretically, she's a native ASL speaker, and thus should be as aware of the placement differences between the signs for "lemon" and for "lunch" as her congenitally deaf older sister. But this is not the case. However, the author's website says that she has a deaf sister, and is thus probably quite involved in the Deaf community, and knows about differing levels of ASL fluency. It was a surprise to me.

Similarly, several people mentioned that they were thrown off in the beginning by Marla's chapters being written in ASL grammar instead of standard English grammar. I enjoyed it, because I could imagine some of the ASL signs that I knew. Now if only the book came with movie outtakes so that we could see some of the scenes playing out! Actually, this book would make a fantastic movie.

For those who are perhaps not fascinated with the ins and outs of ASL linguistics, say, some of the young adults to whom it is marketed, it's a fun story that kids should be able to relate to and enjoy. It's a story (on both sisters' parts) of feeling like you don't belong, and that's something that all teenagers can relate to.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book explores the relationship between a "strong deaf" teen (deaf from birth) - and her younger hearing sister. In a different twist than most expect, the hearing teen is the "oddity" in this family which consists of deaf parents, grandparents and other deaf relatives.
The book is written from the viewpoint of Jade,the hearing sister, and Marla, the deaf sister. When the deaf teen speaks, it is in "deaf speak" a kind of shorthand/abbreviated sentance structure, which adds to the realistic element of this book.
The story line is not only believable but shows the author's true understanding and knowledge of life with a hearing impaired sibling and the difficulties and frustrations that it brings.
This is a great read for young people but also adults who might like something a little different in a quick read. Highly recommend this book !
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written from two stand-points, this book looks at the interaction between two sisters, one deaf and one hearing, in a "strong deaf" family. Being the only hearing child in a three generation family of deaf members creates many misunderstandings for both the child and for her parents and sister. The author weaves a compelling story and a view into the deaf community. I learned so much from this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Strong Deaf is a unique experience in many ways. For one, the story is told from alternating perspectives - between Jade and her older sister Marla. As Marla is deaf, her part of the story is told in ASL [American Sign Language] - which can be hard to adjust to when you're reading it and not seeing it.

Once I got used to the style, I enjoyed it and it really helped me to see things from Marla's perspective. As a reader with some experience with ASL, I found myself imagining Marla sitting in front of me signing her side of the story. However, readers unfamiliar with ASL may have more difficulty adjusting enough to get into the story.

What also adds to Strong Deaf`s uniqueness is the fact that - whereas many stories about deaf children involve the deaf child living in a family of hearing - in this story, the hearing sister is actually the minority in her household. It was a nice change getting to see the hearing/deaf ratio essentially reversed, and seeing the deaf culture from a family so strongly involved in it.

As for the content, the synopsis is not really an accurate summary of the book as the majority of the storyline and character development takes place off the softball field. Also, though both siblings had their life lessons to learn, I actually felt that Marla was more immature than her little sister - and downright condescending towards the hearing world, including those in her own family. Of course, as Marla points out, she's a teenager now, and so the extreme behavior Marla displayed could have been an intentional reflection of her age. Fortunately, the two girls have stable parents and an extended family to help guide the young girls through such an awkward time.
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