I don’t know about you, but I love to hear how books came into being. For the next few weeks, I thought I’d post about how I came up with the idea for my new anthology Love You to Pieces, and how I put the book together and found a publisher, etc.
I’ll be posting about other stuff, too.
So the book. I have to start with Lilia’s diagnosis. She was born 14 weeks early, and although she was sent home with a clean bill of health, my husband suspected by about six months that she was deaf. I was sure that she had responded to sound, but tests confirmed that she was, indeed, profoundly deaf. She couldn’t hear my voice, claps of thunder, the music I played, or the airplanes that flew over our house.
I had never known a deaf person, and I had no idea of what all of this meant. Because of Heather Whitestone, I knew that she could possibly become Miss America. Because of Marlee Matlin, I knew that she could possibly become an actress. But I really didn’t know what her deafness would mean in our life as a family.
My first impulse was to get a bunch of books and read up on the subject, just as I’d read up on Japan before coming, and as I’d devoured tomes on twins when I knew I was expecting multiples. I was hoping for a well-written memoir or a novel by a parent of a deaf child, or a memoir or novel written by a deaf person. I found a couple memoirs that were out of print and unavailable. I wound up ordering a book called Train Go Sorry, by Leah Hager Cohen, a hearing individual brought up among the deaf children at a residential school for the deaf run by her father. This turned out to be a very good book for me to read. Cohen writes beautifully, and she presented the lives of the students in a respectful way. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but it had a major influence on the way I think about my daughter. For one thing, from reading that book, I immediately understood the importance of sign language. For another, I became convinced that Lilia could learn both English and Japanese. One of the students Cohen wrote about was a Russian girl who’d moved to New York City. While in Russia, she had learned to speak and sign in her native language, and while in the States she’d learned to speak in English and communciate via ASL. This girl didn’t have cerebral palsy, and she was a high achiever to be sure, but I keep her in my mind every time my daughter writes a word in English or picks up an American book.