6th July, 2022

Review: True Biz by Sara Novic (Random House)

I picked up True Biz as a sort of bookclub read because people on Litsy were discussing it as part of a summer reading group called Camp Litsy. And I'm glad I was made aware of this book via this route as I believe I might not have chosen it by myself had I seen it at the bookshop without knowing about it. 

True biz? The students at the River Valley School for the Deaf just want to hook up, pass their history final, and have doctors, politicians, and their parents stop telling them what to do with their bodies. This revelatory novel plunges readers into the halls of a residential school for the deaf, where they'll meet Charlie, a rebellious transfer student who's never met another deaf person before; Austin, the school's golden boy, whose world is rocked when his baby sister is born hearing; and February, the headmistress, who is fighting to keep her school open and her marriage intact, but might not be able to do both.

As a series of crises both personal and political threaten to unravel each of them, Charlie, Austin, and February find their lives inextricable from one another--and changed forever.

The first thing: I learned A LOT while reading this book. I personally don't know anyone belonging to the deaf community and while I have always been fascinated by sign language, I didn't know much about any of it. True Biz made me realise a lot of things - some of these were shocking insights into how deaf people were/are treated, even by their own parents and how medical companies are still selling faulty equipment for their own gain. I also loved the interesting facts about sign language in general and the tutorials the print version provides. 

The story itself was a tender coming-of-age narrative that does become a wee bit melodramatic at times but hey, we are talking about teenagers here. I'm also not sure whether or not the book is possibly geared towards a YA audience, so I'm not going to complain about this aspect too much as I may not really be representing the target readership. Others will probably not mind a bit of talk about teenage angst. 

This book examines the ways language can both include and exclude at the same time. It also shows what it means to carve out a place for yourself in a world that sees you as other. True Biz is "a story of sign language and lip-reading, cochlear implants and civil rights, isolation and injustice, first love and loss, and, above all, great persistence, daring, and joy." It will teach you and make you rethink assumptions you may have about disability and identity. And that, my friends, is a good thing. :-)

Rating: 4/5 stars

(Photo Credit: https://sara-novic.com/true-biz)

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All texts and photographs are mine, unless indicated otherwise.