True Biz by Sara Novic, Can be read in a few nights depending on your speed, Adult Fiction
“…anyway, how could anyone be expected to learn history when they didn’t know the first thing about themselves?”~February, p. 42
This book is the epitome of why I gravitate towards books by and about people with marginalized identities. On the most basic level, it’s just a darn good story. But you can expect that from any good writer. But books like this bring you into an entire world that you knew existed but were never a part of. Such is the case with True Biz. Using multiple points of view and set at a high school for deaf kids, Novic brilliantly brings you into the deaf community. Through interweaving stories of students and the head mistress of the school, we get both a coming-of-age story and a getting-your-shit-together story.
On one hand, we follow Charlie as she transitions to the school for the first time. After having spent her entire schooling to this point at a hearing school, Charlie has a lot to catch-up on. Not just meeting new friends and becoming comfortable at the school, but also learning ASL and the history of the deaf community she was denied so far. Along the way, we meet several of her classmates and learn their stories. Through Charlie, we meet other characters like Austin, whose world is wronged when his baby sister is born hearing; Kayla, Charlie’s roommate who is highly skeptical of Charlie; and others whose role in the story I don’t want to spoil.
On the other hand, we have February, the school’s headmistress. While she is hearing, she is the child of deaf adults, and her ability to transition between both communities/cultures allows her to serve as a conduit between her students and their (sometimes) hearing parents. She is fiercely protective of her students and the school, and, in many ways, that protectiveness becomes a key point of tension between February and her wife.
As major changes at the school are revealed, the lives of these characters collide in dramatic fashion. And while I sort of saw part of the ending coming, I still enjoyed reading how it all unfolded.
What I absolutely loved was the interweaving of lessons sign language and deaf culture/history that really brought this book to life. This is a book I highly recommend getting a physical copy of if you can, because the illustrations and asides really add to the richness of the book.
I really cannot recommend this book enough. It is a rare book that 100% lives up to the hype. And I really hope everyone reads it and it wins all of the awards.