by Regina McMenamin Lloyd
When I think of diversity, I immediately think of people of color. I think of the voices that have transformed my own thought. I consider Alice Walker, Sapphire, Maya Angelou, Luis Alberto Urrea, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rita Williams Garcia. And as I grow as a writer and reader I would love to share more of that type of diversity. When I consider a voice often unheard. I think of the voice of the person with disabilities. For me, I have always been struck by how it is to be different. I am inspired by Cece Bell- demanding her own voice be heard!
In “El Deafo” author CeCe Bell takes us on a view of her childhood and the feelings she has about being deaf. She uses humor to get into the voice of her childhood self who was struggling to fit in within her disability. She becomes empowered by the super-human ability to hear with the help of her hearing aid.
Bell uses the graphics to work with the words. She chooses to display text as the garbled sound she heard, rather than the actual words the person was saying. She employs empty word bubbles to show how she knew someone was speaking but could not hear their actual words. The lightness and size of the font displayed how she perceived people speaking. So when her friend was yelling and speaking slowly the text was caps, large and drawn out. When people spoke too softly the text was muted to only print at 50 %. Most interesting was when the battery was dying on her hearing aid, she printed the words the way it would look when the ink was emptying in the printer.
The story was uplifting and empowering to read, while maintaining a voice of a child. When reading it with my daughter, I was wondering, would the subtle hints at things like a friend being bossy or making a big deal about her hearing translate to a child? It did. In fact, that was one of the things the book did best, she really got into the voice of a child. At one point, Bell has Cece making a blanket fort, ironically, my daughter was doing this same very thing as I read to her. My girl was giddy over the “love interest in the story,” because “Mike (Supercrush)” was such a subtle and realistic idea of childhood “Like-Like” relationships.