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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Outcasts and Angels: The New Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature
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He grimaced ruefully and leaned back, avoiding her gaze. “Of course.” There was an awkward pause.

She had been not quite three when the last sequence of genes responsible for hearing impairment was located on human DNA, and hereditary deafness was added, with fanfare, to the list of afflictions no child would ever have to suffer again. She remembered the day: her mother had been crying, her face red and frightening, and she had pushed Marina away when she tried to crawl in her lap for comfort. As she grew up, they hit her with it again and again, her mother in resentment, others in pity. “Three more years,” her mother would say when Marina did something clumsy, as if her mind and fingers were as useless as her ears. “Just three more years and I could have had a normal child.”

Marina shook off the memory. “I want to have a Deaf baby, Jeff. And I need you to help me.”

He stared at her, eyes widening as the implications sank in. She spoke before he could begin voicing objections. “Look, it’s not as bad as you think. I’ll get you the fertilized eggs; there ought to be examples of all the necessary gene sequences there already. All you have to do is run a virus through and splice them together, right?”

Jeff was shaking his head, spitting out words she couldn’t understand. Her gaze flickered back and forth between his face and the interpreter screen. [You have absolutely no concept—] He broke off suddenly and looked around them. “Shit.” [These tables are too close together.] He handed a card to a passing waiter, who ran it through a reader on his belt and returned it. Jeff rose, grabbing his coat from the chair.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go walk by the lake.”

“It’s freezing,” she protested.

“It’s private,” he replied, and started for the door.

Awkwardly she grabbed her things and hurried to catch up.

They walked along a winding path in the park, not speaking. A squirrel ran across in front of them and skittered up a tree trunk, tail flickering in agitation. Snow was piled in drifts around the benches and shrubs, and two and three inches high on the thicker tree branches. An occasional gust of wind scattered the flakes like dust. Eventually they reached the lakeshore. Jeff brushed snow off one of the rock steps and sat down, and Marina did the same. He turned to face her.

“Your deafness puts you in a—” Marina couldn’t make it out. She held the interpreter up where she could see it. [—puts you in a high-risk group for genetic defects.] Marina started to protest, but he shook his head and kept talking. [As soon as—I’m sorry, but most people will see it as a defect. As soon as your ob-gyn confirms you’re pregnant—and legally, you know, you have to see a doctor within five weeks of a possible or suspected pregnancy—she’ll take an embryonic sample and have a full workup done. Furthermore, again because you’re in that high-risk group, they’re going to want to know who the father is, or at the very least a short list of possible fathers, and they’re not going to take “I don’t remember” as an answer. And if you tell them a name that doesn’t match with the gene typing, you’re in big trouble.]

Marina looked up again when the words stopped scrolling. “I’ll tell them the truth. Grant has agreed to be the natural father.”

He digested this for a moment “Does Grant know about all of this? That his baby will be deaf? And he approves of it?”

She shrugged. “He knows. He supports my choice.”

“He’s deaf too?”

“No, he’s hearing. His parents are Deaf, though, and his older sister.” For a moment she thought of Nancy with envy. How much easier it would have been to grow up Deaf-of-Deaf.

“Huh.” Jeff stared at her, then shook his head dismissively. “Okay, so you name Grant as the father. But there’s no way those gene markers are going to get past whoever does the typing. As soon as the test results come back, they’ll perform replacement therapy on the fetus, and you’ll have a hearing child anyway.”

Marina nodded. Grant had raised the same objection—and then, to her immense relief, had provided a solution. “Besides research, GeneSys also does standard lab work, right, gene-testing embryo cell samples and so on?”

Jeff shook his head, which made her heart drop for a moment, until he began to speak. [They have to. Part of the government contract. But that doesn’t mean—]

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