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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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“Busy,” Marina agreed. “Hospital work very-long hours he. I help he remember he.” Elsabeth signed “no-no-no” at Bill. Stephan signed “president,” fingerspelled something quickly—the angle was wrong for Marina—and finished up with an emphatic “plan bullshit.”

Nancy caught her eye. “Discuss-continue same for hour,” she signed, rolling her eyes. “Boring they. You want two-of-us go-away?”

Marina shrugged and followed her across the room. They sat down next to Susan, Julio, and a black man she didn’t know. “Marina, good see-you!” Susan said. Julio waved a hand.

Susan pointed at the stranger. “This L-a-r-r-y, last-name T-u-r-n-e-r.” He smiled at her, signing his name-sign, which was the word “turn” initialized with an L. Marina grinned at the pun. Susan was spelling Marina’s name for Larry.

“Larry live Seattle Washington,” Susan said, turning back to Marina and Nancy.

Marina waved for Larry’s attention. “You know J-e-n-n-y last-name H-a-v-e-lo- c-k?” she asked.

Larry raised his eyebrows. “Yes, she good-friend me. You know her?”

“We go school together finish. She good-friend.”

Larry nodded. “Deaf small world.”

“Becoming-smaller,” Julio interjected, a sour expression on his face. His hands came together until there was almost no space between them at all. He directed this toward Susan, obviously resuming a conversation interrupted by their arrival. “Soon none Deaf remaining. Genocide.”

Susan shrugged. “Know-that,” she signed, her posture expressing condescension. “Everyone know-that.” Her gesture indicated the whole room. “Doesn’tmatter. Can’t change.”

Larry had turned to Nancy and begun to talk. Marina concentrated until she felt her awareness split, so that she could keep up with both conversations at once. “Film all sign—drama, conversation, party same this,” he was explaining. “Try save all sign for future deaf.” Marina was fascinated by the contrast between his pink palms and his dark skin as his large hands turned.

“But none future deaf!” Marina signed at him. “All children born hearing!”

“No change because you—” Julio made a sharp sign, like a turtle pulling its head into its shell. “If we organize group l-o-b-b-y Congress, argue laws culture protect . . .”

Marina stood up abruptly. She’d had this conversation a hundred times before, and she suddenly didn’t want to participate in it again. No one ever did anything about it. Except her. And she wanted to tell them, and couldn’t. “Toilet?” she signed when Nancy glanced up at her.

Nancy pointed toward the kitchen. “Turn right.”

As she passed the refrigerator, Marina noticed a child’s drawing clipped to the front with a magnet. She stopped to look closer. It was a brown animal—a dog or a rabbit, Marina guessed from the ears—sitting in tall grass surrounded by fourpetaled flowers. Her own mother had never put anything of Marina’s on the refrigerator, she thought bitterly. Her mother had never encouraged her in art at all, had even forbidden Marina to draw for years. Which didn’t mean that she’d stopped, only that she’d had to hide it. Everything worthwhile she’d ever accomplished had been in direct defiance of her mother.

Lianna came in from the living room carrying two empty glasses, which she set down on the counter.

“Pretty,” Marina signed. “Picture it your daughter draw herself?”

Lianna smiled, flipping her long dark hair behind her shoulder. “Yes, she school draw. She old-eight now.”

“Where she now?”

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