Is the absence of sound, silence?
In this collection, we brought together writers from the D/deaf community to take readers on a journey that explores identity, representation and communication.
Loud Silence: two words used rarely together, and perhaps for many thought of as oxymoronic. But to us at Heady Mix, these two words represented exactly what we wanted to instil with our book box that showcased stories and experiences from the D/deaf community. For many hearing people, the absence of noise is perceived through a very narrow lens, either it’s there or it isn’t. However, for the D/deaf community sound is communicated in alternative ways, and just because it doesn’t exist in the ‘hearing’ sense, doesn’t mean it isn’t there at all.
When we began our researching the Loud Silence book box, our reading took us through recurring themes of isolation and of being ignored. Yet the further we looked, the more we realised that for each sad story there was another that showed the strength and determination of a community perceived to be silent, one constantly fighting against the stereotype.
Far too often, because hearing people don’t recognise sound when a person uses Sign Language to express and interact, it is implied there is no voice, yet this is far from the case. The D/deaf community, with hands and fingers moving flawlessly, shape stories via the 300 plus Sign Languages around the world. It is a group with a rich history and strong identity despite the many biases, stereotypes and barriers determined to make life harder than it needs to be.
The English language we discovered is also sound bias, something many overlook. Consider phrases such as “falls on deaf ears” or “deaf as a post”, and think too about the words used to describe communication: talk, speak, hear, listen. With such limited language, there is complete oversight of those without hearing, how they express and engage with the world around them.
So that’s why we chose to focus on giving a platform to the D/deaf community, to go some way in correcting this oversight, so that more people can understand and relate to a world where noise is communicated differently and voices are heard loud, even without sound.
“The English language we discovered is also sound bias, something many overlook”
As is Heady Mix practice, it was our ambition with the Loud Silence anthology to give readers a well-rounded and inclusive view of what D/deaf people might experience at various point of their lives. Easier said than done you might say, and agreed – of course we wouldn’t be able to reflect the plethora of a community in just a few short pages, if at all. But what we were able to do is give an account that navigates some of the cornerstones many D/deaf people will or have experienced.
The collection begins with Michael Uniacke who narrates his experience of realising, age eight, that he required hearing aids. It’s an endearing and vividly told story, as Michael expresses the “art of deciphering sounds” a poetic denotation of what it must be to connect properly with the phonetic world for the first time.
Aimed at dismantling the labels and stereotypes that are sadly too often attached to D/deaf people, Jessica White, Donna McDonald and Elizabeth A. Ward all explore various avenues of why a community should not be alienated due to limitations of hearing.
And it’s in the same vein that Pamela Kincheloe delves into American televisions’ representation of deafness and Cochlear implants, highlighting the ignorance and patronisation that comes from a lack of understanding.
From enjoying music to finding children books where D/deaf children can read characters like them, the writers featured in our Loud Silence anthology explore the many ways the world can be more inclusive to a community often of the peripheral, but one with a strong identity wanting and needing to be heard.