February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Deej | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarDeej. 53 min and 73 min. Rooy Media. deejmovie.com. 2017. $79. ISBN 9780692813300.

Gr 9 Up –David James Savarese, or Deej, was adopted at age three after his abandonment by his birth mother. A nonspeaking person with autism and extreme anxiety, he’s also an honor student who is integrated into his Iowa high school. Through his poetry, plays, and words spoken by a text-to-speech synthesizer, Deej confronts personal and societal obstacles as he dreams and plans for an independent life at college and beyond. He describes this film, and his words, as a way to “free his people,” particularly nonspeaking artists like himself but more generally all those who want to be completely included in society. Deej’s poetry is animated in a flowing style of brushstrokes in motion that is very affecting. Although this inspiring documentary is about a person with a disability, it’s really about the love of language. The three DVD extras include his play Finding Our Voices, performed by his high school classmates at a state competition; Deej and his family celebrating his 18th birthday; and Deej competing for a college scholarship. VERDICT An inspiring story of triumph over adversity. Deej has a very mature and expressive vocabulary that may inspire those in an English or creative writing classroom.–Ann Brownson, formerly at Eastern Illinois University, Charleston

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2018 issue.

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