The Words in My Hands

Annick. Nov. 2021. 388p. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781773215280.
Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Piper has been raised by her single mother to be an independent, oral (speaking) person, even though she became deaf at age three. Her mum feels it’s important to appear as normal as possible to make her way successfully in the world, as if being deaf is something she has to compensate for. But lip-reading and using her hearing aids won’t make Piper the prosperous bio-engineer her mother is—instead, it only gives her headaches. In this mid-21st century Australian setting, changes to the way food is created, processed, and delivered has led to a repressive society and great cost to the environment. Navigating her way through her mother’s fall from grace in the scientific community, the loss of her best friend, a new love interest who seems to somewhat understand her struggle with the demands of her deafness, as well as near starvation, Piper is determined to find her own voice by using her hands—to build a garden of sustainable food sources and finally communicate like she never has before. Augmenting the story is the distinct artwork on almost every page. It reads like a journal and is filled with jotted notes, sketches, slathers of paint, and fully developed illustrations that portray Piper’s journey through friendship, love, and her gift of communication without sound. An appended “Dear Reader” section shares how the hearing can be more inclusive to the deaf community.
VERDICT Fans of dystopian and realistic fiction will savor this engaging work, and the message will resonate with young activists seeking their own purpose. A standout must-read for teens and adults.

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