Book Review: The Words in my Hands by Asphyxia. null
The Words in my Hands by Asphyxia. null
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Author:
Published: November 2nd 2021
Page Count: 388
Publisher:
Set in an ominously prescient near future, The Words in My Hands is the story of Piper: sixteen, smart, artistic, and rebellious, she's struggling to conform to what her mom wants--for her to be 'normal', to pass as hearing, and get a good job. But in a time of scarcity, environmental collapse, and political corruption, Piper has other things on her mind--like survival. Deaf since the age of three, Piper has always been told that she needs to compensate in a world that puts those who can hear above everyone else. But when she meets Marley, a whole new world opens up--one where Deafness is something to celebrate rather than hide, and where resilience and hope are created by taking action, building a community, and believing in something better
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For my next review for GeekDis I’m bringing you an upcoming book from Annick Press written and illustrated by Asphyxia who is a Deaf activist who shares details of Deaf experience. The Words in My Hands was marketed as “Future Girl” in Australia

This book was provided for free by Edelweiss and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Edelweiss and Annick Press for the opportunity to review this book.

First Impressions

I found The Words in My Hands while searching for disability books on Edelweiss, and I was immediately in awe of Asphyxia’s design process. As a former art student, I recognised an art journal instinctively, and the methods used to create each design despite the pages being 2D prints.

This book also called to me for a reason; my mum began to lose her hearing after getting water in her inner ear in her youth, and wears two hearing aids. Most people don’t know this because I don’t remember to mention it; her hearing loss is a part of our everyday lives. Her generation had very particular ideas about being Deaf and hearing loss, and despite multiple members of my family developing hearing loss, no one ever learned sign language.

The book is set in the future yet feels extremely relevant to now, and considering the recent pandemic, I’m curious as to how close to real life it gets!

Book Review: The Words in my Hands by Asphyxia

The Review

Everything about this book is brilliant. As the synopsis states, the story is set in the near future where the supply has been completely replaced with a scientifically produced food that contains everything people need including medication that has wiped out most common viruses and diseases, as well as obesity. As with all future utopias, the solution is not as ideal as it first appeared, and The Words in My Hands starts right as things begin to fall apart.

The protagonist, Piper, is right in the middle of things due to her mother’s job. As the world she’s known falls apart, Piper becomes aware of whole new worlds she never knew existed. One of these is the Deaf community which she is introduced to through Marley, a CODA, Child of a Deaf Adult. As Piper’s story unfolds, so does the many difficulties, judgements, biases and blatant discrimination that Deaf people have to deal with. While most often comes from strangers, The Words in My Hands shows the reader that it can just as easily come from those closest to us.

While this is a book about a Deaf teenager, it is so much more than that. Piper’s Deafness is a part of her whole story, just as much as her art, her learning to step out of her mother’s shadow and struggling to come to terms with what’s happening to her relationship with her best friend. I started to develop my health conditions in my teens, and I saw myself in Piper’s story in many ways. When she used art to express herself, I especially understood where she was coming from, what she was feeling, and the need to get those feelings down somewhere so that they made sense.

Book Review: The Words in my Hands by Asphyxia - Example page.  Artwork of a boy with blond, wavy, medium length hair standing on the right side of the page. He is wearing a grayish brown turtle neck sweater and both hands are inside the pockets of his tight black jeans. He wears large black boots. The page is surrounded with black line drawings of bicycles on top of a grungy watercolour background of bluish green, black and yellow. The boy has a speech bubble saying, ‘Your hearing aids are whistling.’ The left page is black text handwritten with a texta saying ‘On the wall, someone written: Imagine: if the GDP was replaced with a contentment index.’ Below that is the text content of Future Girl book page 34.

Art accompanies the entire book, every single page is decorated in some way as if you are actually reading Piper’s journal. It makes it feel so much more authentic, and it’s visually stunning. It’s not just the wonderful illustrations providing a visual guide to items or characters, it’s the colours and the textures. Even though it’s printed 2D pages it doesn’t look that way at all and as an artist I could tell what was supposed to be made with paint, paper etc. Piper also explains a lot of techniques as she tries them out, so it was a lot of fun as I read to match up her art with a page.

Book Review: The Words in my Hands by Asphyxia - My book review for The Words in My Hands by Deaf Activist Asphyxia, a story about a Deaf teenager set in a near future that's not so different from our own. null

Conclusion

I wondered whether The Words in My Hands would relate to current times in any way, and the answer is, yes, definitely. It was quite eerie how easy I could imagine the world going down this route, considering some of the shortages we had at the start of the Pandemic. Since the start of certain political changes here in the UK, there’s started to be noticeably fewer items available in supermarkets and sometimes there are times when the supermarket has a shortage of something for a bit. While reading The Words in My Hands I started to recall things I was taught about plants as a child, and some diagrams, such as the one for creating a compost heap, look like they could be quite handy.

I expected to learn a lot from this book in terms of the Deaf community, I didn’t quite expect to learn as much as I did about growing plants, nor did I expect there to be a guide to sign language – although I will note that it is Australian Sign Language (Auslan), not British/American Sign Language so if you do want to learn (as I do) please note there are differences.

I highly recommend The Words in My Hands for its representation, the storyline, character development and the beautiful art journal style and illustrations. Most books offer the reader one thing, whether it’s a good story or information, and this one is giving you multiple things in one. 

Asphyxia. null
Meet the Author

Asphyxia

Asphyxia is an artist, writer and public speaker. Author of the much-loved junior fiction series the Grimstones, Asphyxia has also been a circus performer and puppeteer. An avid art-journal creator, she loves to share her process and help others benefit from this amazing tool for self-expression, problem-solving, planning, goal-tracking and self-esteem.

Deaf since the age of three, Asphyxia learnt to sign when she was eighteen, which changed her life. She is now a Deaf activist, sharing details of Deaf experience. She raises awareness of oppression of Deaf people and what we can do to change this. Her free online Auslan course (www.asphyxia.com.au) has had over 15,000 students.

Asphyxia is kept busy with her small where she combines -growing with art – creating a magical aesthetic with plants and natural elements.

Her novel for teens, Future Girl (also known as Words in my Hands), combines all these passions.

You can find out more about her work over at her website. You can browse her books on Goodreads. Or connect with her on social media; she’s on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube!

Books by Asphyxia

Interested in more books by Asphyxia? Check out a selection of titles in my store.

Over to you

Thank you for reading my review for The Words in My Hands by Asphyxia! The Words in my Hands is due out in November 2021 and is currently available to pre-order. It’s not just a fabulous book, it’s an incredibly important read for the current climate.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my reviews if you’re looking for some more book recommendations 🙂 You can also now sign up for my newsletter to get an email each month with a list of my new reviews!

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