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.
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 personal 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!
Everything about this book is brilliant. As the synopsis states, the story is set in the near future where the food 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 ignorance 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.
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 tests with a page.
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 food 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.
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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