When her sister is born with severe disabilities, Debbie must figure out how to deal with the “new normal” of a not normal addition to the family.
Based on my own growing-up years, World Without Sound is a middle grade trilogy chronicling the journey of one family whose deaf child learns how to communicate through language.
Book 1: Sparkles from Silence
Book 2: Dance in the Desert
Book 3: Krista With a K
The German Measles epidemic of 1964 changed our lives forever.
German Measles, or rubella, considered the correct term in today’s society, barely affects most people. First, a rash, then a low-grade fever, perhaps. Slightly swollen glands. Cold symptoms. But when a pregnant woman comes down with the virus, the child in her womb can be gravely damaged.
My mother caught German Measles during the first few weeks of her pregnancy, the most dangerous time.
My brothers had the swollen glands, but I never displayed any symptoms, so my mom kept sending me to homes of infected individuals, hoping I would get it before I hit puberty! Since the virus can live for up to a decade in a woman’s system, it can still affect a fetus for all that time. Mom wanted me past the designated ten-year mark before I would ever get pregnant.
Apparently, I have a natural immunity. During my own childbearing years, the doctors freaked out. My blood tests showed such an extremely high antibody count, they thought I had just recovered from German Measles.
A note to the Deaf community: these were years where the schools demanded “speech only” education. It wasn’t until the 1970s that ASL was considered an acceptable alternative, and my sister’s school taught both sign language and speech. At that time, I believe the combination was labeled “total communication.”
A note to 21st Century American Society: to be true to the era of the 1960s, you may find some of my terminology offensive, particularly the term “mentally retarded.” I considered changing it to “cognitively challenged” or “developmentally disabled,” but modern terms throw the reader into present times instead of what the world was really like fifty years ago and more.
Within the narrative, I have tried to make sure that the reader understands which terms were medically appropriate and which were intended as insults. And believe me, main character Debbie more than bristles at the cruelty she occasionally meets in others!
Most events in the World Without Sound trilogy really happened; others are fiction. Except for especially memorable conversations in my childhood, the details in the dialogue are fictional. After fifty years, I can’t remember exactly what was said! But all of it is true to who we were, and still are, as a family.
Having recently acquired an agent, I’m climbing the steep learning curve toward publication. Any additional news regarding my progress in this department will be found here. As a teaser for what’s ahead, I give you:
An Excerpt from Chapter 1
When expecting the possibility of a special-needs child, parents need to prepare the siblings. But who can ever REALLY be prepared?
Mom heaves one of those sighs I’ve gotten used to since spring. “Debbie, I know you’re happy about the new baby, but I need to tell you something.”
With those words, I’m not going to be happy for long. This serious talk is scaring me. I don’t think she wants to warn me about stinky diapers and losing sleep when the baby cries at night. She sighs again and strokes the raised paisley pattern on the couch while I wait for her to continue.
“There might be something wrong with the baby.” She stares at her finger as it follows the lines of green and blue swirls.
I frown, not understanding, and she continues to talk to the couch cushion.
“Honey, this baby might not be normal. In fact, we’re pretty sure it won’t be.”
Her words don’t make sense. No one can even see the baby yet.
“How can you say she’s not normal? Did the doctor say that?”
Mom needs a different doctor if he told her something so awful. I glare at her. “How can anybody know if there’s something wrong with a baby before it’s born?”
Mom’s dark brown eyes fill with tears. I hadn’t meant to make her cry.
In a softer voice, I ask, “Why does he say the baby won’t be normal?”
“Do you remember when your brothers had German Measles back in March? And then I got it, too?”
“And we weren’t sure if I ever got them or not.”
“Well, that’s why we know something’s wrong.” Mom dabs at her eyes with a tissue and wads it into a ball. “Because I had German Measles when the baby was first beginning to grow inside of me.”
“But German Measles was nothing,” I protest. “The boys were hardly sick at all. You weren’t either.”
“It may not seem like much when you catch it, but rubella – German Measles – damages babies who aren’t born yet.” She brushes a few strands of hair out of my eyes. “I want you to be ready. This baby could be blind or deaf or retarded. Other things could be wrong too. We won’t know until after it’s born.”
Her words swirl around me like a swarm of butterflies, nearly weightless, alighting on my brain and immediately lifting off. It’s like we’re characters in a book. Problems like this happen to other people, heroes in stories, not to regular people like us. Besides, God wouldn’t let awful things happen to our family. Maybe there will be a miracle.