Review: El Deafo, by Cece Bell
April 14, 2015 § 3 Comments
I get so excited when a child tells me he is learning to read. Part of my enthusiasm is simply that selfish, natural excitement that occurs when someone is trying something I love. Another part of my excitement is purely for the child’s sake – how many worlds are open to him now! It’s one of the most valuable aspects of a book, that ability to give the reader a window onto a new world: sometimes a “real” world, sometimes a “fantasy” world, but always a new one. The best books are usually the ones that give the reader a panoramic – and at the same time in-depth – view, or a view from a completely new angle. This Side of Home was one of those books for me. El Deafo is another.
El Deafo is Cece Bell’s autobiographical graphic novel about growing up deaf in a hearing community. It is about visits to an audiologist, the ups and downs of learning to read lips (and the pros and cons of learning it in the first place), the impossibility of enjoying the radio, and what it’s like to start school with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest. Cece deals with ignorance and prejudice in various forms: being patronized, misunderstood, made conspicuous, and excluded. She learns the difference between being deaf and Deaf and tries to figure out where she fits. In all these areas El Deafo gave me fresh insight and understanding.
Perhaps just as important as the unusual difficulties she faces, Cece faces a universal struggle: finding a friend who will truly accept and love her. She makes friends with a girl who controls her, with another girl who has no desire to understand her, and with another who treats her like a baby. When she finally finds a friend who is not only unfazed by her deafness but can see the potential benefits of it, an accident pushes them apart.
I love Cece: she is smart and warm and funny and brave, and most importantly, she grows. She is not perfect, but she is open to changing for the better.
El Deafo is sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-tugging, and always thoughtful and refreshing.
Have you read any thoughtful graphic novels lately?
P.S. I posted a video yesterday – just a quick public service announcement. 😉