Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

“Why Would I Want to Hear?”

Cochlear Implants in Young Adult Fiction

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2017), 11, (1), 69–80.

Abstract

The article examines how the controversy around the use of cochlear implants is reflected upon in a selection of contemporary Young Adult novels (Lynn McElfresh’s Strong Deaf, Anthony John’s Five Flavors of Dumb, Chrissie Keighery’s Whisper, and Annabel Pitcher’s Ketchup Clouds). After a general introduction to the portrayal and inclusion of deaf characters in Young Adult fiction as well as to the controversy around cochlear implants, narrative issues such as the characters’ and their families’ desire for “normalcy,” technical and medical problems with implants, communication benefits and drawbacks, and, most importantly, the Deaf community’s reservations about cochlear implants are highlighted and analyzed. The main finding is that Young Adult literature featuring deaf characters with a cochlear implant tends to follow a strategy of avoidance by introducing only minor characters with implants and being careful to present both sides of the argument without implying (dis)approval. This strategy of avoidance is a rather craven compromise between the desire to include d/Deaf characters and of trying not to alienate both hearing and d/Deaf audiences: it will take a less pc approach in order to normalize the inclusion of d/Deaf characters in children’s literature.

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Author details

Rana, Marion