The students at the River Valley School for the Deaf just want to hook up, pass their history final, and have doctors, politicians, and their parents stop telling them what to do with their bodies. This novel plunges readers into the halls of a residential school for the deaf, where they'll meet Charlie, a rebellious transfer student who's never met another deaf person before; Austin, the school's golden boy, whose world is rocked when his baby sister is born hearing; and February, the headmistress, who is fighting to keep her school open and her marriage intact, but might not be able to do both at the same time. As a series of crises both personal and political threaten to unravel each of them, Charlie, Austin, and February find their lives inextricable from one another-and changed forever.
Tender, beautiful and radiantly outraged ... True Biz is moving, fast-paced and spirited — we have vivid access to all of the main characters’ points of view — but also skillfully educational ... Novic...makes an urgent and heartfelt case for the schools’ importance in providing language access, and in nurturing community and a sense of self. Great stories create empathy and awareness more effectively than facts do, and this important novel should — true biz — change minds and transform the conversation.
... a remarkable book that is many things at once: a primer on Deaf history, a love story, a coming-of-age tale, a riotous political awakening, a family saga and a richly layered character study ... Though written in English, the book is bursting with ASL, offering an exploration into the power of language and the violence of language deprivation, the beauty of free and open communication, and the possibilities (and limitations) of translation. Throughout the novel, signed conversations are translated into English, each chapter heading is an illustration of a character’s name sign, the first signed letter of their name. Interspersed among the chapters are school assignments and other ephemera that detail ASL lessons and exercises ... The narrative moves in and out of the three main characters’ points of view, offering intimate glimpses into their inner lives. The novel’s sense of emotion builds slowly, from Austin’s intensifying anger and February’s growing desperation to Charlie’s burgeoning confidence. By the end of the book, each character is changed, and their transformations are explored with a beautifully subtle touch ... Deaf rights activist Nović incorporates so many issues that affect the Deaf community, including education inequality and the rise of cochlear implants. Though it focuses on three central characters, the story feels symphonic as the entire River Valley community comes to life. At times somber, often bitingly funny, awash in playfulness and fiercely proud, True Biz is a masterfully crafted love letter to Deaf culture.