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TRUE BIZ by Sara Nović


by Sara Nović

Pub Date: April 5th, 2022
ISBN: 978-0-593-24150-9
Publisher: Random House

The author of America Is Immigrants (2019) and Girl at War (2015) goes deep into Deaf culture.

True biz is an expression in American Sign Language that has a variety of English translations—“for sure,” “seriously,” “no joke,” and “totally” among them. By using this phrase as her title, the author is underscoring the point that ASL is not just English rendered in hand gestures. It is, instead, a language with its own grammar, its own idioms, and its own stylistic flourishes. This presents Charlie Serrano with a challenge. The child of hearing parents, Charlie has a cochlear implant and has barely mastered the ASL alphabet when she transfers from her public high school to River Valley School for the Deaf. Headmistress February Waters—the hearing child of deaf parents—asks Austin Workman to help Charlie acclimate to her new environment. The fifth generation of his family to be deaf, Austin is something like aristocracy within his community. All of these characters are about to have a very tumultuous year. Nović is deaf, and her second novel might be regarded as part of the movement for stories about marginalized groups to be written by people who are themselves part of that group. Nović addresses a lot of topics here, from eugenics and racism to teen romance and middle-aged marital strife. The resulting narrative has an odd shape. The first half progresses at a very slow pace, and it’s heavy on exposition. Things start moving in the second half, and there’s a lot of action toward the end. The lessons in ASL and Deaf history interspersed throughout the text may keep the reader’s interest more than the story alone would.

A coming-of-age story that explores the complexities of community and the ways in which language defines us.