I want to thank Teresa Russ for transcribing Keith Wann’s blogtalk radio audio interview with Linda Fiore Sanders, co-author of “Turn A Deaf Ear“. If you need something captioned or transcribed but don’t know who to ask, contact CaptionMatch and they will set you up. Enjoy the interview.
ASL Radio with Wann and Wink – Turn a Deaf Ear – Book
November 21, 2012
KEITH WANN: Welcome, ASL Nation, to another blogtalkradio ASL radio interview with Wann and Wink. Wink is out on assignment this week doing some research in another state. He is not able to join us, but I am in Florida broadcasting to all the 49 states and even our 50 state, hopefully, soon Puerto Rico.
I’m really excited. As most of you know anything about me, I love reading. I actually grew up reading at a very young age. When I was in first grade, they sent me over to the third grade class to read those books, but the thing was I had to go to speech therapy, and I’m saying that because, when I read a book, I could not say the words out loud, but I understood them in print. I understood what they meant, but I just could not say them. So from a very young age, my mom and dad encouraged me to read books. Except for signing and exact English books, I only read that when they wanted me to do a 100 sentences when I was a bad CODA. Anyway, that joke is out of the way.
I’m really excited today. We have an author of a book I just read called, “Turn a Deaf Ear,” and we have Linda Sanders on and let me give you a little background on this book. It’s about a relationship between Linda and a young man who is deaf and communicates with sign language. This book is set in the late ‘60s early ‘70s, and as we know now near the year 2012, things were different back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. So Linda was able to capture the time period and talk about the hearing and deaf person too.
Linda, how are you doing today?
LINDA FIORE SANDERS: I’m doing fine, Keith. Thank you.
KEITH: Absolutely. Thank you for coming on the show. I’m excited. Your book is getting great reviews already. Some of the reviews are like, “A passionate heart she has for the deaf world. The writing is very personable and acceptable. It’s a great multicultural experience. It’s a book that covers everything about family, friendship, love, and trust.” Before we get to the book, let’s learn a little bit about you.
LINDA: Did you have any specific questions that I could answer, or did you want me–.
KEITH: Just as we were talking off the air since we met before at a comedy show, you know my lifestyle. My question is deaf. Who are you? A to Z? What?
LINDA: Well, having met John all those years ago was my first introduction to deaf people. I used to go to New York with my dad to buy material. He was a tailor, and I used to see people with their guitars and their cups in the streets of New York, and I became aware of a lot of different people, blind people, and I just never realized that deaf people are such–invisible. They’re just invisible. You don’t see deafness when it’s walking down the streets.
LINDA: So having met John was one of those pow moments and just sort of almost fell in love with him immediately, but I’m an interpreter. I have been an interpreter for a number of years, and I am currently interpreting at an elementary school, and I love the educational interpreting field.
KEITH: You deserve an award. Educational purposes deserve a raise and an award.
LINDA: In that order. I have lots of varied experiences in that. I’m a certified interpreter. A number of years ago, not too many actually, it became imperative that we up the standards and that people didn’t just interpret because they knew the language but that they had to prove that their quality of interpreting met standards, certain standards. So I’m certified through NAD and got that over with, and I’ve also interpreted high school, and I still interpret at the college that you actually did the comedy show for, so pretty-well rounded in that. I also do community interpreting, which is sporadic as you well know.
KEITH: Well, yeah, the freelance. So would you say you became an interpreter because of your interaction with John? Was there something that sparked you to want to learn signing to continue and make it into a profession?
LINDA: It just sort of evolved into that, Keith. I guess because I had that skill. I never thought, when I met John and for all the times that we’ve been married, that it would become a profession. I just thought it was our mode of communication. I always loved the language. I think it’s a beautiful language. The manual sign language people are enthralled by it. You must have experienced this that people just sort of stop and stare.
LINDA: You never know if it’s approvingly or not until maybe a comment is made, but it did ultimately become my profession, and I’m very thankful for that. It’s an up and coming profession. I think we work very hard at keeping it that. There’s a lot of integrity that has to be preserved when you’re interpreting, confidentiality, and things like that. We have rules and regulations that we follow. So I love it. I love what I do. Sometimes rarely I feel guilty about getting paid for it because I love it so much.
LINDA: It’s an up and coming profession. A lot of young people are very interested in sign language as a profession now.
KEITH: And it’s definitely a profession. If you want to travel, it’s the right job. So let’s talk about the book. Let me give you the website www.turnadeafear.com, and the book is also available on Amazon. So how did this book come about?
LINDA: Well, thank you for offering the website to your listening audience. It actually started when my sister just sort of wrote a short story about John and me. We talked to each other almost every day, and she would sort of ask me different questions about things, and how it all got started, and I didn’t realize that she was taking notes and actually writing it down, but that’s how it started. When she showed it to a small publisher, the publisher just said this really needs to be a book. So that’s kind of the spine of how it ended up being more of than just a short story.
KEITH: Right. How did friends and family–this was set in the ‘60s and ‘70s. How did friends and family react to you falling in love with a deaf man?
LINDA: When you read the book other than my mom, who had some reservations at first, her concerns were more personal even then for me. She was wondering, if we should have had a deaf child, how she would relate to that child and all of that kind of stuff but that’s all explained in the book. She had those reservations, but everyone else embraced him. He is a very unique individual. It was just astounding. Friends started learning sign language for the novelty of it.
They loved him as well, but for the most part when the novelty wears off and you probably can relate to this, it’s fun, and it’s exciting to learn sign language or a limited version of sign language so that you can communicate, but really when it gets down to it and you’re going over to friend’s houses for dinner and you realize you’re on for the whole night, it gets old, and, I think, people realize this isn’t really what I had in mind that I was going to have to sign everything and interpret, and then I kind of became the interpreter, and those relationships sort of drifted off, but it was easier for me at that point, Keith, to bridge into the deaf world, which I did almost immediately.
KEITH: And I can definitely relate to that. Something that my mom and I still argue about whenever we go to a family reunion the holidays are coming up, and many times for Thanksgiving or Christmas I finally had to say, “Mom, we’re going to hire an interpreter.” I just was not able to be engaged with other hearing family members because I was always onto my mom, and it just–and how do you explain–and most all family members didn’t understand my code of ethics. It’s my talking and this person and that person. So, yeah, my mom still is upset that, “You
come–.” I don’t want to interpret the whole family business here, secrets, our secrets that I can’t do it. I need to be Keith. This is family. I needed to be calm.
LINDA: Right. How well expressed because you do lose your identity when you become the interpreter.
KEITH: Right. So you pretty much in your experiences as a spouse of a deaf adult you get up on stage and share your stories. There are so many things that you experience that I don’t experience of a CODA because I’m growing up as a child under an authority figure. You’re an equal. So I’m sure that at some times, where you go places, you don’t want to take on that role. You just—“Listen. I’m your wife,” or “Listen. This is overdoing it.”
LINDA: Well, and it’s true because, when you are seen publicly and you’re signing, it’s automatically oftentimes assumed that you are deaf because you’re not necessarily speaking to the waiter every moment, and you’re just a family at the table, and you will sign, and people are thinking everybody–although sometimes they thought John was hearing because he was the man. So a man must be the hearing one, and the woman must be the deaf one. I mean, just what people’s perceptions of people signing are, and like I said approving and disapproving. I’ve had many opportunities where people have been unkind, and it’s been an opportunity to advocate for the deaf because I think that’s a big part of who we are and what we do, but–.
KEITH: Do you think the level of prejudice against deaf people has changed from the ‘60s and ‘70s?
LINDA: It has changed. I can say that we’ve moved forward, but I think, if you drew a line around a room and you measured off that was the progress of the deaf people have made, I think maybe a foot would be all that we’ve really made, and in some ways, it seems like we’re going backward, because there were times when it appears at least in history when sign language was spoken in certain towns way back when where everybody learned and felt the responsibility and the need to know it, and now it’s still, I think, perceived more of a handicap, and I don’t use that word easily.
It’s usually not in my vocabulary, but when deaf people are applying for jobs, you know I’m really still disgruntled that people come up with things like, “Well, he can’t use the phone.” “But in this job, when would he use the phone?” “Well, he can’t really communicate with me,” and, “Well, can you write?” I mean, “He can write.” “Well, you know, we wouldn’t want to have to hire an interpreter for every meeting that we have.” It’s just like those things remind me that we really haven’t come that far if deaf people have such a difficult time doing something as simple as graduating from high school, maybe taking a couple of classes in college and preparing to go and do a trade
where now they’re met with the fact that there’s prejudice against the fact that they’re deaf even though they can manually do the work.
So also I make no secret about the fact–I’m not sure if I mentioned this in the book that, when I was pregnant with my first child, I prayed that my child would be deaf because I knew that John and I were equipped. We had talked many times about what we would do as far as education and that our family would be enhanced and that we would be two deaf people and one hearing person, and the balance would be thrown on his side, and people are appalled.
I mean, to this day people are appalled, “Why would you want a deaf child?” “Why would you have prayed for a deaf child?” And I was like, “Why wouldn’t I?” “You know what? Deaf people can do everything but hear,” and you know people–so I think there’s the prejudice is that people are still not accepting of that.
It’s like something’s wrong with a deaf person, and also we’re probably running out of time, but, when I married John, they dropped my auto insurance. It was a huge auto insurance company, and they dropped me because he was deaf, and they said that’s a can of worms we’re not going to open. I said that’s a what, and “We don’t want to open that can of worms,” and I was like, “So they’re out of the closet now and in a can?”
So I wrote articles to the local newspapers and to a couple of the big ones, and then I always sent copies to the insurance company that, “They’re out of the closet and into the can, and they won’t insure us, and he’s a good driver. He pulls over when he sees the red light that I don’t even hear because the radio is on.” So the prejudice, yeah, it still does exist today and in important ways, but I hope that we’re overcoming that and making strides forward instead of backward.
KEITH: Often I’m just amazed the ‘88 great federal law passed 20 years ago, and deaf people like my mom still have to fight for an interpreter. Doctors are just denying them rights left and right. A lot of people that as well relates to the whole car insurance thing because as CODA the joke is always that, when people find out my parents are deaf, “Oh, can your parents drive?” “No, no, they sit in the backseat with a special helmet on.”
“I still drive them. I fly home to California and pick them up.”
LINDA: Take mom food shopping. That was 20 years ago, and where have we–really how far have we come in 20 years?
KEITH: Right. And then there’s technology nowadays. Technology is just interesting too because in your book a lot of the technology that the deaf community has wasn’t there yet — the TQI, close-caption, and now video relay service. So that looks like there’re advancements but, no, it still–deaf people can’t get employment. A lot do but I don’t want to say they don’t get employment, but there’s a lot of–when you talk about the situation happens still when they go and the employer said, “How do I communicate with you? What if the phone rings? What if the sun goes down? What do we do?” There’s a lot of deaf doctors out there. Lawyers. It’s sad. It’s ignorance. Ignorance is still out there.
LINDA: It is and it’s hard to live with on a daily basis. I see it in the schools that kids are held to standards that hearing kids are held to, and it’s just different. It’s different, and I’m like really? Most of the time when going through these all these tests and stuff that the kids have to perform, and I’m like, really, does this really apply to a deaf student? And you hear teachers make comments like, “He really needs to focus on his listening skills,” and I’m like, “I think he’s going to have to be focusing for the rest of his life, but I think what you mean is attention span.”
I mean, they use a large–unless you really understand it at a gut level, you would argue listening skills. He’s deaf, but what she means is he has to focus more, and they don’t realize that they’re visual learners. I mean, in a classroom where kids are raising their hands or throwing spit wads or whatever, they’re distracted by that. It does not matter that nobody is talking, but the visuals that they are aware of. I often have to take a student into another room where we’re sitting there, and it’s just him and I, and it’s quiet because he’s now in a quiet room because he’s so distracted by other things that are going on because that’s their ears. Their eyes are their ears, and we’re constantly educating teachers about things like that.
KEITH: You know I love this interview because I love having guests like yourself who are as so advocate, who are interpreters, who are here, and we have a lot of the same things in common. So we can go on for an hour talking about this. I want to make sure we get back to today’s topic, which is the book, “Turn a Deaf Ear,” and, again, the website is http://www.turnadeafear.com. The book is available at Amazon. Parts of this is fiction. There’s fictional aspects in the book. Why did you decide to add them, and were they inspired by reality?
LINDA: They were based on real scenarios, I think, is probably the most accurate way to say it, and, well, has it ever happened to you, Keith, as you’re signing so fluently that you were misunderstood or–.
LINDA: –Mistaken for the deaf people. You do know in some of those chapters in the book where you’re hearing things and people don’t realize you’re hearing things and sometimes things are said. So some of those stories were spun off of real scenarios that happened. Some of it was embellished.
Some of it is obviously–well, I could do one of those disclaimers. The names were changed to protect the innocent, but, the names were changed, but there were very many Molly’s, for example, and situations like that where your heart goes out because you’re now aware of the situation that’s intimately–you’re just at a gut level with these people finding out how their lives have been spent, and what they’ve gone through, and those things in the book are real.
As sad and heart wrenching as they are, I just hope that, like you said, this book is an advocate as well for the experiences that deaf people such as Molly went through, and there’s a lot of Molly’s out there. So I’m hoping we’re peaking the interest of people. Who’s Molly? What’s she talking about?
For me that was a real poignant thing that we went through and, of course, her name wasn’t Molly, but so to answer your question, yes, the fictional part was deviated from to protect true life scenarios that I’ve experienced as an interpreter and continue to to this day.
KEITH: Is there a second book in the works?
LINDA: Typically, there is and thank you for the yay. It’s in the works. Unfortunately, if I were retired, I think that this would be kicked out a lot sooner, but my sister is and she’s working on it and pushing it through. We convene and change things around, but it is. It’s due to come out soon. I would give you a date, but I don’t want to deceive anybody, but I appreciate the fact that you’ve read it that you enjoyed it, and I have a question for you.
LINDA: Am I a SODA?
KEITH: You know I don’t know–.
LINDA: Is that a coined–because you’re a CODA, a child of a deaf adult. I remember one night when I couldn’t sleep, and I was going to the–.
Let’s see. A wife of a deaf adult, a WODA. No, that’s not attractive, but SODA kind–.
KEITH: There are two groups that claim SODA’s: Deaf adult and siblings of deaf adult. There’s not a national conference yet. No one has trademarked it yet, but I kind of say SODA. Yes, most people like, you say, they don’t want to say, “I’m a WODA or a CODA of a deaf adult,” yeah, so I think you have to go SODA. In California we say CODA pop.
LINDA: Well, thanks for that. I don’t, even if it was official, I don’t want to speak out of term. I sort of came up with that on my own, and I heard it years later. I thought maybe that it is a valid term.
So did we cover all of your–because I was kind of like looking through the questions. You know, I thought the movie “The Family Stone,” which I’m sure you’ve seen, was so sensitive in the way they handled the prejudice and the whole aspect of his being at the table and the family learning sign language and just all of that. I thought that was one of the examples that are out there that really–so much of it is contrived, and it’s like niceties, but, I think, that really showed the troubles that a deaf brother or sister or son has with the family. It’s real-life stuff.
I have a friend who said he used to try to ask the family, “What are you laughing about?” And they’d say, “Oh, this or that,” and then he said I just brought a book to the dinner table every day and I read. It just gets you right in the heart. She (sic) was just there reading as everybody else was having dinner and conversing. Families either make the effort and accept 100 percent and learn the language, or they don’t, and it’s sad when they don’t.
KEITH: As I mentioned earlier about I wanted an interpreter for Thanksgiving dinner when my mom was there but then on the other hand, many times have I been hired as an interpreter to interpret Thanksgiving but that’s because, like you said, every hearing family member does not sign, and a couple of times deaf people used that opportunity used that platform to tear into those families. That’s something like, “Yeah, oh my gosh, just hand me some mashed potatoes, please.”
LINDA: So I can eat with one hand and sign with the other.
KEITH: If you have a few minutes, I’m curious. With your experience and talking about movies and books, what about “Switched at Birth”? What’s your opinion on that as in the fact or–not in the fact. I noticed a surge of people wanting now to learn ASL. Usually, mostly, from these teenager girls who want to date Sean Berdy, and there’s some, like you said, niceties or embellishments or some things on that show. It’s like, yeah, not all deaf people can read lips through seven wall (sic). That was a little bit of Hollywood there, but for me what I get out of it–I don’t watch teenage dramas, anyway, but what I get out it, I’m all, yay. If it means more people want to learn my family’s language, good. Go for it.
LINDA: Right. And I agree with you 100 percent on that. If it’s that awareness thing that we’ve all become so–that word has become overused–if it immerses people’s interest and if they become more aware of some of the plights that deaf people have and learning the language is the hugest part of that, I think. Yes, that all people can’t speak.
I have deaf kids, worked with deaf kids over the years, that have gone to speech therapy, and I’m like why? You know, why? I mean, if they’re not going to be able to really ever say those words. They write down words that you don’t know or write down words that look unfamiliar to you. Well, they write down these huge words that are unfamiliar to me, and they will try to have them say it for the next three months. He may never say–I can’t think of one right now but something. So if there’s an awareness, I think the show is promoting that, and I think that’s huge. I noticed that there’s a lot more things on TV and spoken about, don’t you?
LINDA: That’s one of the things that I think is going in the right direction.
KEITH: Absolutely. I wish I would have had it when I was a kid and more things like that so that other kids–it would have been more–I don’t want to say the word normalized. Just would have been–kids wouldn’t have stared as much. Now it’s just–I think it’s almost passing up Spanish, or it’s right behind Spanish. It’s the third most used language or learned language. It would have been nice to have this stuff as a kid. I grew up in the early ‘70s. I wish Sean Berdy was born earlier.
LINDA: I bet you do. Well, in shout out to you, I just had the pleasure of being at one of your performances, and I just–my sides ached from laughing. You actually called up one of the teachers, and she was at pantomiming and acting out, and we just to see that as well, but I’m glad that you’re getting some of the recognition that you deserve, and I stress some of the recognition that you deserve. You should be just on every college platform. Those are the people that relate to you and to this thing that we call interpreting, and I want to clarify one thing.
We’re not out there because we complete deaf people or because we feel sorry for deaf people or because there’s something wrong with deaf people that they can’t write without having an interpreter attached to their hip. I think a lot of times deaf people could do things without interpreters, and it’s mainly the hearing world that requires us. It’s not so much even the deaf people that require us, but we’re there because we want to bridge that gap, and I don’t have a holier-than-thou attitude about what I do. I’m humbled by the fact that it’s sort of a service that I can provide for as long as my hands hold out.
But I think it’s misunderstood. A lot of people think that it’s just such a wonderful thing that you do, and it’s like, “Oh, when are you leaving?” Because it’s not about us.
We really want to be the invisible person there. We want to be their voice when they have a question. Raise your hand. I’ll voice for you, and we want to be the ears for them when someone is speaking, and they want to be part of that audience, but it’s not some major phenomenal, wonderful thing that we do, but there is a need, and I think I’d like to really encourage young people to take this seriously.
There’s going to be a lot of older interpreters that have been around since the ‘60s and the ‘70s that are going to leave this profession, and there’s a lot of younger people coming up that they have to–they can’t just go and interpret after their ASL 3 class. You know what I mean? It’s more of a dedication than that, and so it’s certification, and it’s moving forward. So I’m sure you agree with all of that as well.
KEITH: I do and we can go on for another hour, but actually we have about 30 seconds left. So I want to thank you again so much for coming on today. The book is called “Turn a Deaf Ear.” The website is http://www.turnadeafear.com, and the book is available on Amazon. There’s an Amazon link on that main website. Linda, thank you, very much for coming on today.
LINDA: Keith, it’s been my pleasure, and I hope to run into you again maybe locally on stage.
KEITH: Absolutely. We’ll get you back on here soon. Thank you.
LINDA: Ok. Thank you.
KEITH: Thank you. And, everybody, that is your ASL radio show for the week, for the day, for the hour. We’ll be back. You can listen to the podcast, rebroadcast, on iTunes. The sign language version will be up (www.vimeo.com/keithwann) in a couple of weeks. Thank you, very much, for your support. Wink, we miss ya. We’ll see you when you get back. Bye-bye.
[End of Interview]