Singing Hands

Singing Hands

4.6 3
by Delia Ray
     
 

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As one of three hearing daughters of deaf parents, 12-year-old Gussie Davis is expected to be a proper representative of Saint Jude’s Church for the Deaf in Birmingham, Alabama, which is run by her father. So when Gussie starts to hum through signed services in the summer of 1948, Reverend Davis assumes she merely wants to sing out loud and sends her to a

Overview

As one of three hearing daughters of deaf parents, 12-year-old Gussie Davis is expected to be a proper representative of Saint Jude’s Church for the Deaf in Birmingham, Alabama, which is run by her father. So when Gussie starts to hum through signed services in the summer of 1948, Reverend Davis assumes she merely wants to sing out loud and sends her to a regular church downtown. But Gussie’s behavior worsens, and she is not allowed to go on a much-anticipated trip; instead, she must help her father at the Alabama School for the Deaf.

Rebelling against the strict rules of the school, Gussie finally confronts the difficulties and prejudices encountered by the deaf community, all while still trying to find her own identity in the worlds of both the hearing and the deaf.

Drawing on firsthand accounts of her mother’s own childhood with deaf parents, Delia Ray provides an inside look at the South in the 1940s. Lively humor, unforgettable characters, and meticulous research combine to make this a standout novel that offers keen insight into what it means to be hearing in a deaf world. Author’s note.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Gussie Davis, the hearing daughter of deaf parents, grows up in 1948 in Birmingham, Alabama. In this novel that vividly captures southern life in the pre-civil rights era, Delia Ray presents a moving picture of a girl trying to immerse herself in her parents' world, a young woman struggling to fly free in a post World War II society. The daughter of a preacher, Gussie feels a constant pressure to behave well and to be an exemplary example to her school friends. Nevertheless, Gussie's behavior gradually deteriorates as she longs to find her own identity in the worlds of both "Ears" and the deaf. Slowly she comes to terms with herself and with her place in the world. The novel is inspired by the author's mother, who grew up with deaf parents. While not strictly autobiographical, Ray effectively presents an inside look at deaf culture, with sympathy and imagination. 2006, Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages 9 up.
—Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old Gussie Davis, the hearing daughter of deaf parents in 1948 Birmingham, AL, is feeling rebellious. She sings out loud during the mass at St. Jude's Church for the Deaf, where her father is the minister; when her parents send her to the hearing church, she skips out of Sunday school and uses her collection money to buy sodas; and she steals an old love letter from Miss Grace, one of her parents' boarders. Because of her actions, her father won't let her take a much-loved trip to her aunt in Texas and instead involves her in his missionary efforts at a black deaf church and with supporting the use of sign language at the Alabama School for the Deaf. Gussie gradually comes to terms with her parents' deafness and her place in the world. An excess of subplots-including her foray into popularity, her relationship with an eccentric boarder, the lost-love tale of a deaf boarder, and befriending a "colored" deaf boy-renders the story a bit difficult to follow, but the exploration of Gussie's feelings toward her parents and the hearing world, which she is part of and simultaneously at odds with, is heartfelt.-Kathleen Kelly MacMillan, Carroll County Public Library, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
It is 1948 in Birmingham, Ala., and lively Gussie, age 12, explains that her comeuppance for humming during her deaf-minister father's church services is the start of what turns out to be one of the worst and best times of her life. Her kind parents interpret this funny first misdemeanor to be a sign that she needs more from the hearing world. Not so, but as she maneuvers in the new, unfamiliar semi-snotty church, her confidence diminishes and she can't stop acting like a clod. Tension builds as her risks at the new church and her high jinks at home come closer to discovery, until her punishment becomes a summer job at the school for the deaf. Ray's powerful control here creates realistically sympathetic characters, whose anxieties and disappointments are palpable. Once in the deaf school, their world, the teaching philosophy of the time includes segregation of black students. Here, Gussie uses all of her talents, her kindness, humor and playfulness; she learns about others and thinks of them first. Two provisos to Ray's superb work: Deaf-culture advocates may object to a finale of deaf students signing songs for the amusement of hearing people, and some readers will be annoyed that every loose end is tied up in the happiest of ways. Inspired by Ray's mother's own experience. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher

"An honest...humorous look at a complicated time...[the] characters...will stay with the reader for a long time." Bookpage

"Ray...creates realistically sympathetic characters, whose anxieties and disappointments are palpable." Kirkus Reviews

"The exploration of Gussie's feelings toward her parents and the hearing world...is heartfelt." School Library Journal

"While the portrayal of a signing household is natural and convincing, the focus is on Gussie's rebellion and growth." Horn Book Guide, Pointer

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547533872
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
05/15/2006
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
File size:
312 KB
Age Range:
10 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Delia Ray's novel GHOST GIRL: A BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAIN STORY has been nominated on state lists in Oklahoma, Kansas, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, and New Hampshire. Ms. Ray is also the author of three young-adult nonfiction books about American history. Her latest novel, SINGING HANDS, is based on her mother's experiences growing up as a hearing child with deaf parents. Ms. Ray lives with her family in Iowa City, Iowa.

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Singing Hands 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Augusta Davis just can¿t seem to stay out of trouble. It¿s bad enough that both of her parents are deaf, but her father is the itinerant minister to deaf congregations in the old South. Gussie isn¿t perfect like her older sister, and worse, seems anxious to include her younger sister in her misdeeds. The characterization in this novel is wonderful. The main character is very real in her struggles to do the right thing in the face of an almost insurmountable struggle against her wide mischievous streak. The dialogue is strong, the plot is fun, and this story has a nostalgia reminiscent of Olive Burn¿s Cold Sassy Tree. The author makes her readers care about the issues of discrimination and handicap and stereotypes. This was a fast, fun read. The author¿s note at the end shared a personal note that added even more depth and richness to an already wonderful book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago