Review of True Biz by Sara Nović
True Biz is a coming-of-age story, a beginner's primer on Deaf culture, and a captivating novel about romance, disappointment, fury, and loyalty. I happily read it in one sitting.
Students at the residential River Valley School for the Deaf are trying to get through finals, maintain teenage crushes on each other, and make the most of living out from under their parents' roofs.
But the hearing headmistress February (a CODA--a child of deaf adults), the rebellious new transfer student who doesn't know ASL, Charlie, and teacher's pet (and Deaf royalty in the area) Austin find that their pasts, current struggles, and priorities link them together in unexpected ways.
True Biz is a coming-of-age story that also explores the importance society places on language; past and present political and social pushes concerning American Sign Language, cochlear implants, and Deaf culture; and above all, the essential role of community.
Nović occasionally shifts points of view from key characters Charlie, Austin, and February in order to provide additional perspectives. At first I feared this would dilute my connection to the main characters, but the ventures into others' heads were brief and illustrative. The forays into others' views also felt fitting; Nović highlights the way in which ASL gracefully allows for the indication of different speakers and points of view.
The ASL-focused illustrations and information could have been dry but were illuminating instead. I learned about Deaf history, culture, and the politics that have disrupted and damaged those in the Deaf community while immersing myself in True Biz.
There isn't a clean resolution to each of the large-scale (and infuriating) issues Novic raises, but a clean wrap-up to such an immensely complex situation would have likely felt disingenuous.
True Biz was fascinating. I devoured this in one sitting, on a plane.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Sara Nović is also the author of Girl at War and the illustrated nonfiction work America Is Immigrants.