Book Review by Jean Andrews

By Jean F. Andrews

Backspace by Steve C. Baldwin, published by Savory Words Publishing (2015)

Image: Amazon

Set in southeast Texas, Dr. Steve Baldwin crafted a briskly paced murder mystery filled with family violence, addiction, bullying, blackmail, deceit and greed, murder, and incest.  In the early 1950’s, stuck in an unsympathetic hearing world filled with ignorance, misinformation, and shame, Joanne Webster, an 18 year-old girl who is deaf has few options but to be her family’s maid. She manages to find solace in long walks in the piney east Texas woods picking flowers living in her own dream world surviving by her own instincts with a few pitying friends and family members to console her.  In author, Steve Baldwin’s words, “Joanne was a lonely soul craving meaningful two-way communication.”  Baldwin deftly creates memorable characters from Joanne, a naive deaf girl, to the annoying and unscrupulous Zenith hearing aid dealer who tries to sell a hearing aid to Joanne’s family, to uncouth bullying youths, to a jealous older sister, to a police system that is incompetent in finding Joanne’s killer, to a court system that is too hurried to provide justice, and to a deceitful and greedy doctor.  But sixty years later, a “Lone Ranger,” comes to town. A young and handsome Deaf doctoral student with social justice leanings takes it upon himself to find our more facts about the case. He meets a sign language interpreter and together they solve the mystery of the identity of Joanne’s cowardly killer.

English: A picture of an Ardent hearing aid fr...

Ardent hearing aid from the 1930’s. Orkney Wireless Museum Image: Wikipedia

Baldwin’s story will not only captivate murder mystery fans, but also deaf studies enthusiasts. A prolific writer and historian by professional training, Baldwin captures the history of treatment of deaf people in the 1950’s and how deaf people were often hidden in their homes and not provided education. He balances his deaf characters from an illiterate deaf girl to a highly literate Deaf doctoral student who is bilingual in American Sign Language and English, so Baldwin does not leave the readers with Deaf stereotypes as many novels do.  He also shows that during this era, hearing families did not learn sign language so deaf persons, like Joanne, were socially isolated from daily family life and had to rely on gestures and body language.   To further depict society’s response, Baldwin showed how Deaf people were often made fun of and thought to be less intelligent than hearing people, when in reality there were just as intelligent but simply couldn’t hear.

Coincidentally when Dr. Baldwin told me about his book, Backspace, I was deep into my own academic writing updating a textbook and reviewing literature on visual attention and deafness by neuroscientists whose laboratory experiments revealed that deaf people-both signers and non-signers have more enhanced peripheral vision. (You will see in the story that Joanne, a non-signer was able to detect jumping squirrels and flying birds in her side-space quicker than John, her hearing companion saw them.).   So, as my fingers turned the e-book pages, I was delighted to see how Dr. Baldwin cleverly wove this science into his story. Readers will quickly understand how space figures into Joanne’s demise.

I highly recommend this book. With a click of your mouse, you can buy it through Amazon for the price of $3.99, download to your Kindle and begin reading it in less than a minute.

Jean F. Andrews is a Distinguished Professor Emerita of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education at Lamar University.

A Show of Hands—An Evening with the National Theater of the Deaf

By Jean F. Andrews

On Friday, November 13, 2015, at the University of Houston’s Jose Quintero Theater on campus, the National Theater of the Deaf entertained a mixed audience of hearing and Deaf members. They presented a show called “A Show of Hands.” Behind a bright green vertically slotted curtain, you could only see the hands of actors in bright pink gloves. With other Deaf and hearing actors on the stage, they created hilarious dialogue, created scenery, cracked jokes, and taught American Sign Language (ASL). The audience enjoyed poems, stories and jokes. My favorite was a signed poem about flowers. For the politically minded, there was also a skit about the hair of a politician with actors taking the role of the hair, the wind, and the politician. You can use your imagination to figure out how the story went. The actors performed in ASL with spoken words voiced over so it was a bilingual experience. The performance was delightful to see as shown by the frequent hand-wave applause of the audience and to hear the staccato giggles of the children in the audience throughout the show.

Jean F. Andrews is a Distinguished Professor Emerita of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education at Lamar University.

ASL Immersion Learning at Northeastern

By BitcoDavid


My Sign tutor recommended I watch the following video. It offers a unique insight into Deaf culture and the problems associated with intercommunication between our two languages, English and ASL. I had hoped to embed the video, but the original publisher blocked embedding on their YouTube page. Below please find the link to watch it on YouTube.

There are a number of obstacles a Sign student must overcome in order to master the language. Classes, DVDs and meetups aren’t sufficient. Like English, to a lesser degree, it’s not just a matter of memorizing vocabulary and learning grammar rules. Sign is a cultural language. Learning it requires learning some of the Deaf experience. A gesture or facial expression that a hearing person would find offensive, may be merely descriptive amongst the ASL community.

ASL Convention, March 2008, in Austin, Texas (US)


Signers touch one another in order to get attention. If I need to say something to a Deaf friend who doesn’t happen to be looking directly at me, it isn’t considered at all rude to take his arm, or tap him on the shoulder. Hearing people would view that as an invasion of personal space, or even a sexual assault. The facial expression used to show someone as big-boned or pleasingly-plump is outright offensive to a larger English speaker. I was with a Deaf friend who was looking for his girlfriend, shopping in a mall. When we came upon an information kiosk, I signed to my friend, “Why don’t we just page her?” His disturbance at my ignorance was palpable. “No good. How hear her?” he signed back, visibly irked at the stupid Hearie. I take paging someone from a kiosk for granted. The Deaf take being unable to page someone from a kiosk for granted.

It’s that cultural schism that necessitates an immersion methodology, if the student truly wants to master this amazing, beautiful and surprisingly expressive language. Oh, and if you don’t think ASL is expressive, get a Deaf person angry. I think it may in fact, be more expressive than English.

Northeastern University offers an immersion based boot camp in ASL. The program lasts one week, during which a) the student attends classes and lectures given in Sign, with no English interpreter, and b) the students aren’t allowed to fall back on English when speaking to one another or the faculty member. It’s a week long voice-off Sign marathon that would make even the strong second-language Signer quake in his boots. Students do not have to be members of the N.U. Deaf Studies program, or even enrolled in the school, but there is a diagnostic assessment that you must pass in order to qualify.

Here’s a link to the page.

Last year’s event took place in June, but as I understand it – and I could be wrong – this year, 2016, it is scheduled to occur in April. Several friends who study ASL have told me that the event is well worth the price, and most people sign up for the next year, right away. There is a refund policy, but read that carefully. They stagger the amount of your refund based on how early you cancel. Either way, seating is limited and the program fills up quickly. My advice would be to register as soon as possible to secure yourself a place. They do fill up, from what I’ve been told.

Me? I couldn’t imagine something I’d rather do – except maybe compete in the Masters Boxing Competition. But that’s a story for another Blog site.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

An ABC Story

By BitcoDavid

The American manual alphabet in photographs

Fingerspelling alphabet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are two essential reasons why it is harder to learn ASL as a second language, than spoken languages. First, Sign is a conceptual language rather than a symbolic one. The word table, in English, doesn’t mean a thing with four legs that sits in your kitchen. That would be your dog or your grandma. It is only that all English speakers agree from birth that, that particular combination of letters represents the item we’re talking about.

Sign on the other hand, relies on actual concepts. The sign for table shows visually, what the thing is. So it is necessary for the skilled signer to make her signs visually representative of the concepts she’s trying to express. The sign for a small coffee table would be noticeably different from the sign for a huge table in a dining hall.

The second issue is really an extension of the first. Sign relies on space, facial expression and body language. This is really tough to master. It’s not just a simple case of learning vocabulary and grammar. There is no difference in words, between he is going to the store, and I went to the store. The difference in those two sentences would be expressed by using sign space and facial expression. So, I would be talking about an individual and I would point to a predetermined area within my signing space, to indicate that I am talking about that person and not about myself. Similarly, I would use a palm over my shoulder to indicate past tense. A choice between two options is indicated by shifting body weight.

A tool has been developed to help students learn the art of pantomime and facial expression, as well as to get a basic feel for the language. In ABC stories, you don’t generally use traditional signs, although you can where you need them. The idea is to use pantomime and facial expression to convey your idea, but there’s a catch. Each gesture has to contain within it, the letters of the Fingerspelling alphabet – in sequence. So for example, you might use the gesture of swinging a baseball bat but you’d be holding the bat with “a” handshapes. You’d follow that gesture by using a “b” handshape over your eyes to symbolize watching the ball soar over the grandstand. Believe me, it’s harder than you might think.

Here, for your enjoyment is my ABC story.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

An ASL Video by Me

By BitcoDavid

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

Deaf in Jail – Mistreatment of the Deaf.

By Supporter Contributor Melisa Marzett

Deaf people belong to one of the most vulnerable layers of society for obvious reasons. They cannot hear. Deaf people in jail are even more insecure. Some might say that if a person is in jail, this person deserves it and deserves the mistreatment, despite any physical disabilities like Deafness. Prison is a punishment already. God teaches us to forgive and to have mercy. Unfortunately, not many of us follow God`s commandments.

Quite often, Deaf people in prison get poor healthcare. A Deaf person can be easy to frame or wrongly accuse. For a Deaf person, it would be difficult to prove himself not guilty. Such a person may easily become bullied and it is very rare for them to be given any tools for easier communication.

They cannot hear the guards, take classes or know when they have visitors. They cannot inform about being insulted and that makes them even more vulnerable to attack. They may become isolated, either physically, in protective custody or seclusion, or emotionally within the general population. There have been situations where correctional officers even faked sign language. A Deaf prisoner was taken out of his cell for a haircut and when the job was half done, the correctional officer asked to stop the process, poking fun at the prisoner who could not understand what is happening.

Making phone calls is also an issue for a Deaf inmate because this person has to reply on other prisoners or use a special teletypewriter for Deaf people. Some use video calls but their percentage is rather small. Deaf prisoners are also human beings and they have all the rights that people with no hearing loss problem have. They should receive psychological and medical care, they have the right of speech and the right to choose or follow their religion.

Deaf inmates may not hear audio announcements. Then, they are punished for disobeying the general rules. Many correctional institutions have rules, which are rather absurd about batteries and chargers for Deaf, cochlear implants, communication and sign language. Despite a Deaf inmate needing two hearing aids, he or she is allowed to get one only.

There is also well-known form of torture; solitary confinement. It is dreadfully cruel. More so for a person who is Deaf because they may not comprehend why this is happening to them. There are no prisons – or even cell-blocks or dorms for Deaf prisoners only. Therefore, quite often they are put into solitary confinement just because of their hearing difficulty.

Melisa Marzett is the woman behind
She is a talented writer and blogger with an outstanding point of view on things. She is fond of reading, traveling, meeting new people and getting to know new things. She shares gladly with other people through her writings

Jill’s Dilemma

By Jean F. Andrews

In a southern state in a Federal prison, Jill is serving a 10-year term.  While sign language interpreters are provided for her when her attorney comes to visit or during her hearings with the judge, she does not get interpreting services within the prison. For example, she does not fully understand the rules of the prison nor can she read the inmate handbook because it’s written at too high of a reading level and there was no interpreter present to translate it for her.  Jill has coped with this awful situation by teaching Jane – a fellow inmate – basic sign language. So now she uses it to communicate with Jane, when playing cards, or during other leisure activities and in the cafeteria.  Jill also asks Jane to come with her to interpret during medical exams, at the dentist office, and during disciplinary hearings. Jill has relayed to me that she is not comfortable with this arrangement because Jane likes to gossip Jill’s business to the other inmates and this has created humiliating embarrassment.  Jill is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Jill’s case of having a fellow inmate act as her interpreter opens up a Pandora’s box.  There is the problem of professional incompetence, the lack of confidentiality, potential conflict of interest, and perhaps subjecting her to misrepresentation. Deaf inmates like Jill have to resort to this practice because criminal justice officials oftentimes do not understand the critical need for deaf inmates to have certified sign language interpreters. Providing sign language interpreters 24/7, round-the-clock would make the costs unreasonable. However, it is reasonable to expect that interpreters will be provided during time such as the prison intake where important medical and psychological information is collected, during the prison orientation so that the inmate knows the rules, in translation of the prison handbook (many of which are written at the 11th grade or above), and during any GED classes, other educational classes, or religious services that the prison provides.  In addition, if the deaf inmate faces disciplinary charges, then calling in a certified interpreter would be imperative.

It is a myth that if Jane is taught some sign language by Jill that she is now ready to function as a sign language interpreter.  ASL interpreting is a technical skill that comes with professional training in the understanding and production of translating from one language to another. It also involves providing translation to the meaning of the communication if it gets lost or confused or misunderstood.  Interpreters also need to know about Deaf culture and how to work with deaf persons, how to determine the deaf person’s language levels and so on.  All of this entails cultural, cognitive, linguistic knowledge and highly technical skills in producing and comprehending signing. In addition, trained interpreters must follow a code of ethics, confidentiality, and know about current legislation that provides interpreters for deaf persons such as the ADA.

Jill’s dilemma is not just hers but it happens to other prison inmates as well.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist, Department Chair and Professor Emeritus of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University

Nevada Prison Watch

Documenting Human Rights Abuses in Nevada´s Prisons

The Beezly Street Gazette

The Newsiest News You Ever Knew

Inside A Deaf Woman's Mind

Deaf Songbird Blog

Special Education For Teens But Special Rules for Parents

Tips and tools to support teenagers who learn differently while they transition to college.

We are not far from one another: there is a deep connection between spirit, animal, nature, humanity, clouds ....


Startup and Technology News

Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

Simple observations, analysis, and common sense comments

Random Notes from Some Kind of Hairpin

A collection, olio, mishmash, stew and/or medley of extemporanea

Playwright at Liberty

A place for my theatre writing: Plays, criticism, essays, miscellaney, and random fulminations on things dramatic

So few critics, so many poets

"If you think it is so easy to be a critic, so difficult to be a poet or a painter or film experimenter, may I suggest you try both? You may discover why there are so few critics, so many poets." - Pauline Kael


A global forum for people with hearing loss

Adult & Teen Fiction

Read on and I will show you another world within this one....

Kev's Great Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors Worldwide

writing to freedom

a place to connect, inspire, and thrive

Tricks & the Town.

A younger more cynical version of Carrie Bradshaw in the UK... with a lot less to work with. "There's plenty of fish in the sea" - Yes, as well as Stingrays, Sharks & Sewage.


Teaching. Learning. Growing.

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

Amplifying the voices of those in California's solitary confinement in their call for an end to torture

Hearing Elmo

Living with Hearing Loss and Invisible Disability

PEP Blog

"We Remember Those In Prison"


Rational thinking and reporting on all things transgender

Hands 2 Inspire™

Giving Back Sharing Knowledge Raising Awareness

Do the Write Thing...Tampa

Improving Our Craft

Daniel Costigan

Turning snapshots of raw experience into something beautiful.

Truth- A Right to Fight For...

...Truth the Media Wont Cover... Police Brutality... Prison Industry... The War on "Drugs", Racism, Pit Bull Awareness & More... For Mental Health, Domestic Violence and Women's Rights -including Abortion Rights- Please Look Under "My Other Sites"

Maverick Writer

Follow your own path


Observations of an Invisible Woman

moderate-severe/profound... quirky

Hearing aids, meltdowns and everything The Miracle Worker didn't teach me about raising a deaf child with autism

Digestible Politics

Politics Made Easy!

Crates and Ribbons

In pursuit of gender equality

Gotta Find a Home:

Conversations with Street People

Bonnie's Blog of Crime

My Life of Crime, Murder, Missing People and such! Above all else, never forget the victim, that the victim lived, had a life and was loved. The victim and their loved ones deserve justice, as does society.

Step One to Solving any Problem is Admitting a Problem Exists

A Life Aesthetically Inclined. (Because I'm deaf, not blind.)

Book Hub, Inc.

The Total Book Experience

Marcela De Vivo

Inbound & Integrative Online Marketing


A look at Police Misconduct in Clark County, Nevada and Across the U.S.


Dog paddling through life...

Life In Color With Closed Captions

Just another site

Prisoner Activist

News, reports and advocacy resources on criminal justice and prison reform


inspirational stories that touch your heart and soul


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,199 other followers

%d bloggers like this: