by | May 14, 2020 | DIVERSE CHARACTERS, Realistic Fiction, Romance | 0 comments

I have to admit that I thought I would have a lot more free time while observing the last two months of stay-at-home orders. With school obligations and a one-year-old who is juuuuuuussssstttttt about to walk on his own, our days seem to fly by, and I wind up on the couch at 8:00 pm, wanting to lose myself in some type of true crime documentary. I’m still finding time to read, though, mostly through a collection of audiobooks from my and Audible subscriptions as well as Overdrive and Hoopla titles from our school and public libraries. I’ve written about this before but listening to an audiobook counts as real reading, everybody. If you can’t find time to read in the traditional sense, try listening to a book while you do housework or chores, drive, get ready in the morning, walk, etc. I switched to audiobooks several years ago thanks to the advice of two rock-star librarians I know, Shannon Grieshaber and Nina O’Daniels who have their own awesome book blog (check it out here!), and I realized I could finish a book a week pretty easily by following the advice I gave you above. I recently kicked it up a notch and accelerated my listening speed to a setting of 1.25 or 1.4, depending on the book, and I feel like such a bad-ass reader! But seriously, give audiobooks a try if you haven’t. They’ve been life-changing for me.

The book I’m featuring this week is The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais. One of my students raved about this book before our school closed due to COVID-19, and it was available as a freebie through’s Audiobook Copy Listening (ALC) Program. It had a powerful impact on me:

Maya is less than thrilled to be spending her senior year in a “hearing school” in Colorado after years of attending a school for the deaf in New Jersey. She doesn’t want to be accompanied by the interpreter who will signal her deafness to her classmates, and she dreads dealing with the pity and ignorance of her classmates. She doesn’t consider herself to be disabled and she doesn’t want a cochlear implant (CI); she knows it’s hard to understand, but she’s happy being deaf. Inspired by her brother’s brave fight with cystic fibrosis, she’s focused on studying respiratory therapy at a renowned local university. She just has to power through what is sure to be a crappy senior year.

It surprises Maya when two of her classmates, Nina and Beau, take an interest in her and actually make the effort to learn some American Sign Language. Beau, who seemed goofy at first, looks more and more attractive to Maya as she gets to know him, and she wonders about a future with this “hearing boy.” Maya’s senior year isn’t without challenges, though. Even the people she loves the most don’t seem to understand her resistance to getting a CI, and Maya’s not sure her dream of studying respiratory therapy can be a reality.

This is a sweet, clean romance written by an #ownvoices author, and it taught me SO much about the deaf community. I enjoyed the story, but I think the best part of this book is that it helped me walk alongside a person with hearing impairment. Author Alison Gervais has created a feisty, driven, memorable character in Maya, and Gervais does a great job of showing readers what accommodations are in place to support the hearing impaired. We need more books like this one!

The Experience

I thought about teaching Tim some simple sign language as a plot-driven life experience for this book (Don’t know what a “plot-driven life experience” is? Check out my first post about it here.), but I thought one of the most beautiful parts of the book centered around Maya’s assignment to create a self-portrait. In the book, she’s entirely unsure how to portray herself at first, and I could empathize with that because I’ve never been skilled in fine arts like my incredibly talented friend Jaime who recently shared pictures with me that document the progress of drawing her self-portrait:

Three pictures of Jaime's progress as she draws herself.
Jaime’s progressive self-portrait.

Because I can’t do anything that complex, I asked Jaime to help me find some kind of “Drawing Self-Portraits for Dummies” guide. She found and shared this website with instructions on how to create the “No Phone Selfie” which actually got me excited about creating a simple self-portrait using a mirror, a water-soluble marker, a spray bottle, and a piece of paper. I mean, even a dummy can trace her own reflection, right?

I followed the directions exactly and tried multiple times, and I have to say that I had varied success. My images didn’t transfer as cleanly as those featured on the website, but in some ways, I think this makes them even more special. I was wearing my hair in a high bun when I traced my features, and I like the way the transferred image makes me look like I have a shaved head and mohawk. I am a bad-ass! Another of my attempts makes me look like a bearded man, though. 🙁

Three different images showing how I created my own self-portrait by tracing my reflection.
The middle image was my favorite of seven attempts, and the last one reminds me of a bad Snapchat filter.

I’m definitely going to try this self-portrait activity with students when we’re all back at school. It’s quick and cheap to carry out, and I can see students having tons of fun with it.

If YOU use this method to create your own self-portrait, let me know! And think about adding something extra to your portrait to make it representative of your time at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Maybe add a pair of AirPods to communicate all the Zoom calls you participated in, or draw yourself with even crazier hair to show how much you need a haircut. You do you, Boo!

Happy reading,



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