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Sara Nović on Deaf culture, access to ASL, and ‘True Biz’

Sara Novic's new book, "True Biz" takes readers inside the students' and teachers' lives at River Valley School for the Deaf.
Sara Novic's new book, "True Biz" takes readers inside the students' and teachers' lives at River Valley School for the Deaf.

In American Sign Language, the expression “true biz” translates to real talk. It’s also the title of Sara Nović’s new novel.In the book, it’s a policy that Headmistress February Waters upholds for her students at River Valley School for the Deaf. 

The school immerses students in Deaf culture. Everything is taught and communicated in ASL. And Charlie is the newest student there. As the only deaf student at her previous public school, she didn’t have access to ASL or deaf peers. But River Valley is at risk of closing — a very real problem for the schools it’s based on.

Nović lost her hearing later in life, but says she most identifies with Charlie’s journey and wished she could have attended a school like River Valley. Nović writes in her author’s note about the importance of these schools’ existence, describing them as “community hubs – the safekeepers of our language, our history, and our dreams in the future.”

We talk to her about her journey learning ASL and her inspirations for the book. Cami Miner joined and interpreted the questions for Sara. A transcript of the conversation has been made available below.

Read the Transcript

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