Voices from PEN/Faulkner Interns: Sabrina Sthay

This fall, PEN/Faulkner had the privilege of being joined by three amazing interns. Before they left us, they each wrote essays inspired by their time in the organization. It’s our honor to share them with you. We started with a piece by Anique Jones, continued with a piece by Demory Hobbs, and we’re wrapping up with this essay by Sabrina Sthay:

CELEBRATING DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING AUTHORS

We now live in a time in which diversity is not only crucial, but cherished in our workplaces, school systems, and even social settings. It is due to my hearing loss that I have always been fascinated by the growing attention paid toward the Deaf and hard of hearing  communities. 

I was only four when I lost my hearing, but it never stopped me from wanting to excel in the world. I knew I had my place in a world of flowing creativity and literature. I’m not the only one with such rich passions, but sadly, the fine arts and literary achievements of those who are Deaf and/or hard of hearing are not often celebrated. In honor of some of these individuals, I want to recognize them and their achievements.

Stephen Colbert 

Colbert is well known on The Late Show and The Daily Show, but he has also written three books and is an author for the Tek Jansen comic book series. What you may not have known about Colbert is that he became deaf in his right ear when he was a young boy due to a severely perforated eardrum. 

Donald Harington 

Entertainment Weekly recognized Harington as “America’s Greatest Unknown Writer.” The surrealist author of the Stay More series, Harrington has received multiple rewards, including the Oxford American Lifetime Award for Contributions to Southern Literature, The Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction, Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame, and the Porter Prize of Literary Excellence. When Harington was 12, he became ill with meningitis, which left him hard of hearing in both of his ears. Nonetheless, he pursued his writing and had a 22-year teaching career at the University of Arkansas as well. 

Marlee Matlin 

Matlin is an idol in the Deaf community. She has conquered so much! When she was nearly two years old, she became sick and lost her hearing. Today, she is not only a mother, but an actress, author, and an activist for the Deaf community and other causes. She has penned the following books and memoirs: I’ll Scream Later and Deaf Child Crossing. She also co-authored Nobody’s Perfect and Doug Cooney.

David Wright 

Wright is a South American poet who suffered from Scarlet Fever when he was seven years old. Due to his illness, he became deaf.  He has written a collection of poetry and an autobiography Deafness, A Personal Account. He has also translated The Canterbury Tales and Beowulf. 

Cece Bell 

Bell is another award-winning author and graphic novelist. Her book, El-Deafo, is based on her childhood and the struggles she encountered growing up deaf. The book was the recipient of the Newbery Medal Honor and Eisner Award. 

Sara Novic 

Sara Novic is the author of the book Girl at War, a coming of age story set in Yugoslavia. Girl at War was named one of the best books of the year in 2015 by Bookpage, Booklist, and Electric Literature. It was also the Alex Award Winner and a Los Angelos Times Book Prize Finalist, and it was Longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. In a post in The Guardian, Novic talks about her progressive hearing loss, the struggle to overcome stereotypes, and the benefits of being deaf. 

The successes of these authors, who face similar challenges to me, is not only empowering and hopeful for me, but magnificent. I’m glad that as we increasingly celebrate literary diversity, we are beginning to hear the voices of Deaf and hard of hearing writers, too.