This Thursday, A Quiet Kind Of Thunder by Sara Barnard comes out. It’s a beautiful novel, telling the tale of Steffi and Rhys, a girl who can’t talk because of selective mutism and Rhys, who is deaf. They communicate largely through BSL, and it’s already one of my standout novels of 2017. I reviewed it a while ago, and I’m pretty sure I gushed enough.
But then Macmillan reached out to bloggers again and asked them to think about what it might be like not to be able to talk for a day; how we might feel if we weren’t able to communicate as well as we possibly should. I’ve really given this topic a lot of thought. It’s one that’s key to the story in A Quiet Kind Of Thunder.
In recent months, I really have become aware of how much we take the ability to talk and listen for granted. It may not feel like one to people that can, but it really is a luxury.
The British Deaf Association estimates that there are around 151,000 BSL users in the UK, and 87,000 of those are deaf. It’s worth remembering that BSL isn’t the only form of communication for deaf people; there are other forms such as lipreading, fingerspelling, notetaking, etc.* But even still, that’s a lot of people.
Language barriers have always been something that frustrates me, the idea that there are people out there who are willing to talk but I can’t or you might not be able to communicate with them. But, as someone once pointed out to me, imagine the frustration they feel.
I’m writing this post around a week before Christmas, and to me I think there are few worst times to not be able to communicate with the people around you. I imagine what Steffi must feel like, perhaps in a shopping centre. Christmas music. Trees and lights all a-glow, people laughing, performances, perhaps not even being able to effectively find Christmas gifts because you can’t ask shop assistants for help.
And if I was imagining Rhys, the Christmas music would be of no more importance to him than the rest of the sounds that he can’t hear. He might be able to talk and lipread, but no-one’s lip-speaking Michael Buble so he’s not going to be able to appreciate Buble’s idea of a White Christmas in song form.
Yet I remember that this is a reality for many. I have no doubt that Christmas for example could still be the most wonderful time of the year for deaf people and for people like Steffi. Christmas is just one example, and it may consume a month or so of our year, but remember; there’s still 11 other months in a year.
Come to really think of it, the idea of not being able to talk is a really scary one that many have to deal with every single day of their lives. So perhaps we should all try and make the world a more inclusive one for everyone, be it those who find it difficult to speak, to hear, to see, to walk, whatever challenge may be faced, it’s our collective duty to do something about it.
*These figures don’t include professional users either, such as interpreters.
(I was sent a copy of A Quiet Kind Of Thunder to review by Macmillan. My opinions on the book haven’t been affected in any way. This is not an advert, I have not been paid to write this post. My opinions are my own!)