To celebrate the release of The Silence Between Us, we have a special Q&A with Alison Gervais! Stay tuned for Part II later this week…
Get your copy of The Silence Between Us HERE.
What was your inspiration behind The Silence Between Us, why did you choose to write an #OwnVoices novel?
Growing up Hard of Hearing, of course I had my own experiences and feelings to draw on when I began creating a character in the Deaf community, but I also had a lot of background knowledge and guidance that came from being a Deaf Services Specialist at an Independent Living Center for two years. My job was to act as an advocate for those D/deaf/Hard of Hearing and provide support in different areas, such as arranging interpreters, procuring assistive technology, and educating the public about the Deaf community. I was also a part of a subset of the Colorado Coalition for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf Blind, called the Advocacy Coalition for Equality; I got to see firsthand just what type of obstacles people in this community face in all aspects of life, and particularly with young students.
This was a very unique experience, and I’m so thankful for the time I was able to spend in this position. So I would say all those pieces of my background, from my personal and professional life, ended up being poured out into The Silence Between Us.
What makes this book special/unique?
I think this book is unique in that we don’t often see many Deaf characters portrayed in literature, and I had the thought that it was about time that changed. Oftentimes we may see secondary characters who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, but it’s not frequent that we get to walk along with them throughout the course of a story and see firsthand what they experience.
It’s also particularly special for me in that I got to incorporate some of my own experiences growing up with hearing loss. I could relate more to Maya as a character in that way, and it made me all the more excited to write her journey.
This book features American Sign Language. Was that hard to write with the copy of the book’s text?
This one was tricky, and it took a while to figure out a way to portray sign language in a way that was comfortable for me. You’ll see some authors depicting sign in italics, or in quotation marks, which is fantastic, but I had the thought that I didn’t want to readers to possibly forget that they were reading a conversation actually taking place in sign language. So I decided to have those conversations written out in all capital letters, like you might see when you’re looking at an ASL textbook. It might come across as strange when you’re first diving into the story, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
Using both English and ASL was a particularly important piece of the novel for me, not only as Maya struggles with finding her own identity, but because she has roots in both languages – they are equal parts of her character!