When it comes to representation in literature, deafness is very rare. So I decided to go on a quest to find as many fiction books as possible portraying deaf characters, and rank these representations from best to not-best by genre. (It also provides you with a reference / guide to reading deaf lit!) You can click the genres below to jump to the section or simply keep scrolling.
Note: This post will be updated as I read more books with deaf characters. This means the list is not static. Every book can easily be bumped up or down by a better representation. Make sure to subscribe for updates!
Note 2: I do not rank poetry or plays here, mostly because I struggle to read them. I do not plan to include baby books. I do not rank stories whose deaf characters are animals, such as bats, dogs, cats, etc. Humanoid aliens or humanoid mythical creatures (e.g., centaurs or fairies) are okay. I do not rank stories and fanfics posted on sites (e.g., Wattpad and Ao3) because I need to have limits/parameters for this blog.
Those of you who follow the Modcast already know that I, Leigh Ann, am deaf. Always have been and always will be! In May 2022 I earned a Master’s in Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University, where my thesis was analyzing representations of deafness in Marvel comics. (Yes, these comics are ranked as well.) Eventually I’m going to establish my own publishing company that prioritizes and amplifies #OwnVoice authors.
Before I get into my ranking, I want to make a few things clear:
- I only rank stories I have read in full.
- I am not ranking these stories based on plot or themes, but on the representation of deafness based on my own understandings (from firsthand experiences, stories written/recounted by other deaf individuals, and academic literature).
- Just because a title ranks low on the list doesn’t necessarily mean the representation is bad; it may just be that the deaf character is in the background, so there’s not much to judge. In other words, how much “screentime” does the deaf character get?
- If you are interested in reading any of these stories, please be aware that some of them may include triggering content such as violent acts (bullying, murder, etc.) and/or discrimination against marginalized-identity characters, which are very real concerns for many of us. If you have any concerns about a novel’s content, please check the title on StoryGraph for content warnings, or feel free to comment your questions and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.
I personally do not like the majority of the books on this list. You can find my rants and reviews on Goodreads, since I’m linking most titles to their Goodreads page. But my goal is to get past personality of characters and plots to get at the representation itself: How well does the author reflect physiological and social realities of deafness? What message about the deafness are they trying to get across, if any?
This list includes human[oid] deaf characters no matter how brief their appearance or small their role in the story. If a deaf character explicitly appears—meaning that the author makes sure the reader somehow knows this character is deaf—I’ll include the story in the rank.
In these works of fiction there will be deaf characters who sign and those who don’t; those who lipread and those who don’t; those who use assistive hearing technology and those who don’t. There are also characters who identify as culturally Deaf, and others who may use identities such as deaf, hearing impaired, hard of hearing, and deaf-mute (this last term is in older/historical and non-American novels). These are all valid identities, and the author/characters’ identity preferences do not affect how I rank the book (unless it is used incorrectly, such as a contemporary American author using “deaf-mute”).
The key here is authenticity. For deaf-identifying authors, that’s simple enough. They write what they know. But for hearing authors, I am also judging their acknowledgment (or lack thereof) of deaf sensitivity readers or advisers. Did they do their research? Some hearing authors make it more obvious than others whether they incorporate feedback.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into the ranking.
Children’s and Middle Grade Books
1. Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte (2020)
Written by a Deaf librarian, this middle grade historical fiction is set on Martha’s Vineyard. It was once a thriving deaf community, thanks to genetics. The white colonists inhabiting this island developed their own language, much of which merged later with French Sign Language to become what is today known as American Sign Language (ASL). Historically, people like Alexander Graham Bell believed that the deafness on Martha’s Vineyard was caused by something in the soil or water (which somehow didn’t affect everyone, regardless of race, age, or gender). Scientists ran experiments on the land and its deaf inhabitants, which is also what happens in this novel: an entitled young man shows up to “discover” the cause of the prevalent deafness—and kidnaps the narrator, a young deaf girl. This is a great slice of history that shows disability is a social construct.
2. Boo! by Dack Virnig (2018)
Written by a Deaf author, this picture book is an allegory for the deaf child’s experience of being born into a hearing family who doesn’t accept them or know what to do with them. It’s an all too common experience, and one I share: 90% of deaf children are born to hearing families, many of whom never learn to communicate effectively with their child. Boo! represents the experience very poignantly and simply.
Note: Unfortunately this book seems to be out of print, but you can find Dack’s announcement about it here. If you’d like a copy, I highly recommend reaching out to him about it.
3. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (2011)
Selznick’s brother was born deaf in one ear, and provided insights for the main character Ben. Dr Carol Padden and Tom Humphries were sensitivity readers, in addition to the author taking interviews, feedback, etc. from other deaf people and visiting museums and reading up on histories. So I’m happy to say that I did not spot any inaccuracies as far as deafness went in this middle grade book! Also interesting is the decision to tell Ben’s stories in prose and Rose’s story in pictures. I was skeptical at first, but it works out very well.
4. Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly (2019)
Written by an ASL interpreter, this middle grade novel centers Iris, a deaf girl who is moved to a mainstream (hearing) school where she is linguistically and socially isolated. The interesting part of this novel is that Iris comes from a deaf family: her grandparents are deaf. In science class, Iris learns about a lonely whale and determines that she will play him a song he can hear. Accompanied by her grandmother, she sets out on her mission. I’ve written a book recommendation for this already, which you can read here.
5. You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino (2018)
What I really appreciate about this middle grade book is the candidness of the hearing author, who is a grandchild of Deaf adults. It’s a real rarity that I read a book with a deaf character and don’t find anything to criticize. Gino approached this story very carefully and respectfully. Although they chose to center a white hearing girl, the Black Deaf character, Derek, is very realistic. The other deaf character, Emma, is an infant and doesn’t really do much—so, like a baby, yeah?—but we do get a time skip epilog that shows a toddler Emma being very communicative and innovative!
6. Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (2007)
This children’s book shows us, through the eyes of a Black hearing girl named Frannie, how communities intersect and impact each other. The deaf character is Frannie’s older brother Sean, who is intelligent, independent, and funny. Read an interview with the author here!
7. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale (2017)
This quirky middle grade Marvel title features Ana Sofía Arcos Romero, a mainstreamed ninth grader who wears bilateral hearing aids. She educates Doreen (and the reader) on lipreading and signed language throughout the book. But it’s not perfect. If you’re interested in the issues I took with this novel, check my Goodreads review for details.
8. The Mermaid’s Three Wisdoms by Jane Yolen (1978)
Here’s a fairy tale by a hearing author. She acknowledges several deaf persons for their help in representing Jess. In this story we have two protagonists: Jess, a deaf girl, and Melusina, a mermaid. Mermaids have no speech apparatus, having evolved with no need of it, so they developed a signed language. Jess, who is understandably angry at the world and rejects all languages (spoken and signed) because she doesn’t have full access, rescues Melusina when she is banished from her home. Yolen does well in showing the cultural differences in the two signed languages and how the girls try to navigate towards a common understanding. Jess and Melusina begin to learn one another’s language. At the end of the story, we have a very explicit Deaf Gain message: If Jess hadn’t been deaf, she wouldn’t have learned sign language, and therefore would have been unable to communicate with Melusina. It doesn’t hold up logically (in that hearing people can also sign), but the representation is fairly accurate throughout, and given the year of its publication, very positive.
9. A Season of Change by Lois L. Hodge (1987)
This children’s book by an author with Usher Syndrome follows an orally raised deaf girl. It’s not necessarily the representation I had a problem with, as it is fairly accurate, but rather lesson of the character. Check my Goodreads review for details.
10. SIX by M. M. Vaughan (2015)
This middle grade sci-fi mystery novel by a hearing author portrays Emma, a deaf 10 year old with a bent toward social justice. Emma was born with a damaged auditory nerve, so she’s never heard a sound. The communication in this novel really points to the linguistic repertoire of this character. Emma signs (ASL and BSL), lipreads, reads and writes English, and projects her thoughts telepathically. Although this is definitely one of the better representations I’ve seen, it’s not perfect! Check out my Goodreads review for details.
11. T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte (2008)
This is a historical fiction in free verse, narrated by a deaf child in Nazi Germany. The author is Deaf, and the book is really a brief compilation of facts and outlines of characters, a sort of introduction to the T4 program. Essentially, the Nazis genocided and sterilized thousands of disabled adults and children, including deaf people. This book was an attempt to discuss how the narrator avoided that fate, but unfortunately the representation is muddy.
12. Jessi’s Secret Language (The Baby-Sitters Club #16) by Ann M. Martin (1996)
First of all, although the white hearing author terms the signed language used throughout this book Ameslan (an older term for ASL), the characters are actually using sim-commed SEE (Signed Exact English)—but even having noted that, some sign descriptions are way off/nonexistent. This story isn’t about the deaf boy, Matt, but about the narrator, Jessi, who co-opts Ameslan and spreads it to the neighboring hearing children as a secret code that they use to be mean to one another, then turns around and puts together a special interpreted ballet for a select few deaf children so the hearing readers get their dose of inspoporn. For an explanation for this cynicism, head on over to my Goodreads essay—the first time I actually ran out of characters!
13. The Guardian’s Code by T.S. Valmond (2018)
This fantasy/sci-fi story follows Zehra, the first congenitally deaf mermaid, and her journey to becoming a guardian. Unfortunately, the worldbuilding is so weak that I do not believe Zehra could possibly exist as she does. My Goodreads rant has all the details.
Note: I got the sense while reading that this is written for middle graders/high schoolers, but correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll move it to the YA/Adult.
14. A Single Light by Maia Wojciechowska (1968)
This entire book, written for children, is nothing but ableist tripe, offensive stereotypes, and inspiration porn, so unsurprisingly it has won the Newbery Medal. I was disgusted for the entire read. My Goodreads review contains details on why it’s not worth reading this book.
15. Sidekicked by John David Anderson (2013)
A hearing author really did this deaf character dirty. Eric Ito, deaf since birth, seems to have super speed and is an expert in martial arts, though it’s unclear what exactly he does. His real power, however, should be lipreading. This deaf boy is attending a mainstream school, apparently with no interpreter despite the fact that he only signs, and is literally not included in his team’s conversations (though the author tries to play it off like he’s included). The author also doesn’t even try to make the signing realistic. For more details on why this representation is so poorly done, check out my Goodreads review. It’s also worth noting that Eric rarely appears in the story.
YA and Adult Fiction
1. True Biz by Sara Nović (2022)
This novel, written by a deaf author who uses cochlear implants, features a variety of perspectives, sensory orientations, and languages. It’s written in a way that isn’t a deaf protagonist teaching a hearing protagonist and leading them by the hand as many stories are, so that’s refreshing. A hearing reader will learn alongside Charlie, and a deaf reader will nod sagely along, their language and culture affirmed. True Biz is a teaching tool, but it’s not overbearing or intrusive.
2. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge (2019)
This dark fantasy YA story is written by a hearing author, but the deaf representation is so well-done that if I hadn’t checked, I might have believed Hardinge were deaf. This is because Hardinge had tons of help from the Young People’s Advisory Board of the National Deaf Children’s Society. In Deeplight, all kinds of deaf people appear—though all, to my knowledge, are late-deafened. (This means that they grew up hearing, and became deaf later.) In this book, there are signing deaf (with each island having its own dialect), and non-signing deaf who communicate in writing. Some lipread, like Selphin. None are really main characters, although Selphin has a large and important role, but they are very visible and highly respected throughout the story. In short, this book normalizes and even celebrates deafness.
3. Islay by Douglas Bullard (1985)
Written by a deaf author, Islay is intentionally written as a burlesque, populated with deaf characters derived from stereotypes. Note that Bullard transliterates ASL, rather than translates or glosses. I found it easy to read and understand, but it might be difficult for English users.
4. Mickey’s Harvest by Howard Leslie Terry (2015)
Note: The deaf author wrote this between 1917 and 1922, and it was published posthumously in 2015.
Best I can describe this as is a deaf Roaring Twenties Huckleberry Finn. The story follows Mickey, who loses his hearing after a prolonged illness brought on by a shipwreck that left him orphaned and exposed on the sea for days, and how he became immersed in deaf culture and traveled the U.S. meeting other deaf people.
5. The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais (2019)
This book is for a YA audience, and written by a Hard of Hearing author, who represents the experiences of a deaf girl in mainstream (hearing) school. Through her character Maya, Gervais very realistically shows how deaf people might navigate a hearing environment and react to barriers and discrimination in and out of school. The emotions and reactions throughout the novel are very authentic. I will say that Gervais’ choice to gloss reduces the ASL to broken English, which is highly unfortunate. I’m fluent in English and ASL, and I found the gloss difficult to understand because it is divorced from the context of its grammar. From the reviews by hearing people it seems most readers do not have a problem with it, but I worry how non-signing readers are forming understandings of ASL based on this glossed dialog.
Note: This novel also includes a boy with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), but this character fails to pass the dog replacement test. You can replace Connor with a dog, and it does not impact the story in a meaningful way. Essentially, Connor is included as a plot device, and the narrative surrounding him is very inspiration porn-heavy.
6. Four Days in Michigan by Philip Zazove (2010)
An instalove story featuring a deaf Jewish woman who educates her hearing love interest (and by extension the reader) all about 1940s deaf culture. This book is written to teach hearing readers about deaf culture, so as a deaf reader it was hard to get through. I didn’t like the story or the characters, though. Check out my Goodreads review for details.
7. The Deaf Heart by Willy Conley (2015)
This story follows Max, first white deaf man to be accepted into a biological photography program at Galveston. The deafness itself is handled well and is very accurate, which makes sense because the author is deaf. My issues are with the racism and misogyny throughout the novel. Check out my Goodreads review for details, as well as Davy’s, who agreed with me four years before I read it.
8. Deafening by Frances Itani (2003)
This book, a historical fiction written by the descendent of a Deaf woman, is extensively researched. The author even claims she learned ASL to write it. Grania, the deaf protagonist, is well-written as far as representation goes, and she is rooted in history. I had to take off some points because there are some things that challenge my suspension of disbelief, and the story is divided between Grania and a hearing man. If you’re interested in my talking points on this representation, check out my Goodreads review.
9. Sister and Brother by Agneta Pleijel (2010), translated by Harald Hille (2018)
Written by a hearing descendent of the famous deaf painter, Albert Berg (the Swedish one, not the Indiana one who coached football at Gallaudet University), this historical fiction examines the lives of both Albert and his younger hearing sister Helena. There’s a lot about this that is realistic and sad, especially about how deaf people were treated. My Goodreads review contains a few examples, but they could be considered spoilers.
10. This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender (2018)
This hearing author writes a YA romance that casts Oliver, deaf since ten years old, in the role of the love interest. Oliver can’t lipread to save his life, which is highly refreshing given the number of deaf characters who can read everything they see. Callender also chooses to describe signs rather than translate or gloss them, but it was a little difficult to follow at times. Overall, an accurate and respectful representation.
11. Waiting for a Sign by Etsy Schachter (2014)
This is a literary fiction book by a hearing author who worked for three years as a secretary at the Massachusetts State Association of the Deaf. She thanks quite a lot of readers for their help, but it’s not clear whether they are deaf. The narrator is a hearing girl, a sibling of a deaf adult (SODA), with a hearing savior complex. This book is a little odd and disjointed because the author wanted to write two stories at the same time, but as far the deaf representation goes, I feel a little…meh. The deaf representation is through a hearing girl’s perspective, so although she intellectually understands some of the issues, she doesn’t understand them emotionally. In fact, none of the issues surrounding the treatment of deaf characters in this novel are ever resolved, or even critically examined. I have to link my Goodreads review to explain my visceral reaction to it. The representation isn’t necessarily bad; it just feels icky often because it’s colored by a hearing writer’s ignorance.
Note: I have to say that I do not recommend this book to deaf readers who are sensitive to non-accommodating hearing family dynamics. In that Ian, the deaf character, is treated like trash. It was triggering for me personally, and it pains me to place this so high on the ranking.
12. You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner (2017)
Another YA novel, this one by a hearing author who mentions several deaf sensitivity readers—and yet the book has quite a few inaccuracies. (Principals of deaf schools actually aren’t required to sign fluently, and I can’t name a single deaf person who feels the shitty caption devices at cinemas are a superpower. Yikes.) Despite the mistakes in representation, the reason this ranks higher than some is because it has a lot more representation. There are several deaf characters, including the protagonist, her friend, and her two mothers. For the most part, the representation is authentic, but it would have been nice if these characters were more fleshed out.
13. The Acupuncture Murders by Dwight Steward (1973)
Going into this, I had such low expectations for the story and the representation that I found myself shocked by how well done it is. What we’ve got here is basically a deaf Sherlock Holmes, and the deafness aspect is fairly accurate. I can find no information on the author, so I can only assume it is a pen name. Check out my Goodreads review for more.
14. A Notorious Vow (The Four Hundred #3) by Joanna Shupe (2018)
This historical romance by a hearing author does pretty well with representing a late-deafened man who lives a semi-reclusive life. He doesn’t belong in the hearing world because of discrimination, but also feels he doesn’t belong in the deaf community because he’s late-deafened (which is admittedly odd, since late-deafness wasn’t uncommon back then, but I guess Shupe didn’t want to write in a bunch of other deaf characters). Shupe also acknowledges the help of a CODA and ASL interpreter in writing Oliver. There is some clear confusion about the differences between French Sign Language and American Sign Language, for which I had to deduct points. For specifics, check out my Goodreads review.
15. Cane River by Lalita Tademy (2002)
This is a deeply researched historical fiction set in antebellum Louisiana, where French was the main language. The deaf character is an enslaved woman named Palmire, an older sister of one of the main characters. Although she is not a main character, Palmire makes several appearances and is referenced many times throughout the novel, and I spot no inaccuracies.
16. Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz (2011)
Here’s a YA literary fiction. This hearing author hopes to make the Deaf communities of Washington, D.C. and Providence, R.I. proud with this representation of a six-year-old deaf boy named Gideon, but I admit it definitely triggered me. You could probably tell from my ranting Goodreads review. The novel is from the perspective of a SODA, who doesn’t seem to realize or care about Gideon’s needs or wants, which unfortunately is very common. As far as the deaf representation goes, this is pretty accurate: a deaf child literally just existing in a family that does not want to communicate.
17. 27 Hours by Tristina Wright (2017)
This hearing author writes a pretty accurate Deaf character in this YA novel about colonizers “discovering” the indigenous are intelligent and cultured. Nyx has rechargeable hearing aids, gets sensory fatigue when straining to hear even with her hearing aids, and she signs with her abuela, who is also Deaf (they use a mix of ASL and home signs). There are a few problems with the representation, such as her love interest Dahlia being a poor signer at the beginning of the novel and within a few hours becoming an expert interpreter.
Note: I would feel remiss if I didn’t inform potential readers of the serious problems with this novel. Aimal’s review touches on important themes, such as racism and colonialism, and discusses them in-depth without any major spoilers. Please consider reading it before picking up the book.
18. St. Nacho’s by Z.A. Maxfield (2008)
All in all, this representation of a deaf gay character wasn’t bad, but there are some poorly written places in this gay erotica novel. My biggest complaint is that it’s not clear where the author’s [mis]understanding of deafness aligns with the narrator’s. Check out my Goodreads review for details.
19. Talk Under Water by Kathryn Lomer (2015)
A YA instalove story by a hearing author who cites multiple resources and deaf advisers, and yet can’t write a fleshed-out or dynamic deaf character. Although the physiological and social realities are fairly accurate, Summer (a teen deaf girl) is stagnant and boring. She exists so that the hearing character, Will, can learn and grow into a hearing savior figure. For a detailed discussion, see my Goodreads review.
20. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (2017)
Written by a hearing author, this YA novel features a very diverse cast of characters–BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disabled, etc. Emil Choi is not a main character, though he is a love interest to the narrator. He has Ménière’s disease, which makes him late-deafened, and he identifies as hard of hearing. He unabashedly wears hearing aids, and has been wearing them since a few months before the start of the novel. All of this is fantastic! Except the author seems to be confused about how hearing aids are worn and used. For specifics, check out my Goodreads review discussing them.
21. Speechless by Adam P. Schmitt (2018)
This bildungsroman book, written by a hearing author with no mention of sensitivity readers, is an okay representation of a deaf character, Sofia (who’s 9 years old during the “present” of the storyline). She’s not featured much, but the author makes sure we are aware of her deafness whenever she shows up. I’ve noticed that Schmitt has an unfortunate tendency to infantilize Sofia. For specifics, check out my Goodreads review.
22. The Sharp Teeth of Love by Doris Betts (1997)
The deaf rep in this adult literary book is inconsistent, all over the place, and often not well done at all. For details of where the author went wrong (every other page), check out my Goodreads review.
23. Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (2004), translated by Brian FitzGibbon (2013)
This is a literary fiction about a young, unlucky woman who wins the lottery and goes on a road trip. And she gets roped into taking her friend’s deaf son along for the ride. If Ólafsdóttir mentioned any deaf advisers or sensitivity readers, it wasn’t included in my translation. I also must admit that I don’t know anything about deaf culture in Iceland, so I can’t say anything about that. I will say this: the child in the novel, Tumi, wears hearing aids (which never seem to run out of batteries), signs, and speaks. He’s not really an involved character, and actually, he’s a plot device to bring the protagonist and her love interest together in the end. He doesn’t appear much, despite being with the protagonist for the majority of the novel, and he also doesn’t do much or say much. I’m not sure that Tumi passes the dog replacement test, either.
24. Star Trek: Troublesome Minds by Dave Galanter (2009)
I won’t say you need to be a Star Trek fan (aka a Trekkie) to enjoy this story, but I am willing to be corrected by anyone who has never seen the show and proceeds to not understand or enjoy the book. Anyway, Galanter worked at Gallaudet University for five years, so he does have an understanding of deaf culture and signing. This story is about a telepathic race who call themselves Isitri. They have evolved with no speech apparatus, but they can use signs to communicate with non-telepaths. Some Isitri are born deaf, but it is a non-issue for a telepathic people, of course. The Isitri have a wrist device that translates their signs, which unfortunately smacks of those horrible signing gloves, but fit right in with the Star Trek universe. I did like that the universal translator needed time to figure out grammar, so we first see the signed grammar—almost like a gloss—and then over time it is translated into Standard [English]. Only one character in the novel is explicitly deaf (Meshu), and she is obviously unable to lipread or communicate effectively with non-telepaths. It’s not badly done; there’s just not much representation to rate here.
25. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (1392), translated by Gerald J. Davis (2016)
In this classic collection of Middle English literature, the deaf character (named either Alice or Alison) tells a short personal experience narrative that includes much domestic violence. Her fifth husband, Jenkin, struck her in the head and deafened her in one ear. She is noted to be very boisterous, though this may just be her personality and not because she cannot hear well.
26. Halloween Party (Fear Street #8) by R. L. Stine (1990)
Here we have a YA thriller. Stine, a hearing author, writes a deaf teen named Niki. Unfortunately, her nickname is “Funny Face,” and it’s all the worse because we have no context or explanation for this. I can’t help but think a sensitivity reader would have been able to point this out to him. The representation itself is a bit muddy—Stine claims Niki is “nearly deaf,” but she seems to be totally deaf. For specifics, check out my Goodreads review.
27. Dragonswood (Wilde Island Chronicles #2) by Janet Lee Carey (2013)
Written by a presumably hearing author who doesn’t mention any sensitivity readers, this fantasy YA novel features a half-deaf narrator named Tess. Her left ear, puckered like a cauliflower, is profoundly deaf from multiple beatings. And yet she still seems to hear better than hearing people, and the author makes this deaf ear hear magical fey voices—inexplicably, considering hearing people are just able to straight up hear these voices in their totally functional ears. For details, see my Goodreads review. But overall, Tess’s deafness is rarely referenced, and she behaves as a hearing person throughout the novel.
Note: This book also features Tanya, a burn survivor, who uses an illusion spell to hide the scars and appear unblemished. She’s mortified when her “secret” scars are revealed by a mirror. Unfortunately, Tanya hides away, and we don’t see her again.
28. Beyond Paradise by Elizabeth Doyle (2003)
A historical romance novel with a strong female lead and pirates? And one of those pirates is deaf? Bring it! This novel, written by a hearing author without sensitivity readers, was great! Until it wasn’t. Jacques is an excellent (spot-on, actually) representation of a hard of hearing character. He’s multilingual, can lipread in the right lighting and if the speaker is facing him, and rejects pity, among other things. But the author inexplicably decided to make a dramatic reveal that he’s not hard of hearing, but (gasp!) completely deaf since birth, and no mention of any kind of oral education or speech therapy. Now it doesn’t make sense he can lipread one-hundred percent of three spoken languages, and have complete control over his voice’s volume, tone, and pronunciation. For everything wrong with this novel’s representation, see my Goodreads rant. If you read this book, I recommend just ignoring the reveal. Continuing to read him as hard of hearing more or less worked for me.
29. Aquarium by Yaara Shehori (2021), translated by Todd Hasak-Lowy (2022)
This is a stream of consciousness novel with very flowery, metaphorical, and abstract writing. The story is told by two sisters, daughters of deaf parents. The big plot twist—spoiler alert—is that the younger daughter is hearing, not deaf. As far as the deaf rep goes, the number one biggest problem is inconsistency in identity/voice. Shehori wants to show the fluidity of identity, but she could have done that while being respectful and accurate to the deaf experience and culture, which she wasn’t, even though she claims to have had help from interpreters and deaf association members. For everything wrong with this novel, check out my Goodreads essay.
30. The Parrot’s Theorem by Denis Guedj (1998), translated by Frank Wynne (2001)
This book is a math course in a burlesque, most of which I enjoyed except for the absolutely atrocious deaf representation. I am almost positive that in the first draft of this book, 11-year-old Max was not deaf. The author went back in a subsequent draft and just peppered in some overhanded metaphors and references to deafness as a gimmick. Check out my Goodreads review for details.
31. The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton (2015)
For a novel written by a person who has experienced childhood deafness, I found all the audism and inaccuracies in this mystery/thriller super disappointing. Every time the author made a wild or inaccurate claim about deafness, lipreading, tech, and signed language, I wanted to scream and tear the paperback in half. For details, here’s the obligatory Goodreads rant.
32. Soundless by Richelle Mead (2015)
Written by a hearing author with no sign of deaf sensitivity readers, this fantasy YA’s representation is pretty messy. Although there are several accurate instances (such as deaf people being surprised about what things make noises, and attempts to communicate with non-signers), the overall message I got from reading this is that deaf people cannot fight for or save themselves, and literally need a hearing savior to bring divine intervention. I also have tons of questions that really highlight and challenge the author’s ableism, such as her assumption that deafblind people are completely helpless and without communication. To see these questions and more issues I point out, check out my Goodreads review.
Note: The white author is writing exclusively Asian characters. Since I know little about this issue, I will defer to the Asian community’s judgement of the novel. Many people comment on the “Chinese inspiration” in the one-star reviews.
33. Other Nature by Stephanie A. Smith (1995)
I really hated this, largely because Smith is metaphorizing and mythologizing disability and being heavy-handed with the eugenics rhetoric even while trying to couch the novel in mystery. There are several deaf characters, all children, but only one is really featured. Smith’s treatment of him is sickening. Refer to my Goodreads review for details, though I wouldn’t recommend it.
34. The Silence by Tim Lebbon (2016)
I really struggled with whether this was better or worse than Barbarian’s Touch. The only thing that saved this author was that he didn’t make his deaf character out to be helpless. Anyway, Lebbon has clearly never even seen a signing deaf person in his life, and he makes no mention of sensitivity readers. There’s honestly a lot to unpack, so see my Goodreads rant for everything wrong with this novel’s representation of a deaf character.
35. Resident Evil: Retribution by John Shirley (2012)
This official novelization of the 2012 film has tons of issues with the deaf representation. Overall, the deaf character (seven-year-old Becky) would have been much better off dying in the beginning because it started off okay, then plummeted downhill the longer the story went on. For details, check my Goodreads review.
36. Barbarian’s Touch: A SciFi Alien Romance (Book 8 of Ice Planet Barbarians) by Ruby Dixon (2016)
This is an adult fiction (erotica) book by a hearing author who clearly did zero research about deafness and cochlear implants, despite the main character being a deaf woman with cochlear implants. It’s so bad that I’m not going to even bother saying anything here. If you want to know everything wrong with Dixon’s portrayal, see my Goodreads review/essay. (Forest has let me know that Lila does, in fact, have her hearing cured in a med lab later because she wants to hear her baby’s laugh.)
37. A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (2020)
This historical novel features a very brief appearance of a deafened man from Asturias, injured in the Spanish Civil War. His companions joke that they can’t get rid of him because he’s an expert shooter, yet treat him with “clumsy tenderness…as if he were a backward child.” Notably, the hearing characters are given names and voices, while this youth is not. (To be clear, this is in no way, shape or form the worst deaf rep; it’s just so blink-and-you’ll-miss-it.)
Comics and Graphic Novels
1. Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (2019)
This graphic novel is a super cute urban fantasy, with LGBTQ rep, Asian American rep, and deaf rep. We have a hard of hearing character who wears bilateral blue aids (with high visibility!). I don’t see anything unrealistic about this representation, which is highly refreshing.
2. Hawkeye (2012) #19, 22 by Matt Fraction and David Aja (2015)
Marvel comics are in the running! Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) is canonically deaf since 1983, though you wouldn’t know it from the way writers keep erasing that part of his identity. This particular run ranks so highly because of Fraction and Aja’s innovative use of ASL and speech bubbles in their comics. It’s a brilliant way to give the reader a taste of Hawkeye’s experience as a deaf person because there are no translations. We know only what he knows. Fraction and Aja both seem to be hearing, and they don’t acknowledge any sensitivity readers or advisers, so I’m genuinely curious as to how they pulled this off. In #22, which follows up events from #15 (in which a clown stabs him in the ears) and #19 (aka the “deaf issue”), Hawkeye beats up some Bratva, gets beat up himself, and finally gets a pair of bulky purple hearing aids. Fun stuff!
Note: This issue also includes Clint’s brother, Barney, who is injured in the same fight as Clint. Barney uses a wheelchair, and the issue goes on to highlight inaccessible and hostile architecture. The disability representations in this comic are particularly nuanced and great for analysis, which is what several academics have already undertaken.
3. ひだまりが聴こえる (I Hear the Sunspot) series by Yuki Fumino (2014), English release (2017)
Although this manga series is definitely a hearing savior story, it’s full of insights that would serve as inspiration or revelation for hearing readers. Deaf readers would generally already be aware of most of the info and identities presented here. Check out my Goodreads review for more info.
4. Iron Man: Sounds Effects by Marc Sumerak (2014)
You can read this comic online for free here. Okay, so the hearing author of this Marvel comic issue had a lot of help from the Children’s Hearing Institute. In Sound Effects, we have two deaf superheroes: Dr. Pedro Perez (aka Blue Ear), and Samantha Farrell (aka Sapheara). My biggest issue is that both of them actually seem to hear better than hearing people. It’s not that their superpowers make them hear better. It’s the hearing aid and cochlear implant technology, specifically–which is factually incorrect. I take issue with other things, so if you’re at all interested in seeing a critique through a Deaf Studies lens, check out my rewrite project here.
5. West Coast Avengers (2018) #1 – 10 by Kelly Thompson and Stefano Caselli, Daniele di Nicuolo, Gang Hyuk Lim, Moy R. (2018)
In this series, Hawkeye wears his bulky, purple, behind-the-ear aid, but it keeps disappearing and reappearing! And, for the first time, Kate signs Signed Exact English (SEE) to Hawkeye.
6. Hawkeye vs. Deadpool (2014) #0 – 4 by Gerry Dugan and Matteo Lolli (2014)
This is the fan-favorite comic series where people keep claiming that Deadpool is “fluent” in ASL, even though he literally only knows two signs. (It’s his plus-sized Black bestie, Eleanor, who is fluent in ASL and has an extended signed conversation with Hawkeye.) Unfortunately, as far as Hawkeye’s deafness goes, the writing is inconsistent. Sometimes he can hear without lipreading, and other times he is totally dependent on lipreading, and his hearing aid disappears. Not as bad as it could be, but still disappointing.
7. Hawkeye (2016) #13 – 16 by Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero (2017)
Hawkeye joins Kate in LA to figure out who is trying to kill him. We’ve got hearing aid visibility, for the most part, though sometimes it disappears or is flesh-colored. At one point, Hawkeye’s aid is broken in battle, and he switches to a backup behind-the-ear aid, suggesting creators don’t know that there are different types of aids for a reason. Sometimes he struggles to communicate, and sometimes not, so the representation is a little messy.
8. Captain Marvel (2019) #2 – 5 by Kelly Thompson and Carmen Carnero (2019)
One of the best representations of Echo out there, but rife with inconsistencies and small mistakes (as are all other series featuring her). In this series, Echo wears an expression of intense concentration as she lipreads, and Hazmat even signs a little ASL with her. At the very end, Echo is shown with a cell phone-like device that has a flash alert—an excellent real-world touch.
9. All-New Hawkeye (2015) #1 – 6 by Jeff Lemire and Ramón Pérez (2015)
Note: this is “season” 2 of ANH. 20 years after the events of the previous volume, Hawkeye still uses hearing aids. Kate mentions that it is possible to have his hearing “cured,” but he rejects the “Pym-plant” technology (which I’m assuming is analogous to cochlear implants). The series cuts back and forth between the present and future. His hearing aids are often visible, but sometimes flesh-colored rather than purple.
10. Moon Knight (2010) #2 – 10 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (2011)
Echo is working undercover in some kind of prostitution-espionage ring, and blows her cover when she has to save Moon Knight. We see more ableist language, but this is hardly surprising given the ableism throughout Marvel Comics in general. For the first (and only) time, Echo is shown using TTY, and throughout the series she has to remind characters constantly that she needs to speechread them to understand, although writers/artists fail in this a couple of times. Despite that, this is one of the better and more consistent representations of Echo out there.
11. Hawkeye (1983) by Mark Gruenwald (1983)
It’s the O.G. Hawkeye, y’all. The representation of his deafness is not bad. It’s a bit lower on the list because he becomes deaf in the last few pages of the final issue, so there’s not much there to begin with.
12. M.F.K.: Book One by Nilah Magruder (2017)
This middle grade fantasy graphic novel features a protagonist with an assistive listening device. The extent of her deafness is unclear, but I do speculate on it in my Goodreads review. Overall, there’s not much depth to this representation by a hearing creator.
Note: Chapter 4 is up on the MFK website, but it seems the comic is on hiatus or discontinued.
13. Black Widow (2020) #1 – 5, 12 by Kelly Thompson and Elena Casagrande (2020)
There is hearing aid visibility in this series, but it is strange that Hawkeye would remove his aid to put an earpiece radio in, and switch them out. (There’s also a mistake where he is still communicating via the radio, but he is wearing his aid, but they seem to retcon this by making his device a hearing aid and radio in one.) A nice touch is that his aid loops all the way around the shell of his ear for extra stability, since he does parkour and gets knocked around a lot.
Note: There’s more to this series but I haven’t read it yet.
14. Hawkeye: Freefall (2020) #1 – 6 by Matthew Rosenberg and Otto Schmidt (2020)
In this series (which happens to be one of my favorites), the hearing aid visibility is inconsistent. Although Hawkeye seems to miss cues and misunderstand people speaking around him, he does not have issues with communicating through intercoms or listening to voice recordings, which is odd.
15. Daredevil (1998), #9 – 15, 51 – 55 by Glenn Herdling, Gregg Schigiel, David Mack, Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti, Rob Haynes, David Ross(1999)
This series features a ton of ableist rhetoric in general, not just for deafness but also for blindness and for speech and learning disabilities, among other things. We get Maya Lopez (aka Echo)’s backstory, which is that none of the white medical professionals realized she was deaf and placed her in an institution for children with developmental disabilities (though of course the word they use is the r-slur). The writers also demonstrate their ignorance of how real deaf people use technology at several points, having Echo be unable to decipher the “secrets of the telephone” despite VRS and TTY having been fairly mainstream since the 1970s.
16. All-New Hawkeye (2015) #1 – 5 by Jeff Lemire and Ramón Pérez (2015)
Note: this is “season” 1 of ANH. This series follows Fraction and Aja’s retcon of Hawkeye’s hearing, having him experience childhood deafness. As an adult, Hawkeye wears in-canal hearing aids (provided by Tony Stark) that also function as long-range communication devices. Unfortunately, when Hawkeye takes out his aid he is unable to hear anything at all, and with it in he can hear whispers—which isn’t how hearing aids work.
17. New Avengers (2004) #11 – 13, 27 – 34, 36 – 39, 48 by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch, Leinil Francis Yu, Marko Djurdjevic, David Mack(2005)
Maya Lopez appears as both Ronin and Echo in this series, although she is unconscious for several issues. We start off strong with the deaf representation, with Maya texting/emailing people, not responding to masked characters, etc. But after she regains consciousness and rejoins the fight, the writers start to lose the thread of her deafness. She responds to masked characters, is able to understand and respond to other characters during all-out melees, and so on. Even when she does ask for clarification or repeats, her teammates respond condescendingly to her (#36 in particular). In one fight, she seems to get in the way of her teammates, when this is something that has never happened before, and seems to be written solely to help justify erasing her from the narrative.
18. Captain America (2018) #9, 12, 14-16 by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Adam Kubert (2019)
Echo is a member of the Daughters of Liberty, and she does participate in conversations to a small extent, although it’s not clear how well she’s following the discussion with everyone riffing off one another. She takes out a bunch of men who have been partially incapacitated already by a noise that doesn’t affect her, but in the next couple of issues she disappears from the narrative entirely.
19. Daredevil (2015) #21, #599 – 600 by Charles Soule and Goran Sudzuka (2017)
In this series, Daredevil isn’t allowed to touch/harm the baddies he’s trying to put away, so brings in Echo. He shadow punches, and Echo replicates his movements in real-time, punishing the bad guys at his behest. Despite this badass moment, she’s not a central character throughout the rest of her appearances.
Note: This series is part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel arc.
20. Generation X #3 by Christina Strain (2017)
This hearing writer gives us a comic book issue featuring a deafblind character named Face. To me, this is the best representation of Face out there…Which says a lot about how poorly this character is treated. This comic suggests independence: Face is found unconscious and alone in Central Park—how did he get there? He must have been taking a walk when he was attacked. This demonstrates the reality that deafblind people do in fact have lives. His classmates bring him back to the school infirmary and discuss reading his memory. Quentin says, “He’s blind, deaf, and mute. I’d get as much out of his pitch-black mindscape as I get talking to you. Nothing.” (Boom, roasted.) They assume here that Face is unable to record memories in an accessible format. When Face wakes up, Strain also demonstrates that he is able to communicate effectively by tapping Morse Code, and can understand it being tapped back on his hand. It would have been nice, though, if they had interacted with him more instead of getting the information from him and leaving him alone.
Fun Fact: Thomas Alva Edison (you may know him as the “inventor” of the lightbulb) was deaf, and one of his friends, Miller Hutchinson, would often tap Morse Code on Edison’s knee to help him follow along during meetings. (Source: Edmund Morris’ 2019 biography Edison.)
21. New Mutants #17 – 19, 25, 28, 33, 44, 49 – 50 by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (2009)
These comic book writers and artists apparently tried their best with this representation of a deafblind character. Face (real name unknown) has the power to explode objects with his mind. Unfortunately, before he learned to control it, he accidentally blew off the front of his own head, resulting in the lack of four senses (hearing, sight, taste, and smell). Since then, he is completely isolated because no one bothers to communicate with him. His “team” literally puts him on a leash and uses him for his powers, directing him on where to aim the explosions by tapping Morse Code on his head until the New Mutants rescue him. A telepath named Karma is able to communicate with him directly, but when she is not there (which is most of the time), Face just sits around looking pretty. They don’t even bother to teach him any methods of communication like ProTactile or writing, though that’s not really surprising considering they haven’t given him a real name, either!
22. Avengers/Invaders (2008) #2, 4 – 8 by Jim Krueger, Alex Ross & Steve Sadowski (2008)
In this series, Maya has a small role despite her being on the team. She is mocked in this series—specifically, Spider-Man covers her eyes, cutting off her ability to communicate effectively. Later, after Echo is able to take out the villain D’Spayre, Dr. Strange commends the fact that she literally saved all of them by saying her “inadequacies” and “infirmities” (i.e., her deafness) are reasons to “rejoice” rather than “despair.” Even though Maya has never, not once, been despairing about her deafness.
23. Secret Invasion (2008) #1 – 3, 5 – 6, 8 by Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu (2008)
The Skrulls are taking over, and Echo, still a member of the team, is helping to stop them…sort of. She’s very much a background character in this series, only appearing in panels here and there.
24. Avengers: No Road Home (2019) #3, 9 by Mark Waid, Jim Zub, Al Ewing, Paco Medina (2019)
In this series, there’s no indication of Hawkeye’s deafness until issue #3, when Hulk references his “hearing loss” being the least of his worries, and again in #9, when Euphoria asks Hawkeye his deepest desire.
25. West Coast Avengers (1985) #1 – 5 by Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom (1985)
The writers of this series seem to keep forgetting Hawkeye is deaf. They started out strong—Hawkeye and Mockingbird are making out on the couch when the doorbell rings, which Hawkeye doesn’t hear. But in general, there is no indication that he is deaf at all, except a few quips from The Thing here and there. By issue #6, there are no longer any references to his deafness.
26. Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices (2020) #1 by Darcie Little Badger, Taboo, B. Earl, Weshoyot Alvitre, David Cutler (2020)
This short comic features Echo being tricked into helping Loki fight a god on another planet. We also see Echo with a smartphone, showing her text messages, though it is broken during a fight and she tosses it in the trash. Carol signs briefly to her, but it’s more about showing off than communicating effectively. Unfortunately, while this story starts off well, the writers quickly lose the thread of Echo’s deafness: She is able to communicate perfectly with aliens (no mention of different mouth shapes or accents), and responds to people speaking behind her.
27. Avengers (1963) #239 by Roger Stern and Al Milgrom (1984)
It’s the Avengers on Late Night with David Letterman! Not a dated reference at all. Following the events of Hawkeye (1983) #4, Hawkeye rejoins the Avengers team. He and Mockingbird make repeated references to his “slight hearing loss” and how he is “a little hard of hearing,” despite the fact that he is shown to be unable to hear or understand voices at all. Much of this is exaggerated by Stern for perceived humorous effect, so I’ve got to dock points.
28. Captain America (1968) #310 – 11 by Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary (1985)
After much self-debate, I have decided to include the original two appearances of Gustav Kruger (aka Rattler). In his Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Gruenwald notes that Rattler is 80% deaf in both ears and wears hearing aids, though this is never made explicit in the series. In issues #310 and #311, the Serpent Society are obviously providing accommodations to someone: talking points printed on brochures; sitting in semi-circles; etc. Rattler is shown taking advantage of these, and has a look/posture of intense concentration during meetings.
29. Daredevil #285 – 289 by Ann Nocenti (1964)
I’m not saying this is the worst representation of a deaf character I’ve ever seen. I’m just saying that in this comic series, the hearing writer devotes a single line referencing Nyla Skin’s deafness: “I’m pretty deaf myself. You know—too much rock’n’roll.” The entire five issues in which Nyla appears do not allude to her deafness in any way, shape, or form.
30. World War Hulk (2007) #2 – 3 by Greg Pak and John Romita Jr (2007)
Although Echo appears and interacts with hearing characters in these comic issues, there is no mention or indication of her deafness at all.
Short Stories / Flash Fiction
1. “Feast” by Ross Showalter (2022)
Written by a deaf author, this short story actually brought me to tears—the anxiety the hearing aid-wearing narrator feels as the only deaf person at the party is potent, relatable: “Every party was a feast of sound and mouths and consumption, nothing for me to hold on to.” Click the title link to read this story!
2. “Of Silence and Slow Time” by Karawynn Long (1995)
This short story is set in a dystopic future where all embryos undergo gene testing to find those with genes for disabilities and force replacement therapy. The deaf main character, Marina, enlists the help of Jeff in ensuring her baby is born deaf. The signed dialog is transliterated (as opposed to translated or glossed), and Marina uses an “interpreter,” more accurately a transcriber, a machine that renders speech to text. The descriptions of speechreading are very accurate.
3. “Reconstructing Cleider Rodman” by Alice Terry (1921)
Written by a deaf author, this short story encapsulates the concept of deaf-same and found family, resisting the oralist narrative of “restoration to [hearing] society” and instead emphasizing a restoration to happiness. Irene, a deaf woman, runs into an apparently homeless veteran, Cleider, who was deafened in the first world war. Cleider, who tried and failed to lipread, runs away from home after his family and friends refuse to learn signs with him. Irene takes him into her family as a brother.
4. “Dolly’s Sweetheart” by Douglas Tilden (1899)
Written by a deaf author, this story features different signing systems such as the Rochester method. A young man called Glyde begins to learn sign language from several church-going young ladies, and he tells them to keep secret their engagements. He’s courting multiple women at once, you see. The preacher tells Glyde’s father, who explodes and forces his son to marry the first young woman in order to protect her reputation. It’s a whole thing.
5. “The Message of the Rosary” by Alice Nicholson (1921)
Written by a deaf author, this story features Dorothy Worth, a deafened Gallaudet student who speaks. Her parents are supportive of her deaf identity, but are non-signing. In Florida, she has a chance encounter with Floyd, a deaf oral real estate agent (he attended Gallaudet and does sign, but his family doesn’t), and here we have the instalove trope. But both assume the other is hearing even when they chat with one another and socialize. It’s pretty funny and has a happy ending!
6. “Dummy” by Howard T Hofsteater (1930)
Written by a deaf author, this sad story features a deaf man called Dummy (in reference to his muteness), who is best friends with his neighbor, Miriam, a young hearing woman. Miriam and Dummy created a system of home signs, which his younger brother also picked up. Every year they go pick walnuts together, but not this year. Mysteriously, Dummy is told to come back later with his family. The story follows Dummy as he tries to puzzle this out. To the reader it is obvious that the big event is Miriam’s wedding, but since this takes place in a different time and Dummy has never been away from home for more than two days in all his 23 years, it is fairly realistic that Dummy doesn’t understand what’s happening.
7. “Jerry and Clarinda” by W. Henry Bishop (c. 1888)
Bishop has clearly done his homework in writing this short story with two deaf characters, but I can find no biographical info about how he came to this info. There are very accurate portrayals throughout of how deaf people communicate (through signs and writing, including a demonstration of deaf written grammar). Interestingly, Bishop also shows his awareness of the deaf community’s opinions on deaf-deaf marriage.
8. “The Limner” by Julian Barnes (2008)
Written by a hearing author, the narrator, Wadsworth, is a deaf painter who is offended by a client who keeps trying to speak to him. Wadsworth cannot lipread or speak intelligibly, and gesturing with hearing people is often a humiliating guessing game, so he usually writes back and forth instead. Deaf gain: “Wadsworth did not see that speaking was in itself a promoter of virtue. His own advantages were only two: that he could represent on canvas those who spoke, and could silently perceive their meaning. It would have been foolish to give away this second advantage.”
9. “Chasm” by Ross Showalter (2022)
Calvin has recently moved to his parents’ house between graduating Deaf school and attending Gallaudet University and pretends to go to church youth group (at parents’ behest). He actually sits alone at a diner for two hours rather than struggle with signing-impaired people. He wears hearing aids and signs, and it seems only his father knows how to at least fingerspell. The story takes a sharp, sinister turn.
10. “Laurens Beecher, Christian” by Alice T. Terry (1915)
Written by a deaf author, this short story features deaf ten-year-old Benny, deafened at two from meningitis, on a camping trip with his oral English teacher. Despite the fact that he hardly speaks, Quiz boasts that while other teachers over four years could not make progress with him, he has. Prof Platt is dubious as he can see in Benny’s eyes “a state of undeveloped intellect.” (As in he has been taught nothing even though he is capable of learning.) Benny ends up getting lost in the woods, where a legislator on vacation finds him and realizes he has the power and a “Christian duty” to help deaf children. After personally investigating oral and signing schools, Beecher practically singlehandedly bans oral schools in the state. It’s a very idealistic story that heroicizes white hearing men, but the point of this story is to stroke egos and persuade legislators to ban oralism.
11. “Little Changes, Little Child” by Ross Showalter (2020)
A hearing father muses about his deaf son, who attends the deaf institute in Texas, and the family’s home life. His wife, Martha, had been called into work and couldn’t come with John to pick up their son Aaron for the summer. John has been practicing ASL. He enters the gym, full of raucous children, and checks in with the principal, who then goes to retrieve Aaron for him from the mass. At first he doesn’t recognize Aaron (it’s been 5 months), and he can’t keep up with Aaron’s signing. Ends on a sad note.
12. “Love Conquers All” by Lawrence Newman (1944)
Written by a deaf author, this short story chronicles the changing perspectives a deaf-hearing family, particularly of Mrs. Marlowe, the hearing mother of a deaf daughter, Jean, who marries a deaf man named Eric. Her despair and pity of their deafness, and her intense desire for abled grandchildren, soon turn to insatiable love and devotion. While all three want baby Anthony to be hearing, he is deaf.
13. “The Youngest Miss Piper” by Bret Harte (c. 1903)
A short story by a hearing author, which I personally enjoyed! You can read it by clicking the title above. The narrator starts off by trying to explain to the reader why not many people like Miss Delaware Piper, and dismisses many potential reasons, including a “slight deafness.” She advocates for herself: She alludes to her “deaf ear,” and tells people to speak louder or come closer. The only person she can understand with no problem is Thomas Sparrell, a man with a disabled leg, which essentially causes a sensation when it comes out that they are lovers. Del speaks a bit differently from other characters too—what comes across as a Southern dialect can easily be construed as a “deaf accent.”
14. “A Kind of Murder” by Hugh Pentecost (1962)
A sad short story by a hearing author, which you can read by clicking the title above. This representation is pretty well-written. The deaf character, Mr. Warren, has “pleasant but flat voice,” and is painfully unable to discipline his students. The boys immediately discern he’s deaf, and decide to make Mr. Warren’s life hell, ultimately costing him his job.
15. “Mumu” by Ivan S. Turgenev (1884)
A hearing man wrote this short story, which you can read free by clicking the above title. There are a few discrepancies, but the descriptions in this story are mostly ambiguous enough that we can read this as an accurate representation. Gerasim is a very tall deaf man, taken from his rural village to work as a serf in the city for an old lady. The other servants communicate with him through “signs.” (Signs probably means gestures rather than signed language, but it’s not very clear.) They make repeated references to Gerasim as a devil/beast/creature, wild man of the woods, and monster of the steppes. Overall, it’s an okay representation, but the message comes across to me as deaf people can’t have companionship.
16. “Fairer than the Sun” by Juozas Grušas (1958)
This short story features a deaf lumberjack, Adam, who is infantilized by the author and bullied by his hearing peers. There’s a lot of self-pitying from Adam, who is probably the best lumberjack of all the men. He seems to have some residual hearing, responding to some men who yell in his ear, and he speaks rather than signs/gestures.
17. “Chickamauga” by Ambrose Bierce (1891)
This short story features a 6-year-old deaf-mute son of a poor planter and war veteran. He gets lost one night in the woods and sleeps through a skirmish with musket fire and screams. Waking up, he wanders and sees hundreds of injured/maimed white men crawling along the ground, and watches and laughs because he doesn’t understand, and in fact begins to lead this procession before finding his way home. Bierce notes that the boy can gesture and howl “like a devil.”
Warning: racist rhetoric throughout story.
18. “Deaf and Blind” by Lara Vapnyar (2017)
Click the title above to read this short fiction for free on The New Yorker. This hearing author writes the story of a young girl meeting a deafblind man named Sasha for the first time. It’s not a bad representation, but it is fairly brief and somewhat superficial, and we don’t get a lot of information aside from Sasha’s backstory. The narrator’s grandparents, particularly her grandfather, make a big deal out of Sasha’s deafblindness. They have questions like, “How can you be both deaf and blind?” and “Is he neat with the toilet?” When Olga and Sasha come to dinner, the narrator even turns down a skiing trip with her absent father for the novelty of meeting a deafblind man. I have a couple of questions myself: 1) How did Olga learn tactile sign? And 2) In the end, Sasha and Olga marry. When Olga dies young, Sasha remarries within a year to another woman who left her husband for him. What is the message here? That women fall heads over heels for him because it’s certain a deafblind man loves you for you, rather than for your looks/voice?
19. “Dolphins” by Ross Showalter (2019)
Ranked low because it’s very short. The narrator wears hearing aids. They are drinking and flirting with a friend while a documentary on dolphins plays.
20. “Water Through Our Hands” by Ross Showalter (2019)
Maya, a Coda ASL interpreter, is hired to interpret for deaf student at a local university. The two deaf students in this story aren’t particularly active, and while Maya’s memories of her deaf mother are more prominent, deaf characters don’t feature centrally here.
21. “Deaf, Dumb and Blind” by H.P. Lovecraft and C.M. Eddy Jr. (1925)
You can read this short horror by clicking on the title above. These authors create the debonair author Richard Blake, who has been deaf, blind, mute, and paraplegic for six years, having been injured in World War I. But the thing is, they never actually present him (living) to the reader. He’s living in a haunted house with his manservant/caretaker/interpreter, who goes mad and leaves him there! When Dobbs doesn’t come at his summons, Blake assumes his bell is broken and pounds on the table instead. Then he starts to get worried and begins to write on his typewriter to distract himself. He ends up recording the sensations he experiences: vibrations, smells, someone’s presence—and about this “hellish thing [that] had defied those shattered senses of sight and sound and penetrated so disastrously to the delicate intelligence that brooded in external darkness and silence.” In short, the beings are able to make him hear and see them before they kill them.
22. “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway (1961)
Hemingway is a hearing author writing this short story, but the deaf character is not the focus. Rather, the focus is on the attitudes of two men. An old deaf man, about 80 years old, is drinking alone as the waiters gossip and complain about him. The waiter who serves him insults him as he pours his brandy: “You should have killed yourself last week.” The old man doesn’t hear him, of course, and thanks him for the service. When the old man asks for another brandy, the waiter goes to him: “Finished,” he said, speaking with that omission of syntax stupid people employ when talking to drunken people or foreigners. “No more tonight. Close now.” The old man pays and leaves, and the waiters get back to talking and closing up. You can read this by clicking on the title above.
23. “The Deaf-Mute” by Guy de Maupassant (1903)
The deaf character, Gargan, appears very briefly, but one of the hearing characters tells a story about him that takes up the bulk of the story. The story is written as an epistolary by the narrator, who is writing to his friends in Paris to explain why he’s not back from hunting. Gargan is a shepherd who can speechread a bit and gestures. Only his master Picot is able to fully understand his gestures, and Gargan can fully understand only Picot. When he goes to court, Picot served as interpreter as Gargan pantomimes what happened.
Warning: misogyny abounds in this story.
24. “Night Moves” by Ross Showalter (2020)
The narrator of this short story is a hearing psychologist who met a young deaf man (who wears hearing aids) at an informal ASL class at the gay bar. When they start dating, he promises to learn ASL for this young man, who starts teaching him but is impatient with his slow progress. After the breakup, the narrator has trouble sleeping and often wakes to find his hands forming signs he barely uses/knows, moving of their own accord.
25. “Operator, Say the Number’s No Good” by Ross Showalter (2021)
The deaf character, Todd, who wears a cochlear implant, does not actually appear in this story; he is more like a presence in the mind of the narrator, an insecure hearing man who feels threatened by Todd because he is the ex-boyfriend of his live-in boyfriend.
26. “No Other You” by Ross Showalter (2021)
A short epistolary story in the POV of Cait (hearing), who works at NASA, corresponding with her father about an extraterrestrial intellectual/cultural exchange. Cait has a doppelganger named Michele, who has bilateral deafness. Michele wears her hair long to hide her hearing devices so as not to be set apart from others, although she does communicate through a signed language interpreter. Cait learns a bit of sign to communicate with Michele, and wants Dad to meet her. Michele does not actually appear in the story, as we only get what Cait writes about her.
27. “Tinnitus” by Ross Showalter (2021)
A very short story featuring a narrator who wears hearing aids and can hear car engines with/without them, even over the tinnitus that plagues him.
28. “Gargoyle” by Edwina Stanton Babcock (1922)
Written by a hearing author, this short story features a boy called “Gargoyle” (his actual name is John), whom I assume may have Goldenhar Syndrome, just from the description of his “grotesque face and figure.” I’m confused about whether John is deaf, and having read this three times I still haven’t figured it out. At one point, the doctor takes John away with him to discuss his condition and the possibility of schooling with another doctor. The doctor sends an update saying John can now speak, although he doesn’t know any words. So it’s clear he’s receiving oral training. An unknown amount of time passes, and the doctor brings John home. He cautions everyone against references to his “former condition.” John now speaks perfectly, and there is no mention of him lipreading, though he responds when spoken to, and he’s noted to be “listening” later on. John and Mrs. Strang have a conversation, and John asks her to confirm whether everyone thought he was “deaf and dumb” until he was twelve years old. Mrs. Strang admits that they knew he did not speak, but they were never sure that he could not hear—a bit strange, since it would be obvious if he could hear by whether he responded to auditory stimuli. John casually wishes he had not been educated because it made him forget what he knew before. You can read this by clicking the title above. (If you figure out whether or not he’s deaf, let me know!)
29. “The Shaman Painting” by Tong-ni Kim (1974), translated by John Holstein (2009)
This short literary piece, written by a hearing man, recounts how a shaman is so determined to restore her daughter’s hearing that she essentially drowns herself. The daughter has apparently been deaf and non-vocal for years, and is wasting away. Very brief appearance, not a lot of information about her, and she seems to miraculously recover. You can read this online by clicking the above title.
#0: “The Christmas Present” by Richmal Crompton (1922)
I definitely feel cheated after reading this short humorous story. It doesn’t have any deaf characters at all! The Crewe’s hereditary deafness is faked. Starting with Mary’s great-grandmother, the women in this family mysteriously become deaf in middle age, much to their husbands’ frustration. But they’re pretending to be deaf to get some peace and quiet. (Relatable, but come on.) Honestly, I saw it coming since it’s not subtle at all, but it was still disappointing. I’m including it here, not as an actual part of the ranking, because I’ve seen it saved to lists of stories with deaf characters, and want to make it abundantly clear that there are in fact zero deaf characters in this story! You can read this for free by clicking the title above.
1. Tripping the Tale Fantastic, edited by Christopher Jon Heuer (2017)
I have no complaints about these stories containing deaf characters. Why would I, when all these stories are by deaf or hard of hearing authors?
Titles with explicitly deaf characters are:
- “The Meaning, not the Words” by Kristen Ringman
- “The Ear” by Willy Conley
- “Family Dog” by Raymond Luczak
- “The Vibrating Mouth” by John Lee Clark
- “The Job” by Maverick Smith
- “The Climax” by Tonya Maria Stremlau
- “In the Haunted Darkness” by Michael R. Collins
- “Spirit Box” by Kristen Harmon
- “Understanding” by Kelsey M. Young
- “Online Dating” by Daniel Crosby
Other titles metaphorize deafness, such as “Hearing Aid” by David Langford and “Rui’s Story” by Bobby Cox and Joanne Yee.
2. Deaf American Prose (1980–2010), edited by Kristen Harmon and Jennifer L. Nelson (2012)
Again, no complaints. This anthology includes 48 (mostly fiction) stories. Some stories are POV deaf or hearing, some are excerpts from larger stories, etc. There’s a real variety. Some stories have triggering content, including use of the r-slur.
My personal favorites: “Whispering with Cranes” by Pamela Wright and “Dandelion” by Allison Polk. Check out the Table of Contents here!
Note: “Nympholepsy,” “Goodbye, My Valentine,” and “The Influence of the Spanish Inquisition on Colonial Europe” do not have explicitly deaf characters.
3. No Walls of Stone, edited by Jill Jepson (1992)
This anthology contains a variety of deaf lit, mostly poems and one play. There are a few short stories with deaf characters:
- “On the Seawall” – excerpted from The Deaf Heart (full novel ranked on this list).
- “The Finer Things” – a deaf gay man meets a hearing gay man who shows him the art world.
- “Inner Ears” – a girl with hearing loss tries to pass as hearing: “I cheat, lie, guess, bluff, and piece clues together.”
- “To Your Health” – a hearing impaired character obsessed with researching a cure.
- “Christmas Cheer” – dinner table syndrome at family gathering, outside looking in; narrator fights this framework, instead working with family to plan around hearing loss to ensure she can participate.
Upcoming Books to be Ranked (alphabetized by title)
Underlined titles are ones I have read but have not yet added to the ranking (probably because I haven’t written the Goodreads review yet). Titles ending with an asterisk (*) are the ones I’m most looking forward to, personally! Which book(s) are you most excited to see ranked? Let me know and I’ll prioritize it.
Did I miss any fiction books, comics/graphic novels, or short stories with a deaf character? Drop the title in a comment below so I can add it to my list! (Yes, I also look at manga, webtoons, and novelizations of films. No, I do not rank poetry, plays, baby books, books with deaf animals—bats, dogs, cats, etc., or online stories/fanfics.) You can give me titles in other languages. Although I can only read English and Spanish, I also have the patience to wait for translations.
Also, thanks to Dr. Sharon Pajka, whose blog Deaf Characters in Adolescent Literature I wish I knew about two years ago, for putting me on to even more titles with deaf characters!
- 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status by Cynthia T. Toney
- 2 Fuzzy 2 Serious by Shannon and Dean Hale
- 87th Precinct #12, 22, 27, 38, 45, 54 by Ed McBain
- AAQPP: Deafness for Dummies by Helium
- Alice by Sara Flanigan
- All Alone (Except for My Dog Friday) by Claire H. Blatchford
- Alpha by Greg Rucka
- Altered Land by Jules Hardy
- Ancestors by Chenjerai Hove
- Ancestral Truths by Sara Maitland
- “And Sarah Laughed” by Joanne Greenberg
- Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman
- Annie’s Song by Catherine Anderson
- Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan
- Apple Is My Sign by Mary Riskind
- Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan
- The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard
- At Face Value by Emily Franklin
- Avatar Volume 1: A Look into Abyss by Juan Miguel Aguilera
- Baby I’m Yours by Susan Andersen
- Backspace by Stephen C. Caldwin
- Balancing Act by Virginia M. Scott
- Batman Beyond: Hear No Evil by Scott Peterson
- Becky by Karen Hirsch
- Belonging by Virginia M. Scott
- The Best Sign by Bonnie Highsmith Taylor
- Between Us and the Deaf by Gudmundina Haflidason
- Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson
- Bewitched by Victoria Leigh
- “The Binnacle Boy” by Paul Fleischman
- Bird-eyes by Madelyn Arnold *
- Blue Moon by Luanne Rice
- The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson
- The Bookseller’s Advice by Sue Breitner
- Brain Storm by Richard Dooling
- Breakaway by Ruth Hallman
- The Bride and the Deaf Girl by Susannah Calloway
- Broken Voices by Winona Rasheed
- Bunker 10 by J. A. Henderson
- Buy a Watch, Get a Wife! by Rachel Brown
- Caleb Zelic series by Emma Viskic
- Can You Feel It? by Pauline Findlay
- Case of the Los Angeles Chameleon: Featuring Comrade Dolgov of the KGB by Bud Long
- The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter by Kia Corthron
- Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo
- The Center of Things by Jenny McPhee
- Charlie and Frog (#1 and #2) by Karen Krane
- “Charm” by Vivien Bretherton
- Chattering by Louise Stern
- Cheshire Moon by Nancy Butts
- The Chequered Silence by Jacqueline Gilbert
- Christmas Spirit by Rebecca Anderson
- Cole’s Redemption (Alpha Pack #5) by J.D. Tyler
- Colonial Prime (Katieran Prime #7) by K.D. Jones
- Conclusive Evidence by Al Macy
- The Connor Westphal series by Penny Warner
- Cowboy for Keep by Kristi Gold
- The Cretan by Elisabeth Ayrton
- A Criminal Appeal by D.R. Schanker
- Crocodile Meatloaf by Nancy Simpson Levene
- Crossed Wires by John E. Simpson
- The Crystal Clipper by B. Roman
- Dangerous Games by Joan Aiken
- The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
- Dark Pines by Will Dean
- Dark Space (anthology), edited by Leonie Skye *
- Dark Thirst by Sara Reinke
- The Dastardly Duke by Eileen Putnam
- The Day is Ours by Hilda Lewis
- Deaf Adwoa Benewaa by Florence Serwaa Oteng
- Deaf Beneath by Libby Lael
- The Deaf Boy Who Could Dance by Sue Laura *
- Deaf Child Crossing series by Marlee Matlin
- Deaf Culture Fairy Tales by Roz Rosen
- Deaf Like Me by Dave Blackwell
- Deaf Lit Extravaganza (anthology) edited by John Lee Clark
- The Deaf Musicians by Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs
- deaf not Deaf by Christian Fusco
- Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
- The Deaf Swordsman series by R. Janvier del Valle *
- Deaf Wish by Geoff Cook
- Deaf World by Batya Ana (Hebrew only)
- Deaf, Dumb, and Blonde (Baron #26) by Anthony Morton (John Creasey)
- The Deaf-Mute Boy by Joseph Geraci
- Deaffodils by Luboš Panda
- Death Signs by H. Edward Hunsburger
- Deceived by Mary Keliikoa
- Deception’s Full Circle by J.G. Martinson
- Dies the Fire by SM Stirling
- Different Ways of Being by Alan Balter
- Digital Fortress by Dan Brown
- Dire Wolves: Silence by Lena Austin
- The Discreet Gentleman series by Kris Tualla
- Do You Hear What I Hear by Holly Jacobs
- Doctor Marigold by Charles Dickens
- Doggy Dare by Ben M. Baglio
- Dovey Coe by Frances O’Roark Dowell
- The Dragon Prince novelization series by Aaron Ehasz
- A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
- The Duke by Gaelen Foley
- Earth and Ashes by Atiq Rahimi
- Echo by Clint Kelly
- Echoes of Roses by Mary Anne Wilson
- Eloquent Silence by Sandra Brown (as Rachel Ryan)
- Embrace Me by Beck Grey
- Eva Trout; Or, Changing Scenes by Elizabeth Bowen
- Fairy Tale by Stephen King
- Falling into Fear by Anne Colledge
- A Father’s Promise by Marta Perry
- A Father’s Vow by Elizabeth August
- Fear Into Darkness: A Trustice Jeffries Novel by Taylor Dye
- Feather on the Moon by Phyllis A Whitney
- The Fifth Vertex by Kevin Hoffman
- Finding Abby by Virginia M. Scott
- Fire Opal by Pamela Hill
- First Man by Albert Camus
- Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
- The Flying Fingers series by Jean F. Andrews
- Flying to the Light by Elyse Salpeter
- Follow the Music by L. C. Ireland *
- For the Sake of His Child by Lucy Gordon
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
- The Forest of Aisling by D.S. Elstad
- Fragile by Jandra Sutton
- Freak City by Kathrin Schrockle
- The French House by Jacquie Bloese
- Friend (with Benefits) Zone by Laura Brown
- Friends Everywhere by Donna Jo Napoli
- Funny Feelings by Tarah Dewitt
- Future Girl by Asphyxia
- Gaps in Stone Walls by John Neufeld
- The Gate to Eden by Cathy McDavid
- Gather the Weeds by Patrick Kilgallon
- The Ghost Rebellion (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #5) by Pip Ballantine
- The Gift by Patrick O’Leary
- The Gift of the Girl Who Couldn’t Hear by Susan Richards Shreve
- Girl in the Shadows by V.C. Andrews
- Girl of the Year: Joss series by Erin Falligant
- Go to the Hill by Stevie Platt
- The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
- Good Luck Dog by Lilo Hess
- Goodbye Tchaikovsky by Michael Thal
- “Grayfish” by Pete Fromm
- A Handful of Stories by Roz Rosen
- A Handful of Spells by Kimberley A. Shaw *
- Hannah Trevor Trilogy by Margaret Lawrence
- Harriet Versus the Galaxy by Samantha Baines
- Havana Heat by Darryl Brock
- Hear Like the Deaf People by Cooper Nickerson
- Hear No Evil series by Kate Chester
- Hear No Evil by Susan Drake
- Hear No Evil by Sarah Smith
- Hear-Say by Greg Cook
- A Hearing Heart by Bonnie Dee
- The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
- Heart of the Woods: A Story of Life Among the Habitants in the Laurentian Foot-Hills by Isabel Adams
- Heart Sounds by Michele Johns
- Heart to Heart by Marie Ferrarella
- The Heart’s Voice by Arlene James
- Heartless and Silent Melody by Mary Balogh
- Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
- Her Only Hero by Marta Perry
- Heritage of Shannara (The Talismans of Shannara #4) by Terry Brooks
- The Hero by Christina Bridges
- The Hidden by Brian Fairchild
- The Highland Wife and Bride of Trouville by Lyn Stone
- His Woman’s Gift by Lacy Dancer
- Hide by Nell Pattison
- Hollow Earth by John and Carol E. Barrowman
- Hot Laps by Steve Eubanks
- “The House Across from the Deaf School” by Michael Gills
- The House at the End of Ladybug Lane by Elise Primavera
- Hue & Cry by Elizabeth Yates
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
- A Hundred Silent Ways by Mari Jojie
- Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby
- I Believe You by Jeanne Grunert
- The Impossible Alliance by Candace Irvin
- Impossible Music by Sean Williams
- In a Flash by Donna Jo Napoli
- “In Space, No One Can Hear” by Michael A. Burstein
- In the Name of Silence by Arthur Luhn
- In This Sign by Joanne Greenberg
- InSight by Polly Iyer
- Interrupt by Toni Dwiggins
- “Into Silence” by Marlin Barton
- Invisible by Cecily Anne Paterson
- The Invisible Hero by Elizabeth Fensham
- An Irish Christmas Feast by John B. Keane
- Island of Silence by Carolyn Brimley Norris
- Isles of View by C.F. Brunner
- Jake’s the Name, Sixth Grade’s the Game and Those Sevy Blues by Deb Piper
- Johnnie Alone by Elizabeth Webster
- Just Like Everybody Else by Lillian Rosen
- The Kamaria trilogy by T.A. Bruno
- Kat’s Fall by Shelley Hrdlitschka *
- Keeping It Secret by Penny Pollock
- Keeping Silent and Spider Blue by Carla Damron
- “The Key” by Eudora Welty
- A Kiss to Dream On by Neesa Hart
- Kisses by Addison Moore
- Kissing Casanova by Crystal B Bright
- A Knight of Silence by Candace Bowen Early
- 聲の形 (A Silent Voice) series by Yoshitoki Ōima
- L.A. Midnight by Rebecca Daniels
- Last Kiss Goodnight by Gena Showalter
- Last-Minute Marriage by Marisa Carroll
- The Legend of Five Great Deaf Ghost Stories by James Gillies Casey
- Levi (Forbidden Desires #2) by Justine Elvira
- “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” by Flannery O’Connor
- Lip Reader by Shanna Groves
- The Listening Eye (Miss Silver #28) by Patricia Wentworth
- The Listening Silence by Marie Joseph
- Listening to Mondrian by Nadia Wheatley
- Lonely Season by Susan Napier
- The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love by Ann Edwards Cannon
- The Loudest Silence by Olivia Janae
- “The Loves of Lady Purple” by Angela Carter
- A Love Beyond Words by Sherryl Woods
- Love Signs by Dick Claassen
- Love’s Sound in Silence by Meg Hudson
- Loving April by Melvin Burgess
- Lucky Penny by Elizabeth August
- Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series by Rick Riordan *
- A Maiden’s Grave by Jeffery Deaver
- Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green
- Makara by Kristen Ringman *
- Make Room for the Hollyhocks/Where the Birds Don’t Sing by Lorraine Hunter Hare
- The Mallen trilogy by Catherin Cookson
- The Man with the Magic Eardrums by Harry Stephen Keeler
- The Mansion by William Faulkner
- Mary Mehan Awake by Jennifer Armstrong
- Mask of the Jackal by Christine Harris
- Master of Desire by Jessica Trapp
- Max and the Millions by Ross Montgomery
- Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover
- Melody by V.C. Andrews
- Men With Their Hands by Raymond Luczak
- Midnight Magic by Barbara Hazard
- Miracle Girl by Keith Scribner
- Miracles by Mary Kirk
- A Mom for Matthew by Roz Denny Fox
- Moon Craving (Children of the Moon #2) by Lucy Monroe
- “Moonglow” by Catherine Asaro (in Charmed Destinies anthology)
- Morality Play by Barry Unsworth
- A Mortal Bane by Roberta Gellis
- Mouth to Mouth by Erin McCarthy
- Muddy Four Paws by Jean Ure
- Mundo and the Weather-Child by Joyce Dunbar
- Murder Impossible by Jack Fitzgerald
- Murder on Lexington Avenue (Gaslight Mystery #12) by Victoria Thompson
- Mute Witness and Black Gold by Charles O’Brien
- My Haunting Love by J.S. Wilsoncroft
- My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
- My Sister’s Voice by Mary Carter
- Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
- Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks
- Never the Same Again by Clarissa Conrad
- Next of Kin by Hannah Bonam-Young
- Nick’s Mission and Nick’s Secret by Claire H. Blatchford
- Night Angel (Night #2.5) by Lisa Kessler
- Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf
- Nothing to Fear by Karen Rose
- Of Sound Mind by Jean Ferris
- Of Such Small Differences by Joanne Greenberg
- On the Ropes series by Aly Martinez
- Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese
- The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin
- Ordeal by Silence: A Story of Medieval Times by Prudence Andrews
- Our John Willie by Catherine Cookson
- 王様ランキング (Ranking of Kings) by Sōsuke Tōka
- Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding
- Passion Hunter by Ira Cochin
- The Passions of Chelsea Kane by Barbara Delinsky
- “The Persistence of Vision” by John Varley
- Piper by Jay Asher and Jessica Freeburg
- The Pirate Hunter by Jennifer Ashley
- Pivot by Anna Pulley
- Police Business by Julie Miller
- Portal Through the Pond by David K. Anderson
- Portraits of Forgiveness by E. Patrick Hull
- Precious Things by Gail R. Delaney
- The Promise by May McGoldrick
- “A Quarrelsome Man” by Pauline Melville
- Queer Person by Ralph Hubbard
- A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
- The Quiet World by Raewyn Caisley
- “Rachel in Love” by Pat Murphy
- The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan
- Rain Shadow by Cheryl St. John
- Rally Caps by Stephen J. Cutler
- A Rancher’s Pride by Barbara White Dallie
- The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater
- Read My Lips by Teri Brown
- Read My Lips by Jana Novotny Hunter
- Reasonable Doubt by Steven Barish
- The Reckless Kind by Carly Heath
- Resilient Silence by Peter M. Quint
- Resistance by Janet Graber
- Ricki by Lou Honderich
- Risk by Dannika Dark
- Road Girl by Hester Parsons Battad
- Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant *
- Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything by Lenore Look
- Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
- The Rules of Silence by Kristen Johnson Ingram
- Samedi the Deafness by Jesse Ball (note: unclear whether any characters are deaf or if this is a metaphor; will read anyway just in case)
- The Sand Bird by Margaret J. Baker
- Saudade by Katherine Vaz
- “Sea Change” by Alan Brennert
- Season of the Sun by Catherine Coulter
- The Secret Letters of Mama Cat by Jody Sorenson
- Secret Signs by T. J. Waters
- Senses and Sensations series by Susan Laine
- Set Me Free by Ann Clare LeZotte *
- Shattered by Kia Dupree
- Sheltering Bridges by Bobby Hutchinson
- 神童 (The Prodigy) by Akira Sasou
- Shrine by James Herbert
- The Sign for Home by Blair Fell *
- A Sign to Remember by Ron Podmore
- The Sign for Drowning by Rachel Stolzman
- Signs by Anna Martin
- Signs of Attraction by Laura Brown
- Signs of Murder (Anna Southwood Mysteries #3) by Jean Bedford
- Signs of Spring by Patrick Quinn
- Signs Unseen, Sounds Unheard by Carolyn B. Norris
- Silence by Deborah Lytton
- Silence in Center by Jody Studdard
- Silence in the Wild by Dale C. Jellison
- Silence is Deadly by Lloyd Biggle
- Silent Beginnings by Ariel Berk
- Silent Dances (Starbridge #2) and Silent Songs (Starbridge #5) by A.C. Crispin and Kathleen O’Malley
- Silent Duchess by Dacia Maraini
- Silent Reckoning and Silent Weapon by Debra Webb
- Silent Fear by Lance & James Morcan
- A Silent Fury (High Stakes #2) by Lynette Eason
- The Silent Heart by Kelly Adams
- Silent Heart by Kathy Attalla
- Silent Lotus by Jeanne M. Lee
- The Silent Scream by Betty Sullivan La Pierre
- The Silent Time by Paul Rowe
- The Silent War by Victor Pemberton
- Silent Witness by Susan Yankowitz
- Silent World (Broken World #7) by Kate L. Mary
- The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (Inspector Morse #3) by Colin Dexter
- The Silent Zone by Forrest L. Erickson and Debra A. Peterson
- Singing Hands by Delia Ray
- Sins of Summer (Wyoming Frontier #3) by Dorothy Garlock
- The Smart Princess, and Other Deaf Tales by Keelin Carey
- Smelly Hearing Aids and Fishy Lips: A Deaf Teenager’s Journal by Marc Heyez
- Smith Valley by StarAndrea
- Some Girls Do by Leanne Banks
- Someone Else’s Ocean by Kate Stewart
- The Somers Treatment by Gillian Bradshaw
- A Song of Love by Catherine Anderson
- Song of Summer by Laura Lee Anderson
- Song of the Sea Trilogy by Stephen Cosgrove
- Los Sordos by Rodrigo Rey Rosa
- Soul Catcher by Colin Kersey
- The Sound of Your Voice by David Sullivan
- Sounds of Silence by Phillip Tomasso III
- Sounds of Silence by Elizabeth White
- Spark (Elemental #2) by Brigid Kemmerer
- The Spider’s Web (Sister Fidelma #5) by Peter Tremayne
- A Spoonful of Sugar (Bachelor Bake-Off #2) by Kate Hardy *
- The Stand by Stephen King
- Star Song by Sandra Canfield
- Starfall by Jessie Kwak *
- Stolen Shadows by Mary King
- De Stomme van Kampen by Thea Beckman (note: only available in Dutch)
- The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
- The Story of Esther Costello by Nicholas Monsarrat
- Strangers I Know by Claudia Durastanti *
- Strawberries in the Sea by Elisabeth Ogilvie
- Strong Deaf by Lynn McElfresh
- The Stuntman’s Daughter and Other Stories by Alice Blanchard
- Sublime Karma by Peyton Garver
- Submerged Hopes by Chloe Holiday
- A Sudden Silence by Eve Bunting
- Sugar House Hill by Heather Simonsen
- Sugaring Off by Gillian French
- Summer Sunrise by Lee Damon
- The Sylver Chronicles by Paul Kercal
- The Tailor’s Daughter by Janice Graham
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
- Tales of the Borderlands series by Meg Burden
- Talk Talk by T. Coraghessan Boyle
- Talk to Me by Pat Simmons
- Tall, Tatted, and Tempting by Tammy Falkner
- Tarantella by Sol Yurick
- The Tea Dragon Festival by Kay O’Neill *
- Tell Me How the Wind Sounds by Leslie Davis Guccione
- The Telling by Eden Winters
- There Was This Man Running by N.L. Ray
- There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake
- Thornwood House by Anna Romer
- The Tiger’s Woman by Celeste De Blasis
- Tindr (The Circle of Ceridwen Saga #5) by Octavia Randolph
- To Give a Heart Wings by Mary Kay McComas
- To Heal the Soul by Natalie J Damschroder
- Tone Deaf by Olivia Rivers
- Touchdown by Richard A. Steel
- Travel in the Mouth of the Wolf by Paul Fattaruso
- A Trick I Learned from Dead Men by Kitty Aldridge
- Tuck Triumphant by Theodore Taylor
- TURBO Racers: Trailblazer by Austin Aslan
- Turn on the Light so I Can Hear by Teri Kanefield
- A Twist of Fate by Susannah Carleton
- Typhon’s Children by Toni Anzetti
- The Unfinished by Jay B. Laws
- Unravel by Amelia Loken
- Unspeakable by Sandra Brown
- The UnSpeakable by Charles Laird Calia
- Unspeakable by Graham Masterton
- Until I’m Safe by Jane Grace
- Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue
- The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull
- Wait for Me by An Na
- War Boy by Thorn Kief Hillsbery
- Warning Signs by Katy Lee
- We Shall Not Shatter by Elaine Stock
- Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
- What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle
- When I Wake by Rachel Lee
- Whisper by Chrissie Keighery
- Whisper My Name by Tara Manderino
- Whispering in the Dark by Kelly Andrew
- The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
- Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy
- Winter Wind by J.R. Rain
- The Wishing Pearl by Nicole O’Dell
- Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend
- Won’t Someone Help Anna? (Sweet Valley Twins #69) by Francine Pascal
- The Words in My Hands by Asphyxia
- Words Unspoken by Suzanne Ellison
- World of Silence by Don Coldsmith
- World of Silence by Kaytlin Phillips
- Wrangler’s Lady by Deborah Benét
- 无声的青春 (Youth of the Deaf) by He Yi (note: currently only available in Chinese)
- ゆびさきと恋々(A Sign of Affection) by Suu Morishita
Seems like a long list, right? Surprise! It’s not. Considering the vast size of the publishing industry, this isn’t even a drop in the sea. (And could there be any more titles using words like “silent”?!)