I had complete sensory overload last night so I found a few random books available on Overdrive and checked one out. The first I was going to try had all these "what a great Christian fairytale!" things in the beginning and I went...OK NOPE not my jam. So I read Soundless
, which I was hesitant about because it had the capacity to be so very bad if the author didn't do her research.
(She did her research, as far as I can tell. But if you disagree, please lmk.)
is about a small mining town high in an Asian-inspired-fantasy-setting. The town is completely cut off from outsiders, and their only communication is a zip line: they send minerals down, they get food back. (Their soil is too poor to grow any food.) Other than miners, those who work the supply line, and servants, the other main job is as an artist/calligrapher. Everyone in the town is Deaf, and has been for centuries, so they have artists observe the day's events, record them meticulously on scrolls every evening, and put them in the town square every morning so everyone knows the day's news. Then the scrolls are kept for future generations.
Everyone has forgotten what sound is, and everything is completely designed to be accessible to those who are Deaf, and there's no stigma about it. However, some people are beginning to lose their vision, which means they can't work in the mines. As there are less minerals to trade, this is creating a food shortage for the entire community.
The main character mysteriously regains her hearing. There is a good bit of time dedicated to her having complete sensory overload, and wondering why their ancestors ever wanted hearing in the first place. However, she might be able to save her people, because it's always been too dangerous to climb down the mountain when you can't hear avalanches.
The author avoids tropes like "hearing is better" and "people regaining their hearing is the only happy ending." Also, vision loss is only tragic because there's resource scarcity (and prejudice against those who can't work). There's some pretty great stuff when the MC interacts with hearing people along the lines of "UGH why don't they understand these BABY SIGNS they are so obvious" and also when meeting other people who have lost their hearing some "look your sign language is not exactly the same as mine let's figure out what this sign is." Also, "learning the words for sounds."
It also doesn't romanticize the mountain town as being full perfect magical disabled people: there's injustice and mean people, too.
A fun book to get me through sensory overload that did not make me shouty and was a good example of "hey look at the social model of disability in action" for YA lit. Also, yay for "not another generic European fantasy setting." Planning to get it for my nephew once he can deal with a het romance plotline.