Sara Nović is the author of the instant NYT Bestseller True Biz, as well as the books Girl at War and America is Immigrants.
She holds an MFA in fiction and literary translation from Columbia University, and is an instructor of Deaf Studies and creative writing. She lives in Philadelphia with her family.
Excerpt from True Biz by Sara Nović
February Waters was nine years old when she—in the middle of math class, in front of everyone—stabbed herself in the ear with a number two Ticonderoga. Their teacher had been chalking the twelve times tables up on the board, providing February a window in which to sharpen the pencil, the grinding drawing her classmates up from their daydreams, their eyes following her across the room toward the teacher’s corner. February stepped unsteadily on the felted swivel chair, then planted herself in a wide stance on the desk and jammed the pencil deep into her left ear…
After the nurse removed the graphite and determined the damage was superficial, she gauzed up the bleeding and took February across the hall to the principal’s office, where the secretary produced a suspension form for “violent and disorderly conduct unbecoming of a student.” Then, once it was determined how, exactly, to contact her parents, she was sent home for the week.
Back in 4-B, February’s classmates hailed her as a hero, having sacrificed her very blood to buy them twenty-five minutes of unsupervised bliss. The school, on the other hand, deemed the incident a cry for help, given what the principal had taken to calling February’s “family circumstances.” Really, February explained to her father when he came to get her, she wasn’t upset at all, just tired of listening to the times tables, the buzz of the broken light above her desk, the screech of metal chairs against the floor. He didn’t know what it was like, having to hear things all the time, she told him. And with that he couldn’t argue.
What had pushed February over the edge specifically was Danny Brown calling singsong from the row behind her, “February’s very hairy, and she eats the yellow snow.” Only deaf people would name their daughter February, she’d thought then. Certain months were acceptable for use as girls’ names—April, May, June—and her name was undoubtedly the result of some miscommunication of these guidelines. But February’s parents had always preferred winter, the silent splendor of snow clinging to the chinquapin oaks, and in the Deaf world of her childhood beauty was taken in earnest. Her parents’ friends weren’t concerned with looking corny, and February had never seen any of them say something sarcastic. It was a world she disliked leaving, especially for such hostile territory as the fourth grade.
You can be Deaf on the inside, her mother said that night when she tucked her in. But you can never do that again.
- “Silence Brought Me a Community and an Escape.” The New York Times. 19 July 2022.
- “Sara Novic Writes About Sex, Drugs and Sign Language.” The New York Times. 28 April 2022.
- “Deafness Is Not a Monolith: Sara Nović Interviewed by Annie Liontas.” Bomb Magazine. 12 April 2022.