True Biz: A Novel (Paperback)
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“True biz” translates in sign language to “real talk." And this novel does just that. It’s the story of students and teachers at a residential school for the Deaf. Charlie has had cochlear implants to please her parents, but now as a young teen is language-deprived and learning ASL for the first time. Austin is the star student at the school who comes from a family with a long history of deafness. This is a moving coming-of-age story as well as an informative look inside Deaf culture.— From Sally
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK • A “tender, beautiful and radiantly outraged” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that follows a year of seismic romantic, political, and familial shifts for a teacher and her students at a boarding school for the deaf, from the acclaimed author of Girl at War
“For those who loved the Oscar-winning film CODA, a boarding school for deaf students is the setting for a kaleidoscope of experiences.”—The Washington Post
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: NPR, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Booklist
True biz (adj./exclamation; American Sign Language): really, seriously, definitely, real-talk
True biz? The students at the River Valley School for the Deaf just want to hook up, pass their history finals, and have politicians, doctors, and their parents stop telling them what to do with their bodies. This revelatory novel plunges readers into the halls of a residential school for the deaf, where they’ll meet Charlie, a rebellious transfer student who’s never met another deaf person before; Austin, the school’s golden boy, whose world is rocked when his baby sister is born hearing; and February, the hearing headmistress, a CODA (child of deaf adult(s)) who is fighting to keep her school open and her marriage intact, but might not be able to do both. As a series of crises both personal and political threaten to unravel each of them, Charlie, Austin, and February find their lives inextricable from one another—and changed forever.
This is a story of sign language and lip-reading, disability and civil rights, isolation and injustice, first love and loss, and, above all, great persistence, daring, and joy. Absorbing and assured, idiosyncratic and relatable, this is an unforgettable journey into the Deaf community and a universal celebration of human connection.
About the Author
Sara Nović holds an MFA from Columbia University, where she studied fiction and literary translation. Her first novel, Girl at War, won the American Library Association’s Alex Award, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She is an instructor of Deaf studies and creative writing, and lives in Philadelphia with her family.
“Goodness, I can’t even begin to put into words all the feelings this book provoked! . . . An eye-opening and heartfelt story about human connection and the beauty and adversity woven into the deaf community and culture. It is both an educational and electrifying peek into a family’s life as they fight to forge connections even as the outside world threatens to close the door on them. I loved this story so much, it is not one to miss.”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club April ’22 Pick)
“This important novel should—true biz—change minds and transform the conversation.”—Maile Meloy, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“Part tender coming-of-age story, part electrifying tale of political awakening, part heartfelt love letter to Deaf culture, True Biz is wholly a wonder.”—Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere
“Rollicking, immersive, and boldly, exquisitely felt, True Biz delves into the deepest questions about community, communication, and collective action, inviting the reader into a world of language made new.”—Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
“Sara Novic is one of the best writers of my generation—not just the novelist of Deaf culture, but of human nature writ large. Do yourself a favor and get this book—it is inimitable.”—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa
“This is my favorite kind of novel, fascinating and smart and brimming with contrasts. It’s a coming-of-age story but also one of anarchy and protest. It’s about belonging versus conforming, individual strength alongside solidarity.”—Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is and One Two Three
“Reading True Biz was a transformative experience—it’s as important a book as I’ve read in years. I was in awe of the care and love and hard-won wisdom that went into the writing of it. Sara Novic is the real deal.”—Jami Attenberg, author of All This Could Be Yours
“True Biz is exquisitely crafted and absolutely riveting.”—Vendela Vida, author of We Run the Tides
“In confident, funny prose, True Biz asks the question of all questions: Who are my people? And then, with enormous attunement to the embodied experience of being deaf and being human, answers it.”—Emma Copley Eisenberg, author of The Third Rainbow Girl
“Sara Nović’s gifts for character, story, and language are evident from the first page. True Biz feels like the discovery of a new written form, a love letter to language itself.”—Liz Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Long Bright River
“This is brilliant.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[A] touching and witty celebration of Deaf culture . . . moving and revelatory.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A coming-of-age story that explores the complexities of community and the ways in which language defines us.”—Kirkus Reviews