This research is an opportunity for the world to see successful bilingual signers who are fluent in both languages: American Sign Language (ASL) and English. This possibility comes to fruition by the environment where two different languages are simultaneously valued since birth.
It is important to promote ASL literature by putting an emphasis its visualization, earning international respect and understanding that ASL is a sophisticated language. Rose (2006) wrote text must be instilled in the whole body. It also requires the use of head, hands, eyes, expression to create one text. The whole process requires practice, experience, and innate gift which bilinguals are fortunate to have by how they were raised. Bahan (2006) stated the poets are able to create complex, beautiful stories into a simple presentation. ASL literature is also a literature of performance, as the story is expressed through time and space, and a strong use of embodiment. Bauman and Murray’s article (2009),”Re-framing: From Hearing Loss to Deaf Gain,” compares visual poetry and performance poetry and came up with a conclusion that ASL literature is a combination of both. Peters (2000) wrote, “ASL literature is the only living oral literature in the western world.” It rings true because using ASL requires physical presence. For those who are interested in language, visual media and literature, should turn their attention to ASL literature because they will give you a paradigm shift of what it means to be human. Cook (2006) shared a story about Allen Ginsberg, a famous poet and a winner of Pulitzer Prize. Ginsberg was in awe when he saw how deaf poets use their language and claimed it is what hearing poets try to do with their language. His statement represents the power of ASL.
My research involves all bilingual signers with different styles, especially when ASL is their primary language. The purpose of my research is to capture the true essence of successful ASL-English bilingual signers. Thirteen subjects, including myself, come from different schools. Two of them graduated from mainstreamed schools, three from Indiana School for the Deaf, two from Maryland School for the Deaf, two from California School for the Deaf in Fremont, one subject from Illinois School for the Deaf, and three from Model Secondary School for the Deaf. Seven subjects are aged from 20 to 30 years old and six from 31 to 40 years old.
There are various kinds of ASL literature, and I chose the “camp-fire style” which requires each subject to improvise the story when her/his turn arrives. A person begins to tell a new story then stops after approximately one minute. The next person picks up by improvising and this procedure is repeated until the number reaches to 13. All subjects, who were given the opportunity, said it was fun, unique and challenging. Their comments only reinforced me to continue this important research. I believe the true form of ASL is made possible by sharing stories and poetry. I also believe it is our responsibility and privilege to show the right form of ASL for the world to see and understand. ASL as a visual language is our Deaf gain in this world.
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Justin Jackerson, Fallon Brizendine, Jenny Cooper, Wanda Riddle, Callie Frye, Jonathan Kovacs, Raychelle Harris, April Jackson, Josh Weinstock, Amanda Aillon, Lauren Benedict, and Suzanne Stecker
Bahan, B. (2006). Face-to-Face Tradition in the American Deaf Community: Dynamics of the Teller, the Tale, and the Audience. Bauman, H., Nelson, J., and Rose, H. (Eds.) Signing the Body Poetic: Essays in American Sign Language Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Bauman and Murray. (2009). Reframing: From Hearing Loss to Deaf Gain.
Deaf Studies Digital Journal 1:1. Retrieved from http://dsdj.gallaudet.edu/
Krentz, C. (2006). The Camera as Printing Press: How Film has Influenced ASL Literature. Bauman, H., Nelson, J., and Rose, H. (Eds.) Signing the Body Poetic: Essays in American Sign Language Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Peters, C. (2000). Deaf American Literature. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.
Rose, H. (2006). The Poet in the Poem in the Performance: The Relation of Body, Self, and Text in ASL Literature. Bauman, H., Nelson, J., and Rose, H. (Eds.) Signing the Body Poetic: Essays in American Sign Language Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press.