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Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

Book Discussion Questions by Margaret Behrns

Show Me a Sign by Anne Clare LeZotte is a unique and wonderful story that has drawn wide acclaim for her representation of Mary, a girl growing up deaf in 1805 in Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard. Chilmark is a special place where ASL is universally known and social norms have evolved such that everyone feels included.

This book is rich in themes that inspire discussion about a wide variety of topics, such as the loss of a sibling, cultural oppression, fear of others, devaluing others, land and property rights, racism, and ableism. This set of discussion questions is mainly focused on themes surrounding growing up deaf in an inclusive community. Below you will find: Questions specific to the central theme of growing up deaf in an inclusive environment; Favorite Quotes; General Discussion Questions; Questions about the Author and recommended reviews.

Questions about growing up deaf in an inclusive community

  • Mary starts her story by warning the reader that “there are accounts of great wickedness along with hope in these pages.” What themes did this warning lead you to think would be in the story? Did you find your expected themes in the story? Did any of the themes surprise you?

  • What does the author mean when she says that “not every writer comes to English from the same direction?” How did that change your expectations or understanding of the book?

  • Which cultural norms, practices, and beliefs made Chilmark an inclusive town? Which cultural norms, practices, and beliefs made it exclusionary?

  • How might Mary’s life have been different if she had grown up in Boston instead of Chilmark?

  • When Mary explains that it is considered rude to address only the hearing people in the room when speaking, what does that say about Chilmark’s societal norms and expectations?

  • What did the young scientists' views about deaf people reveal about the way people with disabilities in general were viewed outside of Chilmark?

  • Why might it have been especially terrifying for Mary when her hands were tied?

Favorite Quotes

Do you have a favorite quote from the book? Why did it stand out? Or, select any of the following quotes and discuss why it offers insight into deaf life:

  • "I think I see mama call out to me from the corner of my eye."

  • "I watched her mouth move, her brow pulled down in a scowl. She is yelling at me without signing."

  • "I scream a scream I cannot hear."

  • "I put my hand on the door to feel the vibrations. Nothing but quiet."

  • "I must gasp because Nancy places her hand over my mouth."

  • "Does the shell still make a sound without George’s ear to hear it?"

  • "I remain standing so I can express myself with my whole body and not just my hands."

  • "He was signing to no one in particular. "

  • "He was opening and closing his hands like he was gathering words out of thin air."

  • "She hushes my hands."

  • "His signs seared my mind."

General Discussion Questions

  • Do you think that Nancy and Mary’s relationship will survive as the girls grow up? Why or why not?

  • Mary described Ezra Brewer as signing “aye” by jerking his head back and wiggling his fingers. What were other memorable Ezra Brewer moments?

  • What aspects of the story could you most relate to?

  • If you could hear this same story from another person’s point of view, who would you choose?

  • Which other disabilities or medical conditions would you like to read about?

Questions About the Author

  • Do you think this book could have been written by someone who is not deaf? What would be missing?

  • What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was she trying to get across?

Recommended Reviews

There are many reviews of this book, here are a few we found interesting for their discussion about Ann’s representation of the Wampanoag tribe.

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