“Valiance” by Vanessa Caraveo“Valiance” by Vanessa Caraveo https://www.readerviewskids.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Valiance-663x1024.jpg 663 1024 Reader Views Kids Reader Views Kids https://www.readerviewskids.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Valiance-663x1024.jpg
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Independently Published (2019)
Reviewed by Dawn Colclasure
It is hard to believe “Valiance” by Vanessa Caraveo is a novel. It is written so well in the first person that I kept looking to see if it was nonfiction! But it is not. It is a story about a fictional boy growing up with deafness and mutism.
I am glad this book contains certain aspects of what life is like for people who cannot hear or speak. People get so freaked out and violent over being touched. The scene where a girl gets angry at Diego for tapping her on her back is quite realistic. We often allow our emotions to get the better of us. There are so many other examples similar to this one which show that a lot of people just don’t think for a minute that maybe the person they are angry at has a disability.
I also liked how a hearing character was hesitant to say that Diego is deaf and instead said “has hearing problems.” This brought to mind an article I read once about how someone was trying to get another term for deafness to catch on, because, for some reason, people don’t like the word “deaf” anymore. I am not one of those people. I am actually proud to say that I am Deaf. It’s not something to be ashamed of or to feel sad about.
Another thing I liked about this story is that the hearing characters share how they know sign language (and I’m glad it’s noted as ASL- American Sign Language- in addition to sign language). It’s not like everybody Diego signs to automatically knows sign language—and that, too, is life-like. I think it’s sweet how one character who knows Diego starts taking a sign language course in order to communicate with him, and it was funny how one character was so proud of knowing sign language that he often shares the story of why he learned it to his students.
When Diego commented in the story that there were “no distractions” during a game, that reminded me of a book I read about Thomas Edison, where he said that being deaf gave him an advantage because then he was not easily distracted as he worked. That is one plus of living with deafness; how I can blissfully enjoy reading a book in the same room where my kids watch TV. Being unable to hear all the noises around the athlete makes it easier for them to stay focused and keep their head in the game. Maybe the coach in this story had rejected Diego from the soccer team so many times because he worried that Diego’s deafness meant he would not hear the whistle, but what Diego lacks in his senses he makes up for in athletic performance.
I thought it was cool how Diego ended up going to college at the University of Oregon (go Ducks!). Diego’s mother has a very hard time cutting the cord and letting him go to college due to being so protective of him and it was refreshing to see his father finally emerge from his shell and put his foot down about letting him go to college.
As the US-born child of illegal Mexican immigrants, Diego not only experiences bullying and discrimination due to his deafness (and because he is nonverbal, he is also referred to as “deaf and dumb” by bullies, a phrase I really wish never existed) but also for being Mexican. You would think that while in college, this would stop, but unfortunately it does not. One bully even writes “Go back to Mexico” on his car. Racism was yet another barrier young Diego had to face while in college and I kept reading to see how he handled this latest round and if he was ever able to overcome it.
I think that, at the very heart of the matter, Diego tries so hard to prove himself because he feels that he has to. As the child of undocumented immigrants, a Mexican living in a tough neighborhood, and someone with not one but two disabilities, he has the odds stacked against him. So it is likely he feels the need to push himself and fight for a better standing in life, something that not everyone in his position can achieve. And by accomplishing so much, he does indeed become a role model to many.
I appreciated that he refused to settle for anything other than what he wanted in life. He KNOWS what he wants. He wants to attend a regular school just like all the other kids and not a school just for Deaf kids. He wants to play on a normal soccer team that everybody else is playing on, and not in Deaflympics. These are things he has to fight for. These are also similar things that many in the Deaf community feel: we don’t want to be segregated, we want to be included and accepted. Of the many themes in this story, I am grateful the author included this one most of all.
“Valiance” by Vanessa Caraveois an inspiring story of a kid with dual disabilities giving his all to achieve his dream. He has to fight against many barriers and his is a story of how one little boy with a soccer ball and a dream can grow up to be anything that he wants to be – even something that nobody ever thinks can truly happen.
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