New Worlds for the Deaf: The Story of the Pioneering School for the Deaf in Rural Mexico

          In 1982, Gwen Chan Burton, who had previous taught in a government secondary school students in both  Australia and Canada for 12 years was faced with a big career decision.

            Burton (whose name at the time was still Chan but that would become part of her adventure as well) had recently been certified as a teacher for the severely hearing impaired. She could either again teach in Canada albeit in her new specialty or move to Jocotepec, a small village in the Mexican state of Jalisco where several years earlier two retired  Canadian women, Jackie Hartley and Roma Jones, stated a small school for children who couldn’t hear. The impetus for the school came about after meeting a young deaf boy in the plaza of the town where they were living.

            It was quite an undertaking particularly considering that Hartley and Jones weren’t teachers and spoke little Spanish. Add to that, they had no building to house their school nor did they have the money to fund it.

For Hartley and Jones these were just mere details and within 15 years their Lakeside School for the Deaf, which started off with classes in an upgraded chicken coop, would become an international success. The term Lakeside is an English term used by local expats and tourists to refer to the general area along the north shore of Lake Chapala where thousands of expats live – stretching from city of Chapala, through Ajijic to Jocotepec at the western end of the lake.

            But when the Hartley and Jones tried to recruit Burton and another teacher of the severely hearing impaired named Susan van Gurp, it was still very early days indeed—one that promised hard work in an unknown environment and barely subsistence pay.

          “As a student at Melbourne University in the late 1960s, I had dreamed of volunteering as an English teacher in the wilds of Papua New Guinea, then administered by Australia,” says Burton.  “However, after I learned that the government required three years teaching experience before applying–I ended up in Toronto instead of PNG. I guess Jackie Hartley’s offer re-awoke my dream of volunteer teaching and since I was single and debt free, my main concern was how to learn basic Spanish in the three months before we flew south.”

            Within a  few years, Burton would become the school’s director, a position she held from 1985-1994. The school’s enrollment grew as did the number of teachers, resulting in scores of disadvantaged deaf children and youths who found life-changing communication, free education.

            Burton, who now lives on an island off the coast of Vancouver, recounts the story of what is now The School for Special Children (CAM Gallaudet, Special Education Centre) in her awe-inspiring book, New Worlds for the Deaf: The Story of the Pioneering School for the Deaf in Rural Mexico (Sombrero Books 2019; $14.99 Amazon price).

            “The book describes the school’s much loved teachers, first Canadian then Mexican, who opened new worlds for those atypical students, with specialized teaching methods and amazing special events,” says Burton. “Also described is the school’s unique home-based  boarding program that allowed many children from distant villages to attend classes.”

In between all her work, Burton met geologist Tony Burton on Canada Day at an Octoberfest celebration in Guadalajara. After the couple married and had children, life became even more hectic  especially when Tony was away leading field studies courses and eco-tours around the country.

“Thankfully a wonderful Mexican grandmother was willing to care for our children whenever needed and from her they learned the local customs, the Spanish language and a love of Mexican food,” says Burton. “She was also a generous boarding mother for two adolescent deaf brothers for several years.”

Often issues were time related –needing time to make new ear molds for students using the classroom FM systems, but also needing to attend a morning meeting of the school board 20 kilometers away or taking time to show visiting former teachers around the classrooms and answer all their questions. Many challenges were unexpected such as the arrival of new students unannounced and needing accommodation.”

            But the rewards were many such as seeing the changes in new students as they learned to communicate using Mexican sign language and were able to ask questions and understand the answers for the first time in their lives; then seeing their enthusiasm and their parents’ pride as they learned to write their own name, and later begin to read.

 Asked to share a story about one of the school’s students, Burton takes time to think—there were so many—before deciding to talk about Juan Luis, who after being abandoned by his mother was sent out to beg in Guadalajara by his next caregiver.

“He was rescued by an aunt who sent him with a truck driver to the home of Rita, one of our staff,” recalls Burton. “The young boy, profoundly deaf, was called Carlos by the truck driver and spent his first week at school as Carlos. When his aunt visited Rita the next weekend we found out his real name and the following Monday at school we need to erase Carlos from his workbooks, and create a different sign name, because  he is actually Juan Luis, nearly nine years old, bright, personable but unschooled and unable to recognize or express his own name….or count to nine.”  

For those deciding on such an adventure, Burton offers the follow advice.

“Go, with an open mind and positive attitude about the people and customs you will encounter,” she says. “Preferably have a good friend with you at least for a long settling-in period, unless you are joining a well-established group of like-minded people. Be able to carry on a basic conversation in the local language and learn whatever you can about your host nation before you arrive. But definitely go if you feel you have skills, knowledge or a harmonizing philosophy to contribute and accept that it will undoubtedly be a pivotal experience in your life.”

All proceeds from the sale of New Worlds for the Deaf benefit the hearing aid program for children in the Lake Chapala region, a program the author runs in partnership with the local committee that supports the CAM Gallaudet Special Education Centre in Jocotepec, Jalisco.

The Best Book and Song Pairings from Taylor Swift’s New Album, Midnights

Didn’t get a ticket for Taylor Swift’s upcoming tour? Don’t despair. Think of all the money you saved when jamming out instead to Midnights along with a good book instead. The librarians at Libby, an app for borrowing ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more that let’s you borrow from your local library for free, went track by track to come up with pairings to go along with the new album,  check out that list here.

The best part? Unlike a $700+ floor seat and hours of Ticketmaster torture, these books are free. So instead of a credit card, just whip out your library card.

Give credit to Joe Skelley (see his bio below) who works for Libby.

Midnights Book/Song Pairings

It Happened One Summer

 Lavender Haze

📚 It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Piper Bellinger is an Instagram wild child with a trust fund and a penchant for riling up the paparazzi. A lot of people make assumptions about her, including Brendan—at first. Both characters show that there’s more than meets the eye and they don’t give a darn what people think if they’re meant to be together.


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

♫ Maroon

📚 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

No spoilers here but IYKYK—this song fits the bill.


New Moon

♫ Anti-Hero

📚 New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Jokes about Jacob Black and Renesmee aside, this song captures the vibe of the franchise and the era of the books and movies so well. Whether it evokes Bella’s four-month depression (Hello, One day I’ll watch as you’re leaving / And life will lose all its meaning), Edward feeling like “a monster on the hill” and a danger to his love, or truly the “covert narcissism” disguised “as altruism” from just about every Cullen, this song has the Twilight franchise covered.


♫ Snow on the Beach

📚 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Addie makes a deal with the devil and lives forever, but is forgotten by everyone she meets. That’s until she meets a man who remembers her name. A lot of her life and loves feel like snow on the beach: weird but beautiful and, often, impossible.


I'm Glad My Mom Died

♫ You’re On Your Own, Kid

📚 I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

With lyrics like, I didn’t choose this town, I dream of getting out and I hosted parties and starved my body / Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss down to the repetition of You’re on your own, kid, you always have been, this song evokes so many of the feelings Jennette describes throughout her book: navigating life with her mother, being forced into Hollywood and just doing her best to survive.


The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers

♫ Midnight Rain

📚 The 99 Boyfriends of Micah Summers by Adam Sass

Micah is the “Prince of Chicago.” He runs a popular (anonymous) Instagram filled with drawings of his numerous, imaginary boyfriends. He’s got it all, but knows he’s so much more than that. When Boy 100 turns into his very first boyfriend, he finds that love is so much more than what’s been living in his head. He has to fight the hurt as he tries to make his own name while Boy 100 is chasing the fame.


Along for the Ride

♫ Question…?

📚 Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Auden spends a lot of nights reading or walking around town—basically doing anything but sleep. She runs into a fellow night owl, Eli, and they form a friendship as they both try to work through their stuff. These lyrics match perfectly:

Good girl, sad boy, big city, wrong choices. We had one thing goin’ on I swear that it was somethin’ / ‘Cause I don’t remember who I was before you painted all my nights / A color I’ve searched for since.


Mockingjay

♫ Vigilante Sh*t

📚 Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

There are so many strong, powerful and amazing women in literature who could absolutely “draw the cat eye, sharp enough to kill a man,” but from the jump, this song evokes thoughts of sticking it to The Capitol. Whether dressing for revenge, or taking down the corrupt system from the inside, Katniss Everdeen and her crew are up to some vigilante sh*t.


Daisy Jones and the Six

♫ Bejeweled

📚 Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy has a way of capturing the attention of everyone in the room when she walks in. She shimmers and shines, but there’s more to her than meets the eye.


Isla and the Happily Ever After

♫ Labyrinth

📚 Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla is a hopeless romantic who might finally have a chance with Josh, a guy she’s had a crush on forever. But they have a lot of obstacles to overcome in this sweet and intense romance.

I’ll be gettin’ over you my whole life.


It Starts with Us

♫ Karma

📚 It Starts with Us by Colleen Hoover

We could totally imagine “Karma” as Lily’s anthem as she navigates the tricky dynamics of her ex, Ryle, and the feelings she has for Atlas as they meet again as adults. Lily deserves her second chance at love despite the others that keep trying to bring her down.


Beach Read

♫ Sweet Nothing

📚 Beach Read by Emily Henry

Beach Read follows January, a romance author who doesn’t believe in love anymore, and Augustus, a literary author who’s a bit of a cynic. A romance, yes, but you’ll need the tissues ready!

All that you ever wanted from me was sweet nothin’.


Before the Devil Breaks You

♫ Mastermind

📚 Before the Devil Breaks YouDiviners Series Book 3 by Libba Bray

This is such a magical and spooky series by Bray, filled with love and mysterious powers. There are so many moments in this book that feel like they only happen when all the stars aligned, and the love story of Theta and Memphis is surely one of them. From their chance meeting during the raid of the Hotsy Totsy club in Book 1, to discovering Theta’s past in Book 3, this pair absolutely embodies “the first night that you saw me nothing was gonna stop me.”

After you soak in the new album, head over to the Libby reading app to find the perfect book match.

Joe_Skelley_2.jpg

About the Author

Joe Skelley has always been a lover of reading and passionate about the library. His love of libraries brought him to OverDrive where he works on the Events team, working with the Digital Bookmobile and co-hosts the Professional Book Nerds podcast. Joe loves thrillers, magical realism and the broad spectrum of YA. When he’s not working, Joe loves to listen to audiobooks and podcasts, watch YouTube, get too involved in a DIY project and (most importantly) play with his Boston Terrier, Roscoe.

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The Last Dress From Paris

London, 2017. There’s no one Lucille adores more than her grandmother (not even her mother, she’s ashamed to say). So when her beloved Granny Sylvie asks Lucille to help secure the return of something precious to her, she’s happy to help. The next thing she knows, Lucille is on a train to Paris, tasked with retrieving a priceless Dior dress. But not everything is as it seems, and what Lucille finds in a small Parisian apartment will have her scouring the city for answers to a question that could change her entire life.

Jade Beer. Holly Clark Photography.

Paris, 1952. Postwar France is full of glamour and privilege, and Alice Ainsley is in the middle of it all. As the wife to the British ambassador to France, Alice’s job is to see and be seen—even if that wasn’t quite what she signed up for. Her husband showers her with jewels, banquets, and couture Dior dresses, but his affection has become distressingly illusive. As the strain on her marriage grows, Alice’s only comfort is her bond with her trusted lady’s maid, Marianne. But when a new face appears in her drawing room, Alice finds herself swept up in an epic love affair that has her yearning to follow her heart…no matter the consequences.

In her novel The Last Dress From Paris, Jade Beer makes the City of Lights come alive as she weaves a lush, evocative story of three generations of women, love, and a fashion scavenger hunt. It is also an exploration of the ties that bind us together, the truths we hold that make us who we are, and the true meaning of what makes someone family.

2022 actually marks the 75th anniversary of Dior, and the collection of dresses featured in the novel are inspired by an exhibit Beer saw at the V&A in London.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jade Beer is an award-winning editor, journalist, and novelist who has worked across the UK national press for more than twenty years. Most recently, she was the editor-in-chief of Condé Nast’s Brides. She also writes for other leading titles including The Sunday Times StyleThe Mail on Sunday‘s YOU magazine, The Telegraph, the Tatler Weddings Guide, Glamour, Stella magazine, and is one of The Mail on Sunday’s regular fiction and nonfiction book reviewers. Jade splits her time between London and the Cotswolds, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

This book is available in the following formats: Kindle, Audiobook, Hardcover and Paperback.

Smile Beach Murder

When Callie Padget is laid off from her reporting job, she returns to her hometown of Cattail Island and lands a gig at the local bookstore—the same one where she found comfort after her mother died.

In fact, the anniversary of her mother’s infamous death is approaching. Years ago, Teri Padget tumbled from the top of the lighthouse. As islanders are once again gossiping about the tragedy, devastating news strikes: the lighthouse has claimed another victim. Eva Meeks, of Meeks Hardware.

The police are calling it suicide, but Callie does not believe Eva jumped any more than she believes her mother did—especially because Callie knows that before her death, Eva had dug up a long-forgotten treasure hunt that could have put a target on Eva’s back. 

In Callie’s search for answers, she enlists the help of some beloved books and several new friends, including the handsome local martial art’s instructor, Toby Dodge. But when another death rocks Cattail Island, Callie must face her fears alone. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.

SMILE BEACH MURDER is an all-new mystery series featuring Callie Padget, a former reporter turned bookshop clerk in the Outer Banks, who is pulled into a deadly web of secrets when a mysterious fall at a lighthouse echoes a tragedy from her past. When the police rule the fall a suicide, Callie has doubts. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Before authoring the Outer Banks Bookshop mystery series, Alicia Bessette worked as a reporter in her home state of Massachusetts, where her writing won a first-place award from the New England Newspaper & Press Association. A pianist, published poet, and enthusiastic birdwatcher, she now loves living in coastal North Carolina with her husband, novelist Matthew Quick.

Bessette has lived in the Outer Banks for years, adding authenticity to her depiction of island life, characters, and gorgeous setting. Jamie Brenner, bestselling author of The Forever Summer, praises:  “What could be better than a beach-read mystery? Lay out a towel, pour yourself some lemonade, and escape in this Outer Banks whodunnit with charm to spare.”

Mirrorland

Twin sisters, once extremely close when growing up in an eccentric household with a demeaning and scolding mother, alcoholic grandfather, and absent father, are now separated by thousands of miles and endless anger.

Cat lives in Los Angeles in an apartment overlooking the water. But it’s not hers, and she’ll have to move soon when the owner returns. A lifestyle writer, her finances are precarious, and she’s unsure of what she’ll do next when she gets a call from Edinburgh, Scotland. El, her twin, has failed to return from a solo sailing trip. 

El is much more stable—at least on the surface. An artist, she’s married to Ross and living in the grand but uber Gothic home where the twins grew up—a place they called Mirrorland. It’s all dark passageways, closed off dusty rooms, hidden cupboards, nooks, and cobweb filled crannies. Here the two invented an alternate universe of hovering evil, wicked clowns, a ghoulish Tooth Fairy, and blood thirsty pirates all populating their elaborate stories that had them plotting their survival in a hostile and shadowy world. Not for them were the typical indulgences of young girls such as soccer or hosting tea parties with their favorite stuffed animals. It was not in any way an idyllic childhood.

Carole Johnstone 2020 – © Julie Broadfoot – http://www.juliebee.co.uk

In Carole Johnstone‘s Mirrorland house of mirrors book, it’s been almost 20 years since Cat was last home, but much is the same. Memories tug at her as she wanders through the darkened rooms of her old home, and she at times feels catapulted back into feelings of being haunted and hunted. But there are new problems to face as well. As the days go by and neither El nor her boat are found, the police give her up as lost at sea. But Cat believes she is still alive and continuing one of the many games they played when young. How else to explain the clues she keeps finding, ones that would only mean something to the two of them?

Cat is an unreliable narrator—she drinks way too much, and she keeps slipping into the past, but whether that past is what really happened long ago, one of the many convoluted stories the sisters made up in Mirrorland, her own perceptions of what was happening around her back then, or a combination of all three, it’s hard to tell.

Also in the house, El’s husband Ross waits for news as well. Here, too, are complications. We learn quickly that Cat was—and still is—in love with Ross, but how she lost him to her sister takes longer to unfold. She receives emails—from El, she is sure—that lead her to places where she discovers torn pages from El’s diary. Someone else is leaving warning notes, telling Cat she’s in danger and insinuating that Ross is not to be trusted—that he harmed El and possibly killed her. That warning though may have come too late because Cat and Ross have rekindled their old romance.

It’s easy to enter Cat’s world, to feel the burden of being watched by unseen eyes and experience her fear as she struggles to determine whether El’s really dead, and who, if anyone, she can trust. And, of course, as readers we wonder if we can trust her.

This review originally appeared in The New York Journal of Books.

About the Author

Carole Johnstone’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in annual “Best of” anthologies in the United States and United Kingdom. She lives with her husband in an old farmhouse outside Glasgow, Scotland, though her heart belongs to the sea and the wild islands of the Hebrides. She is also the author of The Blackhouse.

St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

This November, the St. Louis County Library and the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival are hosting  SLCL Authors @ the J – a joint event series for readers throughout the St. Louis metro area. Additional information about St. Louis County Library’s author series is available online. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. All events are held at the J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Millstone Campus Drive).

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival is an annual celebration of authors, books, and ideas during early November, with additional author events year-round. The range of author topics is vast: business, cooking, economics, family, fiction, history, music, religion, sports, and more.

Now in its 44th year, the Festival is nationally recognized for both its excellence and its size – it is one of the largest in the country with more than 10,000 audience members annually. People from all backgrounds and religions come to Festival events to hear premier speakers, share their thoughts, and ask questions.

Bookend Event: Saturday, November 5

7:30pm: Phil Rosenthal, Somebody Feed Phil the Book

Keynote Author: Sunday, November 6

7pm: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Lessons from the Edge

Monday, November 7

1pm: Historical Fiction Panel: Lisa Barr & Rachel Barenbaum

7pm: Charles Bosworth & Joel Schwartz, Bone Deep: Untangling the Betsy Faria Murder Case

Tuesday, November 8

10:30am: Julian E. Zelizer, Abraham Joshua Heschel

1pm: Jen Maxfield, More After the Break

7pm: Cookbook Panel: Cathy Barrow & Molly Yeh

Wednesday, November 9

10:30am: Romance Fiction Panel: Amanda Elliot & Lynda Cohen Loigman

7pm: Kristallnacht Program: Scott Lenga, The Watchmakers

Thursday, November 10

10:30am: Wellness Panel: Rina Raphael & Jason Levin

1pm: Gregory Zuckerman, A Shot to Save the World

7pm: Women’s Night with Julia Haart, Brazen (Boutique Bazaar opens at 5pm)

Friday, November 11

10:30am: Andy Dunn, Burn Rate

1pm: Barry Nalebuff, Split the Pie

Saturday, November 12

7pm: Paul Ford, Lord Knows, at Least I was There, Working with Stephen Sondheim

Sunday, November 13

1pm: Rabbi Benjamin Spratt, Awakenings

7pm: Sports Night: Dan Grunfeld & Barry Weinberg

Bookend Event: Wednesday, November 16

7pm: Missouri’s Own Authors


SLCL Authors @ The J

St. Louis County Library and the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival are pleased to announce SLCL Authors @ the J – a joint event series for readers throughout the St. Louis metro area. Additional information about St. Louis County Library’s author series is available online. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. All events are held at the J’s Staenberg Family Complex (2 Millstone Campus Drive).

The St. Louis Jewish Book Festival thanks the Novel Neighbor for providing books by our presenting authors. The festival receives a percentage of sales for every book sold. Please support the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival and the Novel Neighbor by purchasing your books at the festival.

How to Purchase Books at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

  1. In-person during the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. Call 314-442-3299 for more info.
  2. In-person or online at the Novel Neighbor.

An Honest Living

“Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.”

Anchored in life by little except a few friends, a love of books and cinema, and his nascent law practice—a downward slope from his previous position with a prestigious law firm—we never learn the name of the narrator in An Honest Living, Dwyer Murphy’s first novel. Even his clients seem unsure of who he is, and when one gives him a going away present with his name misspelled, our narrator can only ruefully observe “they were only off by a few letters.”

A guy like this makes a perfect patsy and that’s what happens when Anna Reddick hires him to determine if her husband is selling off her valuable collection of rare books. It seems easy enough. Staging a meeting with Reddick’s husband at the Poquelin Society which he describes as “a scholarly society dedicated to the art, science and preservation of the book, whatever that meant,” he quickly scores the proof he needs.

Case solved. Ha! As it could be that easy in a neo-noir novel set in a time and place where everyone seems to have a secret to hide and nothing is as it seems. And that applies also to the people the detective meets. It turns out the woman who hired our detective is not Anna Reddick.

Now, one of the noir fundamentals dictates that there’s a femme fatale, the kind of dame a hero shouldn’t fall for, but of course, always does. And that dame is the real Anna Reddick, a successful author and heir to old New York money. She hires and beguiles our detective to investigate the disappearance of her husband. Marital strife, a possible suicide or maybe murder, theft, and mystery—why wouldn’t you fall for a woman like that?

There are layers to this droll, atmospheric novel including the inside jokes the author wants us to get. If you’re wondering about the Poquelin Society, don’t bother trying to join. It doesn’t appear to exist, at least according to a Google search. But there was a French playwright and actor named Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, though he was better known by his stage name, Molière.

But the biggest of the wink and nods is for movie buffs familiar with the 1974 Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway movie Chinatown, directed by Roman Polansky. The plot of An Honest Man is an homage to this great noir classic and the book echoes many of its plot components. The book’s title derives from a conversation Nicholson had in the barbershop scene Chinatown.

But Chinatown is all Los Angeles in 1937 and the story revolves around water rights, incest, and murder. An Honest Living is New York through and through from the scenes that our detective spies from the G Train and the window of his brownstone or the streets he walks littered with trash and 24-hour diners. It’s Manhattan before the financial meltdown—urban, somewhat gritty, and unhomogenized.

Murphy has taken that time period and our knowledge of the looming crisis and created a compelling mystery set in a world of jaded hopes and ambiguous relationships. There’s the overwhelming sense that the other shoe will drop and when it does, it will come down heavy on our somewhat hapless narrator.

Noir land is always smoke and mirrors, and for those who like entering that world, be assured that Murphy is already at work on his next book.

This review previously appeared in the New York Journal of Books.

Published by Viking Books, it is also available in audiobook and Kindle formats.

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