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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Interview With Tara Chevrestt

I reviewed Tara Chevrestt’s memoir on this blog in June in the entry Discrimination Against The Deaf: Then and Now.  Tara is now re-issuing her memoir. Here’s the new cover:


 I thought this would be a good opportunity to interview Tara, so that she can give her perspective on the issues that she deals with in her memoir.  Please welcome Tara Chevrestt to The Masked Persona’s Reviews.

Shomeret: Why are you re-launching your memoir with a new edition?

Tara: The book is the same, but I feel my new cover is more appealing. It's a memoir. It's about a person. I need to convey that.

Shomeret: Who do you see as the audience for this book?

Tara: The people I'd really like to reach are parents-- parents of hard of hearing children. Perhaps reading my story will help them understand their kids better and foresee the problems their children will face and need help with. The motto, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it" doesn't always work.

Shomeret: Have you ever been interested in learning ASL? 

Tara: I did take a class. I know the basic words and I also finger spell, but nobody in my family or my working life knew how to sign so...I would have been signing to myself all the time. It's a skill that went unused.

Shomeret: What experiences have you had with deaf individuals who use ASL?

Tara: I had a lady bash me on Goodreads and accuse me of shunning my own people. No, I did not. I chose to go mainstream, not because I was ashamed, but because I got tired of people thinking I was stupid and couldn't do this or that. I wanted to show them all I could do, that I could take the same classes and work the same jobs.

Shomeret:  Have you met any deaf people in real life as opposed to online?

Tara: I knew one deaf lady and we got along okay, but she didn't sign either.

Shomeret:  What about local deaf organizations?

Tara: I have not sought them out, but neither do I seek out people of only Puerto Rican heritage or people with only the same interests as me.

Shomeret:   Maybe a deaf organization could be supportive, or at least give you an opportunity to learn more ASL and practice it. 

Tara: I don’t seek out people of any particular type of background because I think we are all the same. I don't like labels and boxes. If I meet someone and like them, great. It doesn't matter if they are deaf, African American, in a wheelchair, or blonde and blue eyed.

Shomeret:  It’s true that identity politics can cause divisiveness within a community due to restrictive labeling.  I’m all in favor of being inclusive.  How would you define deaf culture and your role within deaf culture?

Tara: I'm not involved. I tried to be. I emailed charities that provided hearing aids to children and offered this book's proceeds. I was put through the wringer, ignored, or just plain told "no." It left a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted to help and instead, I was shunned.

Shomeret: Some writers on deaf topics believe that the needs of lip readers and signers are so different that they could be considered in conflict.  Do you agree? 

Tara: I think that you can do both. As I said above, I know some ASL, but lip reading allows me to communicate with non ASL users. You can speak both English and Spanish.  Why can't you utilize both ASL and lip reading?

Shomeret: I’ve encountered a deaf professional woman who does use both forms of communication.   It’s definitely feasible.  I have a question about phone communication. In your memoir, you tell us about how you lost a job because you couldn't do phone work.  There are now picture phones with captions for the deaf.  Do you have one?  If you do, do you find the captions adequate for your needs? Whether you have one or not, describe for us what your ideal phone would be like.  

Tara: I had a VCO (Voice Carry Over) before they came out with text messaging. Now, I just use texting. I love it. It was a miracle. I just about cried when I got my first cell phone with text messaging.

Shomeret:  Text messaging allows you control over phone communication.  Captions are provided by an intermediary and may not be accurate, but texting lets both parties communicate for themselves whether they are deaf or hearing.  I agree that it’s an excellent solution.   Is there anything else that I haven't asked that you would like your readers to know?

Tara: The reason I put this book out there is that I want readers to stop and think before they judge people with difficulties and be more aware of the hearing impaired. A person's immediate assumption when a person doesn't turn around and acknowledge their words is that they're rude. Maybe they just don't hear you. Hearing loss is an illness people can't see, but it's very there.

Shomeret:  Thank you for being so candid in this interview, Tara.  I will be featuring your other re-issued book, Maiden Behind The Mask soon.



  1. Thanks so much for having me! You asked interesting questions.

  2. You're very welcome, Tara. I asked interesting questions because you're an interesting person.

  3. Great interview Tara. You are very brave in telling and sharing your story. Wishing you all the best with it.