Cece Bell’s graphic novel El Deafo is a charming, insightful memoir that I didn’t want to end. El Deafo chronicles Bell’s early life from healthy infant, through her getting meningitis and navigating school and friendship after she became deaf. I learned a lot about the options in terms of hearing devices and how they were worn and how they made Bell feel awkward. I enjoyed all her memories of TV shows like x and y, slumber parties, and riding the school bus.
Friendship is a major theme in El Deafo and I could feel for Bell who had a hard time making friends. When she does find a friend, Laura, she’s put off by how bossy she is. Yet Laura doesn’t make a big deal out of Cece being deaf. Still the bossiness is hard to take. Later Cece meets Ginny, who loves all the same TV shows like Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons,
The title El Deafo comes from a superhero name Cece gives herself once she gets a new hearing device that lets her hear her teacher wherever she is in the building — in class, in the teachers’ lounge, in the restroom and this super power changes Cece’s status forever.
The story captures what it’s like to strive to find a friend in a challenging social landscape and enlightens readers on what it was like to experience hearing loss all of a sudden and how complicated it is to learn to cope with it. I highly recommend El Deafo as a book for all ages.