A moving and fast-paced novel narrated by a DeafBlind young man and his new interpreter, an unlikely pair who together embark on a journey of liberation and heroism.

by Blair Fell
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, Spring 2022

THE SIGN FOR HOME tells the story of Arlo Dilly, a DeafBlind 23-year-old man raised by conservative family members who limit his use of technology. While taking a basic English composition class, Arlo is assigned a new sign language interpreter named Cyril Brewster who is recovering from a romantic breakup and is looking for a new challenge in his career. When Cyril begins to interpret Arlo’s classes he soon realizes that Arlo’s understanding of language, love, and life have been limited, governed, and often censored by iron-fisted guardians. Showing Arlo more of the world and the independence he could have puts Cyril in conflict with Arlo’s family. Against this external conflict of language mediation, we travel inside Arlo’s mind and inside his perceptions of the most important moments of his life, including his own linguistic awakenings, and a heartbreaking memory of first love and first friendship derailed by unspeakable tragedy. When the buried memories are eventually unlocked by a class writing assignment, Arlo convinces Cyril to abandon his own professional ethics to facilitate a forbidden meeting with his old school friends and first love. The narration of The Sign For Home alternates between Arlo’s voice (with its distinctive Deaf syntax) and Cyril’s fast and funny point of view, with dialogue rendered in both standard English and an approximation of American Sign Language structure. The resulting novel is not only unique, but fast-paced, delectable, emotional, and powerful.

Blair Fell has worked as a certified ASL interpreter for 25 years. The first draft of this novel won the Lippman Prize for Creative Writing from the City College of New York. In addition to his work as an interpreter, Blair has written for television shows including Showtime’s wildly successful Queer As Folk, and for public television’s award-winning California Connected. His plays have been produced in multiple venues, and his personal essays have appeared in several prominent publications including Out Magazine, the Huffington Post, Next Magazine, and many others.

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