“The Sign for Home” Examines Life and Challenges for a DeafBlind Individual

Recent high-profile cases have shone a spotlight on issues regarding disability and independence. To what degree should one make decisions about one’s life, even if not fully able to perceive the world in what is deemed a “normal” way. Should family be able to basically dictate how a person is to live, simply because they believe they are protecting the individual from harm, thus possibly denying access to choices that other adults expect to have?
In his debut novel The Sign for Home, Blair Fell addresses this issue in a novel way. First, we have Arlo, a DeafBlind individual who resides with his devout Jehovah’s Witness uncle and receives information via a Tactile American Sign Language (TSL) interpreter who professes to believe the same. Arlo, wishing to explore possibilities in writing, enrolls in a class at a Poughkeepsie (NY) community college where he meets Cyril, another interpreter who accidentally or on purpose opens Arlo to a whole new world.
This writing class, taught by an unusual professor from St. Kitts, leads Arlo to explore parts of his past that he had been forced to shut away because his uncle deemed them sinful. These included an encounter with a deaf girl while he attended the School for the Deaf that led to his being sent to live with said uncle in the first place.
As the story unfolds, we learn that things with this girl are not as they seem. Arlo had been told one story about “the event” that ultimately ended their blossoming love affair, but… well as it turns out everyone has their secrets and lies. As the truth is revealed and Cyril and his associated cast of characters make Arlo more aware of possibilities regarding independence, he begins to push back against his uncle and Molly, the initial interpreter. This eventually leads to his seeking total freedom from his uncle’s guardianship.
Arlo and Cyril are primarily featured, with Arlo’s perspective being second person present and Cyril’s first person past. Both of these methods allow the reader to connect deeply with what is going on, offering a different set of feelings based on each. The former seems designed to ensure that one feels the experience of DeafBlindness and coping with a world neither heard nor seen insomuch as one can truly experience this, while the latter aims to allow access to the complicated emotions involved in helping Arlo deal with change.
At points during this novel, I as a DeafBlind person worried that the portrayal of Arlo made life for those living with these disabilities seem too simplistic and/or sad. Arlo knew little about how to operate in society when it came to moving around by himself and being willing to explore the wider world. The first part of this of course is that for some individuals who are DeafBlind, just as for those with other challenges, this is a true outcome. If one is not exposed to people and services such as Orientation and Mobility and Vocational Rehabilitation that are designed to help a person with a disability learn what is needed to thrive, one might indeed have a hard time. Even so, I appreciated that Fell included people who were functionally independent and who knew enough to teach Arlo, Cyril, and all in their circle some basic strategies to make his life easier. It is realistic, after all, to show that one might struggle with life as a DeafBlind person, but I believe it is equally if not more important to show that life can still be lived well with this or whatever condition one finds oneself.

The Last Great Battle?: A Primer on the Duke-UNC Rivalry

Welcome to the best rivalry in all of sports! And yes Yankees/Red Sox fans, this is true. For if you’ve ever spent time in Tar Heel Territory (because there is no Duke territory or if there is it’s in New Jersey somewhere) you know the bad blood that flows along Tobacco Road. And yes it’s done respectfully, mostly, because we’re still Southern after all, y’all.
Even with all those classic matchups, we have never had one this big. In fact, it surprises me to learn that the two teams hadn’t even met in the NCAA Tournament before. I guess either one or the other would go far in their days of greatness. And what do you know, in Coach K’s last season and Hubert Davis’s very first we finally get the epic matchup that will serve as his perfect career sendoff, because there’s no way they’re winning that game. Ok ok, I’d better not talk too much noise or I might end up eating my words on Saturday, but ah well. In any event, the week leading up to the game is going to be fun, as my wife and I stand on different sides of that line. We’ll both wear our shirts on the day of and try to cheer our teams on to victory.
I vaguely remember when I was introduced to this rivalry, sometime in the late 80s. I barely understood sports then. But my dad had me in his room, which was a den sort of area in the back of the house that he had equipped with a minifridge, a leather couch and a recliner. I rarely entered this room uninvited, but on occasion he would allow me to accompany him to listen to music or have some long conversation out of everyone else’s ear. Anyway, he turned on the game and told me, in his thick unusual accent, that “Naw-Calana” was playing.
“Naw-calana?” I asked.
“Yeah! The school in Chapel Hill,” he replied. Not that I even knew what that meant at the time. I thought maybe he was referring to some other state and just settled in as he tried to explain to me the vagaries of basketball.
In this area you tend to take on the fandom of your family, unless daring enough to march to your own beat. So, I did this once more able to comprehend what this all meant, watching Carolina games with a fervor starting in 1993. The games they play with Duke are something like a holiday: whether in Duke’s old and small Cameron Indoor Stadium or in UNC’s (relatively) newer Smith Center you can count on the intensity. And records don’t matter either, as both teams leave everything they have on the floor once that game gets going.
So to have this game set during the Final Four in the part of March Madness that actually occurs in April is going to be something special. I know the other two teams, the University of Kansas and Villanova University, are probably champing at the bit to get whomever is left though, as the Duke UNC winner is going to have a task getting up for the National Championship. We shall see what happens, but here’s hoping the right, CAROLINA blue will reign supreme by Saturday night’s end. Go Heels!

Road To Home Ownership: Signed, Sealed…

Now all we await is the delivery (e. g. construction). That’s right, this time about a week ago we were told to make our deposit so that the contract could be drawn up.
As soon as my wife noticed that she had received the message, somewhere around 2 PM on Tuesday prior, she zipped out of her workplace and got to work shoring up the dollars needed to complete the transaction. As she worked on the form from home at about 4:30, I sat on the bed across from her computer desk in the small room that occupies the top floor of this apartment feeling a range of emotions. I think even the Pomeranian sensed that major change was afoot as she bounced back and forth between me and the desk, getting me to pet her as her tail wagged hard enough to generate wind. Dogs really can feel what we’re going through better than most humans can.
After checking and double checking that everything was as correct as she could get it she whacked the “Submit” button, and a good piece of dough along with our hopes and dreams raced down the wire. Confirmation came that all had been done on our end, and we just twiddled our thumbs waiting for the contract which arrived on Thursday evening. In it we learned our address, on a road that does not actually exist just yet but will soon. We will also be required to inhabit the residence for at least two years, but after making a decision of this magnitude I would bet that we will remain there for a good deal longer. We are already over four years in our current apartment anyway, so that should be no problem. I do not think there were any major hold-ups therein, other than a noting of the amount of time the company was giving itself to have the house constructed before we could be released from the agreement. As I’ve said before, that’s going to be the biggest “fingers-crossed” portion of this, as of course some of it—weather, supply chain issues — is out of their control. Anyhow, we did all the fun electronic stuff to put both of our signatures on the contract, and now we basically are just awaiting that distant closing sometime towards the end of the year and hoping to secure enough funds to clear that final hurtle. I guess the best news here is that we do avoid all that due diligence and outbidding madness, and thus will experience a lot less stress.
Meanwhile, we’re doing a few trips by the area and really familiarizing ourselves with it. Google tells you a lot, but just driving around and taking a look says a lot more. (And yes, we are avoiding that pesky alarm by staying far enough away from the actual residence). I guess the only real challenge I see so far will be that my work commute time will nearly double. But I’m ok with this, more so in the morning than in the evening when I wish to just get home, but we’ll just see how everything plays out. Transportation should be no problem at least, since though we are on Raleigh’s fringes, almost in Garner, we are at least still within Raleigh city limits. It’s hard to find something affordable and yet close enough to my current employer, but I can live with that sacrifice. More podcasts, books and the like will just be taken in on the ride.
I do not know when the next installment of this series will be posted, but probably shortly after building commences. Oh and that’s another thing, the contract says we must meet with our builders 3 times to discuss how things are being laid out and whatever tweaks we wish to make. We’ll be bringing along someone who kind of knows what they’re looking at with regards to construction to help us with this. More once all that fun gets started. Till then, continue to wish us luck.

QC Blues: Mayhew Highlights Little-known Era of Charlotte History in “Tomorrow’s Bread”

Every town and city, any place we call home with pride likely has within itself some less-than-desirable era or characteristic. For my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, this era hit its zenith during the 1960s, as the city sought to dismantle the predominantly Black Brooklyn community that was then located in Second Ward, which is primarily downtown. They saw “blight,” a lot of which did truly exist yes, but they also envisioned a chance to make a lot more money by establishing what would become one of the world’s premier banking centers.
Anna Jean Mayhew fictionalizes the events leading to this hostile takeover of sorts in her 2019 novel Tomorrow’s Bread, a tite derived from a Langston Hughes poem that calls on us all to stand up for what we need today rather than waiting for some promised tomorrow that might then never arrive. It centers on Loraylee Hawkins, a young Black mother who works at the S and W cafeteria, one of the great diners of that area, as a server. The portion of the story which she directly tells is written in partial dialect so that the reader gets a feel for how she and those around her talked. She stayed with her grandmother, whom she called “Bibi,” and her uncle Ray. Bibi experiences memory loss and must thus be watched very closely, while Uncle Ray acts as a father figure for her child whom they call “Hawk”. As is a truism in the Black community about which many often joke, nearly all of the people in this book have nicknames.
Also true is the idea of a multi-generational family living in a somewhat rundown abode that they nevertheless own with pride. As their house is threatened by the coming “urban renewal,” Loraylee interacts with Persy Marshall, the wife of one of the most zealous attorneys who wishes to set these changes in motion. This alters Persy’s feelings about things, and she works to try and influence her husband to little avail.
Throughout his relatively short piece, we see ways in which segregation had and hadn’t changed, and the impact this had on the psyche of Black folks and white folks alike. Potential relationships not to be, trips to the beach and other waterways fraught with possible danger, and the little regard given to those who were powerless to control their ultimate destinies. Against all that tragedy though, Mayhew displays a city vibrant with fun and chaos as well, taking us into a local juke joint, a locally owned grocery store, and a shoe repair shop, to name a few. As a Charlottean myself, I learned a lot about this city from which I originate with pride, some of which I liked and some of which made me very sad. I also enjoyed the many bits that brought back childhood memories, such as radio stations, churches and street with which I am familiar. Overall, this is the most complete portrayal of the Queen City I have ever come across, as so many other novels that purport to take place there feel as if they could have been set anywhere. I think locals especially but everyone who wants to understand the possible harms and benefits of Urban renewal generally should check this book out.

Road To Home Ownership: Against All Odds

We’ve been approved! Turns out we were number 12 on the waiting list for one of those new construction townhomes being built in Southeast Raleigh. There were four people sparring for two homes, and we were fortunate enough to snag one as some backed out. This is thrilling, and while there is still much to work out before out probably late-year move-in, we are cautiously optimistic.
First, of course, we have to pay the deposit and sign the contract. This will likely not be accomplished till the end of the month, but if we are able to do so it will lock in the property’s price even as the market continues to edge the area’s value upward. And yes I am somewhat conflicted, understanding that we are kind of taking advantage of urban gentrification, but I guess I justify it by noting that apartment rentals are becoming out of hand and we thus need something with a fixed rate. Heck, I would love it if everyone who desired to do so could actually own a home or at least stay in a place they could afford without having much of their income sucked into it.
Anyhow, once that’s done we’ll just sit back on our haunches and watch as construction progress is being made. This will largely be out of our control, and we’ll mostly have to hope that weather, labor, and supply issues don’t dog us throughout the process. Let us hope we are able to get to this and future steps!
In anticipation of obtaining the home, I accompanied my wife to check out a model today so that I could get a general feel for the place. And just as I had when entering our current residence, I immediately liked the sense of homeliness therein. There were things about the layout that I couldn’t fully understand until I had experienced them.
For instance, the downstairs is pretty much an open floor plan, with no walls to separate living room from dining room and kitchen. Before checking this out, I wondered what it would do to my spatial awareness and ability to navigate easily. But it doesn’t actually seem too challenging, especially once we have our furniture all in and arranged just so and I can use that for reference. The model had couches and tables inside, so that one could get a sense of what the space would feel like when occupied. The most interesting aspect is that we have a tall counter in the dining area that can be sat at with stools, and that the sink is an island completely unattached from the walls. That will probably take some getting used to. We’re to have a single sink, as even the person who was showing us around said she had a “personal vendetta” against double sinks since they make it harder to rinse and soak larger dishes. My wife is a big fan of the single sink concept as well.
We went out the back door, where there is just enough room to set up a couple of chairs. This is basically all I need. The front also contains a little porch area, so I’ll be able to scamper around to whichever portion is in sunshine at the moment, or shade if we are in the hottest parts of summer. The only drawback about being out back is that there is an AC unit right there on the porch, but I’m hearing that now on our apartment’s balcony on this beautiful 70-degree day, so that is a feature common to most homes. Why haven’t we made AC’s quieter yet?
We came back inside and made our way upstairs, finding the stairs built into the left-side wall about midway as seen from the front door. They were full of turns, and it’ll be good exercise going up and down. The master bathroom is a good size with a fiber glass shower, and the room is a little longer than our current one and will allow for a small sitting area. But I rather liked the one that would likely be my man cave, since I can picture my speaker sounding good in that slightly less echoey space than the one I have here. As we sat in comfortable chairs in that room, my wife lobbed impressive fastball questions at the salesperson, and she noted she should make a list of them. They also discovered that they both enjoy crafting. Shortly there after, we departed.
We tried to drive around to where our house would be constructed to see if we could take a picture out there, but apparently they have a security system rigged up. As the car idled in that spot, alarms began going off and messages saying we needed to leave flashed, so we hightailed it out of there. I still got to explore the neighborhood with my cadre of GPS apps, learning where some of the closest restaurants and grocery stores were.
So that’s what we’ve got going on now. It’s exciting to have suddenly come so close, even when things looked unlikely a short month ago. Amazing how quickly circumstances can change. I will be back to update more as this continues to unfold.

Road to Home Ownership: What’s New Is New Again

I begin by noting the start of ValDayVersary. As I’ve written before, this is our own personal holiday that starts on our wedding anniversary (1/27) and ends on the first Saturday after my wife’s birthday unless her birthday (2/18) is also on a Saturday. It of course encompasses Valentine’s Day as well. This year, as last, we are spending it relatively quietly with ordered dinners, flowers and other stuff for her, and the reflections that four years of marriage bring. Ah I miss those first two years when trips to Florida were involved, but for now I travel vicariously through books. I am doubtless aware that what we have is a beautiful thing, and I couldn’t be more fortunate, though we’re hoping maybe we’ll be able to get rockin’ and rollin’ again for Number 5. These blasted Covid variants will largely dictate that, though.
Along with, of course, whether or not we have decided to purchase a house by then. There have been some crazy occurrences in that department, not surprising given that the Raleigh market is the 3rd most in-demand in the country and, well, we are still learning how this whole process works.
First, a couple weeks ago we came close to getting an offer. It was going to be sight unseen, meaning that we hadn’t even walked into the property and had seen few pictures of it. We were going on assurances that things were new and updated, and that there were no serious structural problems. The issue was its price. The would-be seller wanted nearly 20% more than Zillow said the property was worth. If the appraiser said it was indeed worth a lot less, we would be on the hook for the difference immediately as our loan wouldn’t cover it. We were told that the seller would be willing to negotiate in the event of this happening, but with there being no telling if he would get anywhere near the appraised price we were not willing to assume such risk. It likely would have been a nice place, but I’m not sure any place is worth sticking one’s neck out to that extent. Truthfully though, you almost have to roll the die in such a way to get a spot up here, thus jumping the bidding line that will occur once the home is put on the market. Unless…
Now we’re considering purchasing a new townhome that hasn’t even been constructed yet. It would have 3 bedrooms and two baths, thus meeting our needs, and be well-located near the interstate in Southeast Raleigh. Projected move-in is September or October, giving us more time to stack some dough in preparation. But we had to place our names on a wait list and see if we get called about one being available, as I think determined through a lottery. We shall see if we are so fortunate. Till then or barring some other unexpected happening, we’ll likely just deal with this too-high rent for a little longer.

Wordle’s The Word: On Internet Trends and Accessibility

In a recent NPR story on what they called Garbage Trends, they noted that these sorts of trends arise on the Internet all the time and are often gone within a week or so. They are, I suppose by their nature, very visual and lack features that would make the accessible to blind and low vision people, as well as to folks with other disabilities that might require modification for full interaction.
But I think one of the cool things that is happening is that so many within our own community are learning how to create software or code that can render something usable far more quickly than an app’s developers, who are often hesitant to “look into the matter,” are willing to do. Such is the case with this new Internet word game called Wordle.
I remember the first time I saw someone’s Wordle post on Twitter and all I hear was something like “White square? White Square? Green Square” etc. I wondered hat on earth was that, becoming curious because I do enjoy playing word games, despite rarely being any good at them. I slowly saw more and more of these posts dotting my timeline, even among big-time folks, and yes I guess they’ve already hit that point of saturation that generates a lot of annoyance from those who no longer care to see such silliness. I can understand that, but I also wanted the ability to participate in the fun a little bit, especially driven by, as noted in that NPR story, the constant drudgery of the pandemic and related bad news.
So when I saw a Blind Bargains article detailing how one might set up the computer or phone with accessible code that someone created that would allow one to play Wordle, I bit. As one can see from clicking the above link and then the accessible Wordle page from within, getting things going with anything other than Google Chrome, which allows for simply adding an extension, is complicated. So I opted for the easy route and had mine up and running in a matter of moments.
The Wordle site generates one new word a day, and you have six attempts at guessing its five letters. It then tells you if you have correct letters, letters that are in the word but in the wrong place, or absent letters. I think I took five out of six guesses to get the first word and four out of six to get the second.
I just look at it as good, clean fun that allows me to feel like I’m “in it” with everyone else for the short time that this trend will likely last. And the implications of such nimble accessibility solutions being possible are not to be overstated either, namely in the potential for quicker adaptation to needed software for one’s job. So I’m delighted to see that we are able to come up with such powerful community-based solutions, and wish I were versed enough in their background, coding, scripting, and the like, to do some of that myself. Even so, I will just appreciate the efforts of others and hope that it inspires the initial creators to start taking wide-ranging access needs into consideration at a product’s creation, rather than it having to be built in later.

Two Different Realities: On “Wish You Were Here” by Jodi Picoult

I hesitated to read this book for a while, because I wasn’t sure if I could handle a work of fiction concerning the pandemic. But, the author convinced me via Twitter to go ahead and give it a shot, and I haven’t regretted it.
We begin with Diana, a 29-year-old art dealer with the auction house Sotheby’s in New York, and her boyfriend, a resident at New York Presbyterian Hospital, as they debate going to the Galapagos Islands. She then goes on a trip herself, meeting people and having experiences even as her chosen locale, Isabela Island, is shut down to residents and tourists alike. In particular, she encounters a kind family who takes her in after her would-be hotel is shuttered, and forms tight relationships with a teen-aged girl and her father, both of whom speak English, and the kid’s grandma, who does not.
The descriptions are so vivid and clearly well-researched that, as with many things during this pandemic period, I feel like I am traveling vicariously. Even as she has these experiences, she learns from her boyfriend Finn what it is like as Covid ravages New York City and causes his job to become immeasurably harder. She also initially struggles in trying to fit in with this family, feeling at first a desire to return that is thwarted by the continued closure, she was due to return after two weeks but of course things went on beyond that point. This slowly shifts as she bonds with the teen-ager, Beatriz, in ways that Beatriz’s father is not able to achieve.
I found the story, and especially it’s first half, to be beautiful and heart-lightening as I still struggle with the real toll that Covid is taking on society. But, and no spoilers, I was shook by how things ultimately unfolded. It’s awesome though, and a fantastic piece of writing that lets one feel the devastation of loss.
In this story, Picoult is exploring the nature of Covid’s effects (in my opinion something like a warzone in that those who are most directly effected feel its punch acutely while the rest of us go on as normal,) and the nature of reality itself. Weighty subjects, but they are handled with just enough humor and ultimate truth to keep the reader from becoming too bogged down. Having read many of her novels, this is in my opinion the best. As I write this I do not know the ending, which is good as I know her endings are often unnerving in some way and can cause the story to linger in your head long after the last page. If you only take in one pandemic-related story, I would recommend this one.

Road to Home Ownership: A Dream (Possibly) Deferred

Happy New Year, y’all! We made it through 2021, with its particular trials and tribulations, and it is my greatest hope that we will finally round some kind of corner and see happier, more prosperous times ahead. It is time to get that journey started, whatever it will look like for you. I certainly no longer bother making specific resolutions, but I know what kind of work I need to do to get there.
As discussed a couple of entries ago, we had hoped to accomplish a major life marker and land ourselves a house. But… reality is already starting to set in. The dream has not ended, but it might be put off for a while.
Between our first viewing and my second, which happened on January 1, my wife and her sisters had looked at a few other town and single-family homes. The thing that happens every time though is that someone is already ready to bid, and they can pay top dollar immediately. We are, after all, in a buyer’s market where there are tons of buyers but few sellers. So people rush any property that becomes available.
So on this Saturday, we had located a home that was excellently priced, but with the understanding that the new owner would make some mostly cosmetic but needed fixes. It was located in Durham, north of downtown, and because we had already made an unsuccessful run to a property just off Roxboro Road, an unfortunately distressed section, we were a little nervous going in. This place was also fairly close to Roxboro Road, but not on the same end. The neighborhood as we drove in looked like a nice place to live, with homes that clearly go for the top end of the price scale and groceries within a half mile. Stores are to me an important metric of how others view the area and its money-generating potential, a sad truth but one that is consistent in this society.
As we pulled up to the place around 10 AM, other would-be buyers and their realtors arrived as well. Our realtor was about 20 minutes late, so my wife and her sister cased the outside of the house, noting obvious issues that would need working on such as the deck and other parts made of wood. Shortly thereafter, we stepped inside.
First, I was blown away by the Southern-style front porch, a wooden structure that would make one feel great sitting on a rocking chair and reading way back in that quiet. (And that was sort of the only possible issue, it was a good ways back from the main thoroughfare which would make me wonder about the ease of getting transportation. I’m pretty sure that it could have been done though, as we were within a four-minute drive of the nearest bus stop).
Immediately past the front door and to the left is the Master bedroom. It was about the size of our current Master, which is to say not super large but big enough to fit our king-sized bed and two nightstands. It also contained a bathroom. My wife loves the idea of having that room on the bottom floor.
From there, we strolled through the ample living room, which contained a fireplace, and kitchen and up the stairs to the three rooms above. The only thing that would really need fixing other than said issues with the wood was the carpet, which was very deep but probably not that great looking. In our dreams at least, we would work on these projects, including a repainting of the walls, over time as we enjoyed living in this luxurious space.
Outdoors, there is a spacious two-car garage and the deck, which was rotting in some places. I loved again that one didn’t hear the constant roar of AC as we do in our current spot, or traffic as one might in many others. In short, this place was absolutely ideal for both of us given what we are really seeking in a home. And it’s a rare place these days that has character, not just feeling “cookie-cutter”.
But alas, it was not meant to be. Our realtor poured water on our dream as soon as we rolled out in the car, saying that if we were to acquire it, we would have to pay to repair the deck prior to closing as required by our loan. More than that though, and not surprising, the place had pretty much already been snapped up by a construction-type company that will renovate it and sell at a significant profit. Ah well, such is things with this. I guess what I will try and do now, especially as travel is largely off the table anyway, is to just try and keep the ol’ bank account rising and try to be prepared for all of what one must do to acquire a place. This experience has definitely been… educational. We shall see.

2021 Wrap: On Achievements, TikTok, and Books

What a year, folks. As I reflect on the happenings of 2021, I find it hard to believe that it is already close to wrapping up. It is, in many respects, yet another year lost to COVID. Let’s just pray that it will be the last such.
I guess I should focus most of my energy in this post on locating whatever nuggets of positivity that existed this year. Still looking… Nah, of course something worthwhile had to happen. I guess my elevation within my employer to a sort of assistive technology tutor is a major one. I say “sort of,” because I don’t know if one would feel entirely comfortable with what I’ve instructed. I can say though that I worked hard, did my research, paid close attention to the students’ needs, and tried to make sure that what I taught them was relevant.
I’d spent this past year doing JAWS for Windows tutoring, which as longtime readers would know also led me to purchase my current Windows computer and return to this platform from the Mac. Next year’s challenge, and a much more immediate and difficult one in some ways, will be to help probably those entirely new to the computer to learn some basic keyboarding skills. We’re going to use a program called Talking Typer, which helps people learn to type by speaking the letters aloud and informing of such metrics as Words per Minute and errors. I’ll need to brush up on this myself, and do hope that something I learn can help others unlock the vast power of computing.
I should also work to unlock my own power by digging back into this writing thing. I fell off of blogging over the last three months, but hey I’ve been reviewing books on Goodreads like crazy since May. Given that Book Reviewer still remains my career dream, the constant practice couldn’t have hurt.
To that end, and inspired by an NPR story on the rapid rise and influence of “BookTok,” I created a TikTok account. This, I guess social media, site allows for short three-minute videos and people, especially young ones, post on just about everything under the sun. Not surprisingly this is a very visual medium, but I did find some posts where book reviewers actually listed their titles aloud. I may (or may not) take a shot at recording my five-star reads there at some point, but am not impressed with the overall accessibility of the app. For instance, I find it difficult to follow those I am interested in with VoiceOver on the iPhone, and just navigating between videos is a real challenge. I hope some of these things can be fixed, so that a totally blind person could derive at least minimal enjoyment from the app, and perhaps more importantly tap into this vast crowd to gain exposure and other kinds of opportunities.
Just in case I never do post those reads in such a way, I’ll list them here. Note that not all books were released in 2021, just read by me herein. And just in case you do not choose to read my list below, I’ll close by wishing you and all of us a happy, healthy, and safe 2022.
2021 Five Star Titles: A listing of all the books I awarded this designation on Goodreads.

  1. Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acebedo
  2. The Actual Star, Monica Byrne
  3. The Meaning of Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey
  4. The Last Train to Key West, Chanel Cleeton
  5. The President is Missing, Bill Clinton
  6. Return to Palm Court, Stephanie Edwards
  7. The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich
  8. A Good Neighborhood, Therese Anne Fowler
  9. Mother May I, Joshilyn Jackson
  10. The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
  11. How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Cherie Jones
  12. Lies That Bind, Amanda Lamb
  13. Dear Edward, Ann Napolitano
  14. Eternal, Lisa Scottoline
  15. Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead
  16. Nerves of Steel, Tammie Shults
  17. Will, Will Smith
  18. Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas
  19. The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware
  20. Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
  21. The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate
  22. The Sea keeper’s Daughter, Lisa Wingate