Ismael and His Sisters | Granta

  • Published: 04/02/2016
  • ISBN: 9781847089465
  • 129x20mm
  • 224 pages

Ismael and His Sisters

Louise Stern

Siblings Ismael, Rosie and Cristina are deaf, and so are many in their Maya village. The deaf and hearing alike communicate in sign language, forming a tightly-knit community with an unsophisticated, simple lifestyle. But when Ismael gets into a fight at the local fiesta and flees the village, leaving Rosie and Cristina to fend for themselves, the daily rhythms of village life are disrupted, and all that they trust in comes under threat.

Ismael and His Sisters is a remarkable debut novel from the acclaimed author of Chattering. It conjures up a world set apart, made visceral through its concentrated language, where sign language bridges exterior and interior worlds and gives a physical shape to the way we experience the world. It explores the interplay between the powerful forces within us and the dark elemental forces beyond our control, exposing the ‘bottomless, hostile ocean’ in which we all flounder. This is an extraordinary novel about the power of familial bonds, the barriers we build out of language, the dark elemental forces that threaten to overwhelm us, and above all, what it is like to be human.

The novel constantly examines what it is to communicate, with words, with hands, with eyes, with skin

Observer

[Stern gives us] the chance to see the world through different eyes that only literature can offer

Maria Crawford, FT

[A] startling first novel... an opera without song

Madeleine Kingsley, Jewish Chronicle

The Author

Louise Stern grew up in Fremont, California, the fourth-generation deaf in her family, and now lives in London. She works for the artist Sam Taylor-Wood and is the founder and publisher of Maurice, a contemporary art magazine for children.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

Chattering

Louise Stern’s stories are peopled with brave young girls, out to party, travel the world, go a little bit wild. The one thing that marks them out from their peers is that they have grown up deaf. They communicate with the outside world via a complicated mixture of sign language, lip-reading, note-scribbling, guesswork and instinct. Yet they are full of daring, ready for adventures that take them into unfamiliar places and strange, cock-eyed relationships with people whose actions they observe but never wholly understand.

It is this sense of dislocation from common experience that marks out Louise Stern’s original voice. She is fully engaged in the world we recognize and share, but the way she observes it sets her apart. Her eyes are keen; she notices things we would never see; she is quick to judge, wary, suspicious and vulnerable. She experiences the world like a voyeur, always watching, yet able to retreat to an interior silence that nobody from the outside can ever reach.

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