Inspired by a lack of representation, a deaf teenager publishes his own American sign language book

“My name is Khyiana Tate,” she said in sign language.

Khyiana Tate is an 18-year-old high school senior who is about to take her driver’s license. She’s pretty excited about that.

She’s also excited about this – her new book – “Sign with Khy.”

“Black and brown individuals are not always represented in books,” she said. “Like I’ve seen other books and I wanted to see myself in a book – books that I like – that I like to read.”

But she did not see herself – a colored person – in books on American sign language – so she made her own, where family and friends wrote the alphabet. Even little brother MJ has some letters.

“Hearing people, the deaf, the hard of hearing, society as a whole – everyone with friends and family, everyone can learn to sign, and we should,” she said.

And – she says – do not be afraid to try.

“No it’s easy – it’s easy,” she said. “It’s going to be easy because they can look at my book and see pictures along with the alphabet – the words and the characters and it’s all there – ready for them to learn to sign.”

For Khyiana, this book communicates more than that.

“It’s really important that black and brown people see ourselves in our books and our language because it gives us inspiration and it makes us happy to be who we are,” she said.

Khyiana’s efforts are especially exciting for her interpreter on this day – Jackie Thompson – whose mother, sister and niece are deaf.

“I’m so proud of Khyiana,” Jackie said. “For her and for all the other young deaf girls and boys who really have so much to say and not enough opportunity to express themselves.”

You might recognize Jackie from her many appearances as an interpretation for the mayor of Detroit during the Covid pandemic.

“You do not know isolation, now people understand isolation because of the pandemic,” she said. “But people do not know isolation unless you have experienced it in earnest. Deaf people in this world are isolated without communication unless someone decides I want to talk to you.”

Which is exactly what Khyiana does – talks to you – to us – and reaches out to the hearing world with a request that we try to learn to sign – and see deaf people like her, for who and all they are .

“More than anything else, I want people to know – deaf people can – deaf people can do exactly what any hearing person does, and that’s what I want to see.”

You can order “Signing with Khy” on Amazon – she will also be at the African American Family Book Show on February 19 in Southfield – and expect to see more from her in the future.

“I plan to write more books, and next year you can look for one,” she said.

To find out more or order her book, CLICK on the link here.

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