El Deafo Extras: Childhood drawings from my time in the hospital, and superhero origin stories

22 Aug

The beginning of my book El Deafo is about my 2-week stay in the hospital while I recovered from meningitis. My hearing loss was a direct result of this illness. I spent a lot of time drawing during those two weeks. My parents claim that I drew the same thing over and over and over again, and that by the time I got to leave the hospital, I had done over 100 drawings. My parents only kept three, probably because it wasn’t really a time they wanted to remember. Here’s how I imagined I looked as a kid drawing in a hospital bed:


Here are those three drawings, featuring pretty much the same basic elements: a green-faced girl with a triangular dress/body, a rainbow, a happy sun, flowers, letters. Child psychologists would have a hey-day with these!




You know how when you experience something traumatic, the memories of what you you were doing around the time of the trauma are so clear? I totally remember getting all dolled up after I got my first hearing aid so that my dad could take these pictures of me. If you look closely, you can kind of see the cords going up to my ears. I think I put the hat on in an attempt to hide them. Well done, Kid Me!

CeceRightAfterHearingAids01A CeceRightAfterHearingAids02A CeceRightAfterHearingAids03A

I used these photos for an “Origins” drawing for the book; it didn’t make the final cut. You know how superheroes all have an origin story? That’s my favorite part of superhero comics. In my case, instead of taking a bath in a vat of super-poisonous chemicals, my origin story was that I got sick. I think superhero origin stories make an interesting statement about how when something horrific happens—a vat bath or an illness—you lose something, but maybe you also gain something amazing to balance out the magnitude of the loss you’ve experienced. Hence, the super powers! Heavy thoughts for Friday. Good grief, where’s my head at? Anyway, here are a couple of versions of that drawing for your enjoyment:



Thanks for reading! Only 11 more days to go until El Deafo is released to the winds!

7 Responses to “El Deafo Extras: Childhood drawings from my time in the hospital, and superhero origin stories”

  1. ash August 23, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    I was rather shocked, reading the review in the NY Times, that your character (based on you) is wearing a phonic ear. Oh my that brings back memories, not good ones. I have taught deaf children for 30 years, and the amplification available today is light years ahead of that primitive time. You could have been my student. Fortunately much as changed, not just in amplification, but in acceptance of sign language, available technology that allows deaf people access to the world, and a better understanding of diversity in the classroom. But i can tell you – while much has changed, much hasn’t, including your parent’s feelings, and yours through your journey to fit in. I wonder if there is a way to convey to readers, esp since this is geared to children, that this is not quite how the world is now for deaf people, but was during your time. Anyway, interesting read.

    • Cece Bell August 24, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Best to you!

  2. Ken Jones August 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this background. It’s so sweet, so touching, so honest. We can’t wait for El Deafo to be published!

    • Cece Bell August 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      Thanks, Ken. I sure hope my #1 Fan will enjoy it. Thanks for all your support for all these years!

  3. debbyjw August 25, 2014 at 2:53 am #

    I’m very excited to read your book; I’m sorry it wasn’t around 10 years ago, when my daughter would have been just the right age for it. She’s 18 now (but I think she’ll read it anyway!). When she was three, she was diagnosed with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss. I couldn’t find any books about kids with hearing aids, so I co-wrote one (with a pediatric audiologist). Yours is a welcome addition to genre about kids and hearing aids. Well done, you!

  4. debby waldman August 25, 2014 at 2:56 am #

    Oops– I meant “the genre.”

    • Cece Bell August 25, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      That’s ok! I’m hopeful that your daughter (and you) will enjoy the book! While it’s a very individualized story, some of the things in it will seem familiar to you for sure. It was so cool of you to write your own book for her. Thanks for the good vibes!

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