MELMIRA I CHAT WITH HABEN GIRMA


My first dog was German
Shepherd. They are the best! I’ve been reading this book by
Haben Girma, who is best known for being
first Deafblind woman to graduate from Harvard. She wrote this memoir. So many
good stories in it that I couldn’t put it down! Now, I’m thrilled because
Haben’s just arrived in the town and I look forward to meeting
her and chatting with her about her experience writing this
book. Hi!
-Hello! How will we communicate with
each other? We’ll type back and forth on
our keyboards. When I type what I’m saying to
Haben, she can read them through braille. And then she will sign to me.
Got it? When I type and ask her a
question, I’ll also sign it so you’ll
know what I’m asking her. Thank you. Yes. First, I loved reading her
book. What’s different about her
book is that everything’s written in the present tense,
not in the past tense. She wanted to do something
different. I asked why did she want to
write it in the present tense? Because people feel more
connected to the story in the present tense. Thank you!
-I told her, yes, when she narrated in the
present tense, I felt like I’m currently living through
her experience. I’m asking her what’s it like
to write a book. Must be an enriching experience. It took me a long time. It’s a
lot of work. Maybe two years long.
-Two years, wow. Yeah… And editing was very
exhaustive. I told her I loved the REAL
part of her book, where she shared her
experience of getting her first period in the village.
It’s an awkward moment for her. All women have had that
experience. She’s being real in her book.
-I’m deaf and I’m woman, and I’m blind.
Many divisions. What’s your favorite reaction
to your book? One person told me that… One person told me that
reading my story is like drinking coffee slowly and
enjoying every sip. Yes! Yes. -We got to savor each
story in the book. I asked how did her family
react to many stories she shared in her book? One story definitely caught
them by surprise. Yes, that’s right! That story
scared my parents. She wrote a chapter about how-
Understand this, she hasn’t told her parents about the
part how she got hit by a car saving someone else’s life.
Her parents read and got scared by that story. No! -Yes, I told you when we
met. I’m still slowly learning
signs. I know basic signs. I want to become fluent. Yeah, I told her the last time
we met a while ago, that time she just started
learning signs. Now I can see her signing’s
getting better. She said she’s still not
satisfied. I asked her how she learned
sign language. Other deaf people, friends,
taught me. Yes, the Bay Area and Seattle.
-Strong communities. I’m telling her about strong
Deafblind community here, and she said she’s heard about
them here in the Bay Area and Seattle. I asked her if she’s always
identified herself as Deafblind or has she became strong with
that sense of identity recently? The more people I met in the
Deafblind community, the more I identify myself.
It’s a journey. Yes, it’s her journey. I said that many people really
do look up to you. Speaking of that… I read an article where she
said, “I don’t want to be called,
‘an inspiration’.” I asked if she can explain
more why she said that. Sometimes that word is used
for pity. I didn’t like it. Yes, right. Haben is Haben as a person. I’m jealous you met Obama! What’s he like? He’s very warm and respectful. He’s funny. Yes, he’s got a good sense of
humor. I’m asking her how she
celebrates… She deserves to have some
celebration and treat herself! Maybe a massage, or? A massage, huh? Maybe… Some of my friends are hosting
book parties- one in San Francisco and
another one in Seattle. What’s next for you? You’ve
finished the book and currently on the tour. What’s
your next goal? Maybe writing for TV. Honesty is important to
understand your challenges and your strengths, and then
your life become easier. Yes. Own your experience. Yes, right. What’s your favorite thing to
do during your down time? Dancing! Salsa dancing. I’m telling you I want to take
a dancing lesson soon! Yes! -I told her I wanted to
take a lesson. It’ll be fun. Very sexy dance. Have you tried another dance
before? Well… I used to be a cheerleader in
high school and college. I danced as a cheerleader, but
I never really learn dancing. You could do splits? Oh yes! I could do the splits.
-Awesome! -I still can! I wanted to thank you so much
for this opportunity to chat! Yes, of course! Let’s take a look at her. How old is she? She’s three
years old. Yes.
-She’s German Shepherd. Aww! My first dog was German
Shepherd. They are the best dogs! They are very loyal and
protective. She’s very sweet.
-Sweet, yeah! Captioned by www.aslcaptions.com

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