El deafo: A Must-Read Graphic Novel

My name is Nasa Cao, a regular high school student. As an ever-growing teenager constantly in a learning environment, I find it highly necessary to delve deeper into making the adolescent experience regular for all types of students. In the graphic novel El deafo, a young bunny named Cece unexpectedly loses her hearing and rapidly becomes deaf. It is apparent throughout the novel that Cece is extremely self-conscious and insecure because of her Phonic Ear. She feels different from the rest of her friends. She feels isolated and alone. She struggles more, and she knows that the other young bunnies around her don’t struggle the way she does. This graphic novel is tear-jerking. It ties in the battle to gain self-confidence with the pure innocence of a child. This story sheds light on bullying and loss of friendships that are rooted in insecurity, but Cece overcomes these battles in the end, which makes reading El deafo all the more worthwhile and heartwarming. Cece is her own hero, and a hero for others.

A graphic novel like El deafo is raved about among all critics. For example, an article by Katherine Bouton from the New York Times says that, “Bell’s book should be an inspiration for those who are “different,” and it should help others to understand just what being different means. Required reading isn’t always fun reading. El deafo should be the first and is definitely the second.” As a young teenager, I find this book relatable, as it covers universal themes of adolescence, changing, insecurities, and bullying. It portrays these experiences in situations that are raw and genuine, which make this read very easy to breeze through. I feel Cece on an emotional level, and I believe that other high school students can understand Cece like I do too.

Cece’s life faces the trials of any child, but herdeafness complicates them, and she sometimes feels she exists in a bubble of loneliness. She struggles to communicate her needs. She struggles to adapt to a completely new lifestyle. She struggles to make friends, to feel wanted. To be wanted. But her struggles lead to imminent success. Cece’s life will always be full of struggles, struggles that are more severe than most, but her struggles build character—the character of El deafo and the character of Cece.

It is a necessity that schools, especially schools of younger kids, advocate for children with disabilities. These kids are not different from any other kid. They still share the same qualities as a kid. The only thing different about Cece and other disabled children is that they experience childhood differently. All teens deal with insecurities, but Cece’s low self-esteem develops at a young age because of her disability, with arguably more severity. She faces bullying on a daily basis. Bullying is inherently wrong, and can be unjustifiable, but the reason behind the bullying in this novel is because the kids are uneducated with how to interact with disabled people. Reading a novel like El deafo is a great way to spread awareness on topics like these, and for readers to understand how to treat others with disabilities.

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