Book Review: Explore the World of Nyle DiMarco in ‘Deaf Utopia’
Recently, it seems that hearing interest in deaf culture has reached an all-time high. The Oscars recently awarded Best Picture to CODA, centered on a deaf family and their hearing child. Just last year, The sound of metal garnered multiple Oscar nominations and two wins for his portrayal of a man with hearing loss. Demand for American Sign Language lessons skyrocketed following Lauren Ridloff’s Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as hero Makkari, and Marvel is doubling down on content with deaf characters like her Hawk Eye spin off Echo features deaf talent in front of and behind the camera.
One of the most visible members of the deaf community in recent years has been Nyle DiMarco, the America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the stars winner who uses their platform to be a strong advocate for their community. DiMarco has long lobbied for Deaf people to be responsible for telling their own stories. He has several series and films in development that will feature deaf history, and he recently produced Audiblea short documentary about the Maryland School for the Deaf football team that was nominated at the same Academy Awards as CODA. His latest project is deaf utopiaa colorful memoir as hilarious as it is moving.
Those who buy this book expecting mostly juicy gossip about DiMarco’s time with two separate reality franchises will be disappointed. Instead, DiMarco chooses to focus on how these opportunities illustrate the general lack of access for people with disabilities in Hollywood. It was telling to get DiMarco’s perspective on why he chose to appear on both programs despite his apprehensions and audition process for both. ANTM in particular comes across as a career opportunity that DiMarco has skillfully played to his advantage, as opposed to the golden ticket to fame he promises candidates. deaf utopia features a more calculating approach than most reality TV contestants show publicly, but DiMarco’s wit and acumen make his reality TV memories more interesting than expected (and without denigrating his fellow contestants).
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But DiMarco’s strength isn’t in the parts of the book that could easily be recreated by revisiting his confessionals on ANTM or DWTS. It is in his harrowing stories of growing up as the fourth generation in a deaf family that readers will find themselves invested. DiMarco is by turns hysterical and heartbreaking as he describes youthful pranks on his hearing friends to remember the shame his hearing teacher has done. he feels about not wanting to wear his hearing aids in class. Some of the funniest vignettes involve DiMarco’s brothers, with his fraternal twin Nico (a deaf DJ) and older brother Neal engaging in typical mischief. DiMarco’s childhood as depicted in deaf utopia is a network comedy-drama The good yearsbut he’s also not afraid to delve into the less made-for-TV moments.
He is endlessly empathetic to the adults in his life, delving deep into Deaf history in part to explain how his emotionally distant father’s experiences of discrimination and prejudice as a child in a hearing world influenced people’s choices. man in adulthood. DiMarco’s mother, Donna, is vividly portrayed as a fierce protector with a fiery spirit who made sure her boys grew up knowing their worth. DiMarco’s pride in his Deaf culture and his love for his family are obvious, and the message is clear: Deaf culture is a rich tapestry, and any hearing person who can’t or won’t acknowledge it will be left behind. .
DiMarco not only represents the deaf community of deaf utopia. He devotes much of the narrative to his sexuality, discussing how he came to identify as queer and make the decision to come out (both publicly and for himself). For anyone who has struggled to label their sexuality (or whether to label it at all), DiMarco’s experience will ring true. The struggles he describes trying to connect with other LGBTQ people, both romantically and platonically, as a deaf man should inspire some soul to seek out the queer community. DiMarco weaves together his anecdotes of growing up deaf and growing up queer to build a great narrative of intersectionality. You understand how DiMarco’s deaf and queer identities inform and shape each other without ever reducing his entire personality to those identities.
Despite DiMarco’s honesty on social media and his stints on two separate reality shows, his own unique story has never been explored in depth. His memoirs deaf utopia succeeds for the first time in immersing readers in its universe. Unapologetically and unflinchingly, DiMarco dissects his upbringing and experiences as a deaf, queer man brilliantly and with the depth he brings to his documentary subjects.
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deaf utopia is available now wherever books are sold.