Content Warnings—ableism, audism We corner our resident assistant right outside her dorm room. Her back presses flat against the door. Her hands come up. She is ready to escape, but she is also ready to give a reason. I…
How do you write about rage? That’s the question that kept refusing to give me an answer as I worked my way through this essay. It feels inappropriate and strange to write about rage when I have been privileged to enter many spaces. Yet rage is a part of my life. My life is not defined by rage, but it is contoured, often, by it.
There have been spaces I couldn’t access as well. Months after the CDC confirmed there was indeed a COVID pandemic, I got an invitation to be part of a writing workshop. I asked for an ASL interpreter and connected the workshop coordinator, a hearing nonsigner, with someone willing to work pro bono. But the coordinator worried about privacy, and I passed on the coordinator’s questions to the ASL interpreter. Before the ASL interpreter could answer the questions, the coordinator sent us an email, trying to intimidate the ASL interpreter, a neutral facilitator, into following her ethics. The coordinator knew how ASL interpreters could be ableist, the coordinator wrote, and the ASL interpreter needed to not be ableist.
I grew confused. Then I grew angry. This workshop, like so many others, was hearing-dominated. Worse, it was hearing-centered. The coordinator insisted the ASL interpreter and I follow her ideas, ideas from a hearing perspective, rather than trying for a conversation and giving us space to respond. The coordinator showed us she wouldn’t listen, and the invitation soured.
The invitation was retracted, but my anger stayed. This lingering, I thought, is the marker where anger becomes rage. When the heat seethes deep inside you and builds, instead of ceasing.
Promises of sanctuary and access are plentiful when you’re a Deaf person in a hearing industry. Still, today, I can count on one hand the number of promises fulfilled.
So, maybe in writing about rage, I write about where I come from. I write about the audiologist’s office, the place where I first learned about hearing expectations. I write about where my frustration comes from, and the point where frustration boils over into something else.
Yet, no one wants to read about a child’s rage. So, I start older, on the cusp of adulthood. I start at my first attempt at college. I go back and forth, trying to find the balance between exposition and scene.
In writing nonfiction, you try to show the world through yourself. Depending on how you write, the reader can choose to merely gaze upon your ideas from the outside, as if you present them in a glass case. Or the reader can submerge in them. When you open up, the reader sinks into what you feel. So I open up. Rage can be all-consuming, in certain moments.
So, how do I write about rage? By letting myself feel it first and then asking myself why I feel it. Think about the times you’ve been angry at hearing people, I tell myself. Ask yourself why. Follow the fire back to its beginnings. Where’s the powder? Where’s the spark? Has the explosion of anger happened yet?
ROSS SHOWALTER’s stories, essays, and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Catapult, Literary Hub, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing courses with the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Find him on Twitter and Instagram @rosshowalter.