El Deafo

Bell, Cece

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Annotated by:
Lam, MD, Gretl
  • Date of entry: Nov-30-2015


El Deafo is a graphic novel and memoir describing the author’s childhood experiences after she loses her hearing from meningitis at age 4. During her first year in school, she attends a special class with other students who also wear hearing aids. They have fun and learn how to lip read together. However, Cece’s family moves to a new neighborhood the following year, and she is forced to attend regular classes at a new school. In order to understand her teachers, she gets a powerful new hearing aid known as the Phonic Ear, which is a large device she must wear strapped to her chest. The Ear makes her feel more self conscious than ever. She struggles to fit in and make friends at school, and often feels very lonely. However, she discovers that the Phonic Ear also gives her a “superpower” – she can hear what her teacher is saying and doing around the school, even when they are not in the same room together! To cheer herself up, she pretends she is a superhero named El Deafo with super-hearing. Even better, her newly realized powers soon make her the popular kid at school because she can warn everyone to quit goofing off when the teacher is coming.


Cece Bell shares this touching story about her grade school struggles with deafness with a wonderful sense of humor. It feels deeply personal and relatable - not only to children who have similar disabilities, but also to anyone who has ever felt left out or treated differently for being unlike the others in a group. Her perseverance and humorous attitude, including nicknaming herself El Deafo, are inspiring in the best way possible.

Of note: at the end of the book the author acknowledges members of the deaf community who view their deafness as a difference but not as a disability, choosing not to use hearing aids or cochlear implants. She is careful to explain that she is “an expert on no one’s deafness but [her] own.”


Amulet Books

Place Published

New York, NY