Garden City Park, NY: In what stands as a first for the company, New York-based indie book publisher Square One Publishers, Inc. has had one of its books banned from use within a prison.
In a letter dated November 29, 2016, the Walton Correctional Institution in the town of Defuniak Springs, Florida informed Square One that its best-selling American Sign Language reference book Talking With Your Hands, Listening With Your Eyes ($26.95 USD, Square One) has been taken away from a prisoner who purchased it. The given reason for the book’s ban is “Hand signs that could be used to initiate an attack against staff.”
The section from the book specifically noted as a key reason for the book’s banning covers pages 97 to 103. Words such as practice, prevent, read, remember, speak, sign, sit, stand, start, stop, talk, and think are shown on these pages. Square One president Rudy Shur believes the prison’s decision to ban Grayson’s book as a form of “silent censorship” could actually cause great harm. “What about the relative safety of deaf prisoners?” Shur wonders. “What does it say about the reality of prison for the hearing-impaired, when the only way they are able to communicate is being prevented behind those walls?” Having received the letter only on December 7, 2016, Shur intends to write an appeal to the Department’s Library Services Administrator.
Written by sign-language expert and professor Gabriel Grayson, who has served as the principal sign language interpreter of the New York City Judicial System and is chairperson of the Sign Language Department at New School University in New York City, Talking With Your Hands, Listening With Your Eyes—first published in 2003—has remained the top-selling sign language textbook among two- and four-year colleges and is also a favorite course text among many of the country’s high schools. Unlike any other sign-language manuals presently available, Grayson’s text presents nearly 1,400 photos of professional lifelong signers (including Professor Grayson) who guide readers through the movements of 1,700 signed words and phrases.