The recurring themes present throughout Future Girl include Deafness, Auslan, art journaling, resilience, peak oil and food growing. To assist with the exploration of these ideas in more depth, relevant information and useful links are included below.
- Resources for teachers
- Deafness and Auslan
- Art journaling for self expression
- Sustainability, resilience and peak oil
1. RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS
Teachers, there are many classroom activities you can do exploring Deafness, art journaling, food growing and sustainable living. Future Girl is a great book to study in the classroom from years 7 through to 12 because it encourages students to think more deeply about those of us who are different, and about the values of the world we live in.
If there are d/Deaf students in your school, the book will inspire hearing students to be more insightful and inclusive, and encourage d/Deaf students to explore their own identity and how they can more effectively ask for their needs to be met.
Creative students will be galvanised to explore creative self-expression through art journaling. We all need inspiration to do our bit to live more sustainably, and this book provides bucket-loads of it.
While this book is packed with thought-provoking, educational material, it also bursts with passion, resilience, optimism and joie-de-vivre – a fun and engaging reading experience for all students.
Schedule this book for class study – comprehensive teacher’s notes are available:
Teacher Notes for Future Girl (Australian title):
Lesson Plan for The Words in My Hands (North American title)
‘Future Girl is a must-read for Deaf people, who will identify with Piper, and for those who are hearing, offering an understanding of what it’s like to be Deaf. It takes me back to my own struggle to fit in and my transformation into loving myself as I am: a signing Deaf woman with a place in both the Deaf and hearing worlds.’DRISANA LEVITZKE-GRAY, Young Australian of the Year, 2015
Read on for more ideas about the kind of material you and your students can dive into, prompted by the book.
2. DEAFNESS AND AUSLAN
In Future Girl, I made Piper d/Deaf because I realised how little the average hearing person knows about d/Deafness. When I first tried to write about Piper’s experience, I found myself stuck, because for me, being Deaf is an ordinary part of my existence – something I take for granted and don’t think about a lot. I found I didn’t know how to articulate it. So I started jotting down my experiences with Deafness every day – the little annoyances, the benefits, confusing moments, the irritating things people say and do, and the subtle but complex feelings that arose when someone has tried to provide access but missed the mark. I began to articulate aspects of Deafness I had never seen
described before. For example, Deaf dilemma:
If you’re standing with a group of hearing people who are laughing, but you have no idea what they are laughing about, should you laugh along to be friendly (and if you do, are you somehow ‘lying’ about having understood?), or stand there with a stony face even though it could seem rude and unfriendly?
I had never realised I was making these difficult decisions on the fly, every day, without analysing how I wanted to approach them. My responses were automatic: I laughed along. But did I really want to do this? Perhaps it would be better to let people know that I felt left out.
I began posting on Facebook and my blog about my discoveries. Every single post I made went viral, such is the public hunger for this information. Hearing people thanked me for the insight and told me they had never realised we had such difficult decisions to make. Deaf people told me they felt validated, to see their experiences laid out so clearly, and in a form that they could easily share with others. This is how I became a Deaf activist.
I have woven my insights into Deafness throughout Future Girl, with the hope that it will help other d/Deaf people become more articulate about their own experiences, and examine more consciously the choices we are making each day in how we respond to the challenges we face of trying to fit into a hearing world.
You might wonder why I write ‘d/D’ when I refer to d/Deafness. A lower case ‘d’ refers to deafness as a medical condition – the simple fact of being unable to hear fully. A capital ‘D’ refers to Deaf people who are members of the Deaf community – a cultural group, similar to ‘Italians’ and ‘Greeks’. In Future Girl, Piper starts out oral (which means she lipreads and communicates verbally) and considers herself to be ‘deaf’. By the end of the book, she has discovered Deafness and is working out to what extent she wants to embrace Deaf culture and identity, and to what extent she wishes to retain her oral deaf upbringing.
I hope that Future Girl will inspire d/Deaf people on all parts of the spectrum from ‘deaf’ to ‘Deaf’ to make conscious choices about how they respond to life as a d/Deaf person in a hearing world. I hope that hearing people will become more aware of the complex challenges we face and become more supportive and understanding about the multitude of ways we might respond and not expect us to handle our d/Deafness in ways they might formerly have felt most appropriate.
A note to hearing parents of deaf children
It may be your goal for your child to grow up to be as normal as possible. You might not realise that this can put a huge pressure on us. While some people who are d/Deaf or have a disability do put a high value on ‘passing as normal’, many of us would rather take a different approach: that of accepting that we are different and asking for our needs to be met. Piper’s experience of growing up oral and then discovering and choosing to embrace aspects of Deaf experience is very common. She feels guilt for breaking away from what her mother believes is best for her, resulting in a complex and tumultuous relationship with her mother. Your child may eventually undertake a similar journey. I urge you to read Future Girl so that you can understand and support this journey as early as possible, sidestepping the conflict.
Want to know more about Deafness? Read my blog posts about Deafness HERE.
Want to learn Auslan? Take my free online Auslan course HERE. The Auslan course has short videos of around ten signs each, and is interspersed with information about Deafness and Deaf culture.
3. ART JOURNALING FOR SELF-EXPRESSION
Future Girl is presented as Piper’s art journal. I started my first journal when I was twelve years old and journaling has been an intrinsic part of my life ever since. At the time Future Girl goes to publication, I am up to journal number 63. My art journal is a visual extravaganza, my life coach and my best friend. Some people think of an art journal as being like a scrapbook, but to me the two processes are fully different. A scrapbook is typically used to capture memories. An art journal, however, is a tool to help you get the most out of life, though it may capture memories along the way. I wanted to demonstrate some of this with Future Girl, and I spent months creating artwork for Piper’s journal.
With an art journal you can:
Keep a calendar and organise your life.
Make goals and track your progress with them.
Record inspiration you come across, to remind you to make use of this idea in the future.
Record ideas that you have to remind you to act on them when the time is right.
Record things you have made and done so you can see your progress and achievements, as well as easily share them with others. (For Deaf people, I think this is especially important as people tend to believe we are like fluffy little pets – sweet, innocent and not especially useful. It is essential that we find a way to demonstrate to hearing people that we actually have skills, competency and value to offer others. An art journal which demonstrates your passions and achievements can be an excellent way to show others that you are more than just the label a Deaf person. You don’t have to be Deaf, though, to experience the benefit of this form of show-and-tell!)
Keep notes about things you have learnt and read that might be valuable to remember in the future, and vocabulary lists for a language you are learning.
Include photos, notes and cards from people.
And so much more – see the last page of Future Girl for a list of ideas.
If you’d like to see inside my journals, you can check out a video flip-through some of them here:
You can also see images of pages from my journal HERE.
If you’d like to get a glimpse of my own journey with art journaling, you can read my blog to see my FIRST ART JOURNALS (as opposed to a mostly-text-based journal), and track my progress as I developed MY ART SKILLS WITHIN THEIR PAGES. I found I loved this so much I eventually took some online classes to learn to draw and paint faces. Eventually, after people saw my work in my journals, I started SELLING MY PAINTINGS.
You might be interested to see how I make use of SYMBOLS to express myself in my art journal, and become motivated to develop your own repertoire of symbols.
If you’d like to see how I paint a messy watercolour face, check out the in-progress snaps HERE. You might like to try painting your own face following the same steps.
I hope you’ll be inspired to start your own art journal today. Remember, it’s a tool to enhance your life – it doesn’t need to be filled with incredible art. And if you don’t feel you have good art skills, simply fill it with photos and images by others that inspire you – download and print from the internet.
Want to take my art journaling e-course? If you want to dive into this deeply, you may like to check out my e-course, MAKE THE BOOK OF YOUR DREAMS, about how to make and use an art journal like mine.
Download my ZINE OF JOURNALING TIPS AND PROMPTS.
Some random snippets of art fun for you
ART FUN #1. On page 33, Piper mentions frozen Charlotte dolls. My editor asked me, ‘What’s a frozen Charlotte doll?’ I still remember the day when I discovered what they are and decided to make some myself – check out the blog post HERE. There’s a photo of one of my frozen Charlotte dolls in Future Girl as a result. If you’re inspired, use clay, plasticine or FIMO to create your own version of a frozen Charlotte doll.
ART FUN #2. A MINI-JOURNAL PROJECT you could do with paint, collage and stencils.
ART FUN #3. A video that shows how I DRAW/PAINT A FACE, by slowly building up layers. Maybe you could try something similar.
4. SUSTAINABILITY, RESILIENCE AND PEAK OIL
We are resilient if we are able and prepared to weather a crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us many ways that our society was unprepared, despite scientists telling us for years that we have created the perfect conditions for dangerous viruses to jump from animals to humans and cause widespread illness and death. I wrote Future Girl long before I had ever heard of a coronavirus, because of a concern that it would not take much to tip our world into chaos, and a desire to encourage people to think about this and consider making changes to the way we live. For Future Girl, I chose the tipping point to be peak oil.
In case you don’t know what peak oil is, it’s the point at which our demand for oil (which we use for petrol, for production of plastics and for many chemicals which we rely on in everyday life, such as tar for building roads) is greater than the supply available, which will push oil prices sky high. Since oil is a finite resource that is mined from the earth, if we continue using oil the way we have been, one day there won’t be enough.
When will peak oil happen? No-one knows. We don’t know exactly how much undiscovered oil there is left to mine. Some scientists predicted around 2020 for the peak. Some say it could be much further into the future. Some people say it’s irrelevant because we will work out how to make use of fuel from other sources – we already have nuclear power, for example. (Nuclear power is problematic though, because it creates a vast amount of nuclear waste which needs to be managed buried underground, and if it leaks, the radiation makes people sick and can cause widespread deaths. Read about the FUKUSHIMA DISASTER for an example of this.)
There is a huge concern among scientists, however, that if we continue as we have been, addicted to oil and requiring more and more of it every year, then very suddenly we could arrive at a point where demand exceeds supply, causing oil prices to sky-rocket. The result? Chaos, and probably war. We already have oil wars as some countries invade others to take control of the oil supply. History shows that when precious resources become scarce, war is usually the result.
When normal life is disrupted
For Future Girl, however, I have focused on chaos. Just imagine what would happen to your life if suddenly petrol was so expensive you couldn’t afford it any more. How would you get to school and work? How many of the businesses around us that we rely on would crash because they are unable to transport the supplies they need to manufacture essential products?
Many electricity plants run on coal, and that coal is delivered to the plants via truck. What would happen if they could no longer afford to get the coal in? Electricity prices would skyrocket too. How complicated would our high-technology lives be to run when we can no longer afford much electricity?
What about food and goods that are shipped here from overseas, using oil to
fuel the ships? What will we do when those items are no longer available to us?
This is what Piper is dealing with in Future Girl. Her task is to become more resilient in the face of these challenges. Piper, like many of us, had never thought ahead, never thought to prepare herself for the possibility of a future where oil is too expensive.
However, there are many people who are thinking about this already. There’s an incredible movement called Transition Towns, which started in the UK with the small town of Totnes, which aimed to become more resilient, growing their own food, making their own goods, and reducing their reliance on oil. The movement has since grown world-wide and there are Transition groups everywhere now, gathering resources, skills and techniques that will enable us to live our modern lives in a more resilient way. We can learn from them and from many others in our community who are working tirelessly towards resilience.
Resilience can help us be better prepared for any crisis – another pandemic, peak oil, war and more. By ensuring our essential needs can be met locally and reducing our reliance on oil, we also reduce carbon emissions, thus helping to avert the looming catastrophe of climate change. It’s win-win. Become more resilient now and you will be ready for challenges of the future. You will also be making a valuable contribution to averting climate change. Not only that, but people who see your resilience efforts may become inspired to do the same – it can have a huge ripple effect, as we see in Future Girl.
My own journey towards resilience
I was inspired to make changes in my own life to become more resilient when I read DEPLETION AND ABUNDANCE by Sharon Astyk. It’s a fantastic book and I encourage you to read it if you want to know more about peak oil and how to adapt your own life in readiness. Sharon Astyk founded the RIOT FOR AUSTERITY movement, a project in which participants aim to reduce their use of resources to 10% of the average – an amount which scientist George Monbiot says would be enough to avert the risks of climate change. In 2009 I decided to embrace the Riot for Austerity and it was an incredible experience which has changed my life permanently. You can read a blog of my journey HERE. It was during the Riot for Austerity that I first conceived of Future Girl and many of my Riot experiences have been woven into the story.
You might like to see a TOUR OF MY HOUSE AND GARDEN after my Riot journey – this is very much how I imagine Robbie and Marley’s place might look.
My blog posts about resilience
On my blog there are lots of articles that could be helpful to your in your own journey towards resilience:
- HOW TO REALLY GROW FOOD IN YOUR BACKYARD
- A SIMPLE COMPOSTING TOILET
- HOW TO PUT UP LOCAL FOOD FOR WINTER
- KEEPING AN ANGORA RABBIT FOR SUSTAINABLE TEXTILES
- RAISING BACKYARD CHICKENS FOR MEAT
- HOW TO MAKE UNDIES FROM AN OLD T-SHIRT
- A ROCKET STOVE FROM 16 BRICKS
- HOMEMADE CANDLES AND MORE CANDLES
- EATING WEEDS
- HOMEMADE SHOES
- HOMEMADE FELTED UGG BOOTS
- HOW TO STORE WOOLLENS
- HOW TO MAKE A GREENHOUSE TUNNEL
- HOW TO LIVE WITHOUT DISPOSABLE PRODUCTS
- GIVING WITHOUT SPENDING
Doing this stuff is important, not just because it helps us become more resilient, but because we stand to benefit in many ways. I have written some other articles about reasons to embrace this kind of simpler lifestyle:
- HOW BIG CORPORATIONS ARE DAMAGING US AND THE EARTH You’ll see the ideas in this article form a significant part of the setting for Future Girl.
- NOT BUYING MUCH
- EVER GOT THE FEELING YOU’VE HAD ENOUGH?
- THE MONEY-LESS MAN
Future Girl can be purchased from any good bookstore within Australia
and New Zealand, or visit my online store.