Ashland's SimoneRenee Moore is a dancer, artist and now author. The young woman has written a memoir, with the help of local children's author Richard Seidman, about growing up deaf and pursuing her love of dance and art. The title, "I Am Deaf and I Dance: A Memoir," says it all.
"Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a dancer," Moore writes.
The story outlines a journey in which Moore overcomes a number of challenges with a combination of graceful determination and the support of her very loving family.
The inspirational book is part of an educational series called "Text Connections," published by Benchmark Education. The series addresses elementary-age children at various reading levels and is designed for children with reading challenges. Moore's memoir, in addition to exploring her life as a deaf person and a dancer, also teaches kids about the characteristics of narrative nonfiction and memoir. As a teaching tool, it is spot on, an easy-to-read story with a clear narrative, engaging personal photos, a glossary and short study guides for reading comprehension. If others in this series are like this particular book, it's a great resource for teachers and homeschoolers.
In only 25 pages, Moore paints a full picture of her life so far. She describes how dancing became one of the focal points of her life as she worked harder and harder in dance classes. She writes, "I always could feel music, especially bass and drum rhythms, through my body."
She'd go to dance classes and surprise teachers with her strong rhythm and ability to learn the dances fast. "I would always pick out the best dancer in the class and follow her," she writes.
Moore's story begins at the school for the deaf she started attending in Washington, D.C., when she was 2 years old. At the school she meets occupational therapist Peyton Moore, who is also hearing impaired and who will eventually become her foster parent and later adopt the young girl and her siblings.
What I especially like about her story is how she and her family don't quit. She admits at times feeling lonely being the only deaf person in her dance classes, and struggling with certain styles of dance and having teachers who grew frustrated with her. Nevertheless, Moore keeps on dancing.
Eventually her family settles in Ashland, where she continues dancing and even performing in a production of the "Nutcracker" as well as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's production of "The Music Man" a few seasons ago. The book concludes with Moore, now in her early 20s, talking about her life after high school, living on her own, working and continuing to dance.
There's a page in the back of the book listing Moore's advice to both hearing and deaf children. For hearing kids, she advises patience when talking to deaf kids: "Don't give up just because at first you don't understand one another." She suggests that kids find alternative ways to communicate. "Point, use gestures and be creative."
For deaf kids talking to hearing kids, she writes, "Don't be shy, approach others and initiate conversation. Sometimes you have to make the first move."
Moore urges other deaf kids to do the things they love — dance, sports, art or whatever interests them — with other people in the community. "Tell yourself that you can do it," she writes.
I would like to see more engaging, approachable books like this for young readers. "I Am Deaf and I Dance" is a lovely memoir by a remarkable young woman, and a joyful reminder to all children not to let the world define them, and to stay true to themselves and their passions.
Angela Decker is a freelance writer in Ashland and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.