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  • Writer's pictureMickey Carolan

Coffee with a CODA - Keith Wann




Coffee with a CODA


Welcome to Coffee with a CODA, a series where guest contributors will answer questions to provide insights and lessons to readers. 


This week’s interview is with Keith Wann, CODA, Interpreter, Entrepreneur and Entertainer.


Keith, welcome to Coffee with a CODA.





Q: Who is Keith Wann?

A: Dad, Husband, child of Deaf adults, with a dash of entrepreneur, performer/actor, access provider, and ASL interpreter. And, a Child of Deaf Adults, with a dash of entrepreneur, performer/actor, access provider, and ASL interpreter.


Q: What is the most common first question you get when people find out you grew up with Deaf Parents? And how do you reply?

A: How do they drive? How is it having Deaf parents?... I always respond with ‘don’t know, never had hearing parents to compare to’.  I understand most assume it is a different experience but I remind them my wife grew up with Spanish-speaking parents and our experiences were the same; our parents worked, they fed us, and sent us off to school.


The only difference would be that the language used in the house was different than what was used out in the ‘world’. So then adding the difference would be that most of us with Deaf parents are bilingual.


Ok, wait…loud cupboard slams, smoke detector alarms always beeping from dying batteries, TV captions 24/7 (a must for me even to this day), foot stomping, wall-banging, light flashing, mischievous interpreting between teacher and parent, learning to talk without moving lips so parents won’t know, and flashing ILY sign since day one!


Q: What advice would you give younger KODA/CODA’s? Conversely, what advice should they ignore?

A: Embrace the language and culture.  Eat up the ASL, absorb it, share it, and provide access.  My mom handed me a SEE book (we lived in San Jose during the 70s and that was the epicenter of Signing Exact English) which confused me since both my parents were strong ASL unless talking to a hearing person then my mom would code-switch to English ordered ASL but I didn’t realize that until later. 


I asked why and my mom’s answer was, "Because you might meet a deaf person who uses these signs and I want you to be able to talk with them", she was huge on access. When I was growing up our Deaf parents were called mutes and ‘deaf and dumb’, today’s kodas see people like their parents and their language on TV and in the movies, in popular culture, sporting events, and being taught all over for many to learn.


Any advice from me would be coming as a dad first which I am sure they have already heard.  Embrace the language, any version that allows for communication.

Ok, wait…no never mind already said above



Q: You’ve done some pretty cool events in your career, what have been some of the most memorable?

A: The first time performing a song on stage with ½ and ½ - two CODAs from the Bay Area I grew up watching, the first time doing my comedy show in Fremont and having both my parents (divorced) in the front row looking at me and then each other and laughing.  My mom would also start to stand up and sign “That’s not true…oh wait that’s right that happened” and then sit back down. 


The first time my wife (certified trilingual interpreter) voiced for my show while we were dating. 


The first time my kids got on the stage after a show and jumped around and Jan Nishimura played with them. So many memories to last a lifetime and more.


Ok, wait, always signing my shows so my parents would have first access, and having the hearing audiences depend on the voicing, sometimes good sometimes not.




Q: What is one leadership, life, or love lesson that you learned from your parents?

A: Experience life and find your path.  You may end up going down the wrong path for a short minute but as long as you can see that and turn around then you will be ok.  My mom had a very hard life as a child and I can tell she tried to make sure everyone including me felt loved/included.  She would talk to signing strangers, nosy neighbors, and rude teachers all with the same smile. 


One memory that always jumps out is at a restaurant when I overheard the table next to us commenting about my parents ‘look at those deaf and dumb people…’ I would ‘interpret’ this and my mom would always say “Don’t interpret, ignore”.  I wanted justice done, those people weren’t nice, but my mom would just love and look towards them and smile. Once I learned this practice as an adult, had to muddle my way through and make many mistakes, it brought more peace to my life.  Just love others.


Ok wait, sharing jokes – that’s where my love for my dad’s storytelling led to the stage.


Q: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

A: In my entrepreneurial life I love personal development and don’t have one particular book but many favorite chapters in many different books.


As a CODA, I was able to read books at a very early age before I could pronounce half the words (yes I had to go to speech therapy all of second grade).  When in first grade they would send me to the third-grade class to read with them. 


I have always loved reading, including my teenage years of reading all the Stephen King, John Saul, and Dean Koontz stories.  As a young adult I transitioned to personal development books like The Secret, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and any book by John Maxwell. 


I also have to say the Bible is instrumental in my life too.


Ok wait, let me be transparent also and say the book you recently wrote is two of my worlds coming together – Deaf Culture/Coda Life and Personal Development.  I highly recommend it!!


 

The Mom Dad Not Hear Lightning Round

The answer options are Mom, Dad, Both, or Neither


Q: Safest driver?

A: Dad


Q: Most flavorful cook?

A: Dad


Q: Most likely to join you on the comedy stage?

A: Mom


Q: Deaf School?

A: Both - Berkely


Q: Mainstream Public School?

A: Neither


Q: Lastly, you’re all over social media and not hard to find, but please do tell the readers where they can connect with or follow you.

 

This week's book recommendation is inspired by an author whom Keith mentions above.


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King


I've listened to this audiobook and it was captivating.



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