top of page

Interview with Mickey Carolan, Children’s Book Author and Child of Deaf Adults (CODA)

I recently met fellow children’s book author Mickey Carolan through a mutual friend. After I read his picture book Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero, I knew I wanted to speak to Mickey about his writing and his life experience. Mickey had the unique experience of growing up as a CODA—a child of deaf adults.

American Sign Language (ASL) was Mickey’s first language, and so from a young age, he knew what it was like to be different. Mickey and I talked about how he wanted Deaf children to be empowered by his book. Sky, the Deaf Home Run Hero is his debut picture book and the first in a series about what Deaf children can do. The story follows a young baseball-loving deaf boy named Sky. Sky discovers he has a superpower: being deaf sharpens his focus on the ball, which helps him hit home runs, even as he faces bullying. Sky’s story is one of bravery, friendship, and inclusion for young readers both hearing and Deaf.

Mickey is currently working on his next book, which should be finished in September 2023. Read on for our chat about his life experience, his inspiration for writing, and much more!

Mickey’s Life as a CODA

Mickey, tell us what it was like growing up as a CODA.

Great question, Kathleen. This is the first question I always get when people find out I’m a CODA. Growing up as a CODA was a unique and enriching experience with certain challenges. Frankly, I took for granted how unique of an experience it was until I got older.

As the oldest child, I became the family interpreter very early on in my childhood. The positive from this experience was how it developed a strong sense of empathy and a deep understanding of nonverbal communication. I became bilingual at an early age with American Sign Language and English. When you’re bilingual that early on in life, you don’t think anything of it. That is what you know. CODAs typically have a strong sense of community, which is a carryover from growing up as a part of the Deaf community. The Deaf community is a textbook definition of a great community.

Some of the key challenges as the family interpreter at such an early age were the situations and conversations I ended up being involved in. They were conversations that adults were having. The only other children my age having those conversations were other children who had English as their second language.

I share so many of these stories and lessons in the manuscript that I am currently writing. Beyond the next children’s book in the Deaf Kids Can series, I am excited to share with the world the book that results from the manuscript.

Were your parents born deaf, or did they become deaf later? You dedicate this book to your father and his love for baseball; please share more about that.

My parents were, in fact, both born deaf. There is a story I’ve written that discusses how the baseball and softball diamonds were my father’s equalizers in life. My father never lacked the courage to swing for the fence. Although he was deaf, there was no communication barrier for him on the ball diamond. His skill and results spoke for him. When I saw my father on the field and witnessed the way other players treated him, I realized that baseball and softball were his equalizers. On the diamond, his disability meant nothing. He cherished that time on the field, and in that venue, he wasn’t different. He was treated like every other teammate—respected, loved, appreciated, and celebrated! He was equal.

Father and son photo from my wedding day, October 23, 2010.

What was your family dynamic like? Did you have any siblings? How did you relate to your relatives?

By all accounts, we were a normal family. At the time of my father’s death, my parents were married for forty years. I have one sister, Tammy. We had exposure to both the maternal and paternal sides of the family. In fact, that exposure was done more intentionally than most other families. The extended family helped expedite our learning of the English language.

Growing up with deaf parents, you were bilingual. American Sign Language was your first language. What did your parents do to help you learn English, or did that come naturally?

It did not come naturally. In fact, I was in speech therapy until I was eight years old. Between my cleft lip, cleft palate, and ASL as my first language, the first few years of learning English were tough.

My parents were very intentional about exposure to English. They took us to speech therapy, and they made sure we were around other hearing children, whether it be through sports or other extracurricular activities. They also ensured that we spent a lot of time with our relatives who could help teach us the English language.

What challenges did you witness Deaf children having? How about you and your parents?

This one is tough. Kids can be cruel, particularly toward children who are different. Deaf children fall into this category. The two elements I saw most frequently were a lack of inclusion by other children and the constant struggle Deaf children had to articulate their emotions to a hearing person.

The same comment holds true for Deaf adults as it does for children. My father was a sports official for thirty years, and the stuff that would come out of the mouths of fa