Deaf teen hopes 'Signing With Khy' book is a bridge to communication

Darlene A. White
Special to The Detroit News

Khyiana Tate is on a mission to teach others, and she is not letting her deafness stop her.  

Like many teenagers, Tate is working toward getting her driver’s license as well as graduation from high school in just a few months.   

 She's also excited about this — her new book — "Signing With Khy."

 “I wanted to open a book where people look like me,” said 18-year-old Tate of Detroit. “I always look at books and never really see someone that looks like me. Black and brown individuals aren't always represented in books, so I want to stop this and start making everyone feel included.”

 Since Tate didn’t see herself — a person of color — in American Sign Language books, she created an easy-to-understand book for all ages using her family and friends signing the alphabet. Tate   wants to make sure the community is aware of deaf culture.

Khyiana Tate of Detroit, who is a deaf student, signs "I love you"as she holds the book she wrote called "Signing with Khy". The book showcases people of color who are deaf, which is something she doesn't see in books.

 Last summer, Tate was the winner of a "Shark Tank"-style competition for youth in Detroit. She competed against other youth and won money for her business pitch featuring  her book, “Signing With Khy.”  Her mother, Khadija Hicks, helped with  expenses for the project.

 Tate came up with the idea to write her own book after a conversation with her mother about entrepreneurship. Her career goal was to become her own boss, so she decided to create a book series. Tate wrote and published 'Signing With Khy'  in only a few short months.  

 Hicks said she wanted her daughter to understand the importance of entrepreneurship, because being deaf is hard.

“My daughter is outgoing and determined, but we also know some job opportunities may not be available to her because she is deaf,” she explained. “As we were talking, I felt it was important for Khyiana to understand the difference between working for an employer and being your own employer; she then understood entrepreneurship was the way to go.”

 Tate's family did not know she was deaf when she was born.  

“They performed a simple test at the hospital and then said she was OK to go,” Hicks said. “At 2 years old, the daycare she was at stated she failed their hearing test and that I should take her to get tested again." Follow-up testing showed Khyiana was deaf, her mother said. 

Today, Tate has many ways to connect with others, including  texting and emailing. She is also eager to teach others America Sign Language as another way to communicate.

Khyiana Tate of Detroit, who is a deaf student, holds the book she wrote called "Signing with Khy". The book showcases people of color who are deaf, which is something she doesn't see in books.

Inside of the book, readers will find pictures of her family and friends signing the alphabets in American Sign Language. Her hope is the book will build skills needed to understand the basic alphabets as a first step. 

“My book makes it super easy to learn the alphabets in sign language,” Tate said.

 "Signing With Khy" (Sprouting Sunflowers, $15)  is available on — she'll also be at the African American Family Book Expo Saturday in Southfield. 

Tate  has many people who are supporting her new effort, including Nanette DePriest.  The Southfield resident helped Tate and her mother format the sign language book. She also worked with them to secure al publisher. 

“I was so excited from the moment that I learned that I would be working with a young lady who wasn't letting her be deaf stop her from anything in life,” DePriest said.

Outside of school and promoting her new book, Tate is working on her driving skills.  She passed segment one and has been practicing so that she can do her  road test.

 "I don’t have any challenges being deaf and driving," Tate says.  “Actually, I have less distractions not being able to hear while I’m on the road,” she explained.

In the future, Tate plans to create a sign language book series, from colors to numbers. She hopes to also create a driving book for teens, using her experience with driving.

“My ultimate goal is to bring awareness to sign language so that everyone can be able to communicate with each other,” Tate said.

 African American Family Book Expo

12:30-5 p.m. Saturday

 See for details.