Sometimes, inspiration can be found in faraway lands.

In July 2015, Joel Mankowski, ’92, went to Edinburgh, Scotland to attend the Ninth Deaf History International Conference. There, he bought a copy of Peter Jackson’s Deaf Heritage in Britain and learned about a 15th-century deaf Scottish princess, Joanna Stewart.

“After I read just a brief paragraph in the book, I decided to do some research online, but little is known about Princess Joanna,” said Mankowski. “So I decided to write a historical fiction for children instead.”

From this comes Mankowski’s first book, Joanna the Deaf Princess, with illustrations by Susan Dupor, an art teacher at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf, and published by Orange Hat Publishing, owned by Shannon Ishizaki, a former sign language interpreter.

In the book, as described on, “Joanna, born deaf, is raised by King James I and Queen Beaufort, who desperately seek to find a suitor to marry her to gain alliances. In spite of a series of unfortunate events surrounding the beautiful Joanna, she sees love in a different way and finds a real challenge. Joanna the Deaf Princess is a story about the spirit of true love against odds.”

Mankowski chose to write in this genre, with a desire to share this story with schools as well as with the general audience. He also hopes that a magical moment can result from his book.

“I love Disney movies, so I hope it might be adapted into an animated movie,” said Mankowski. “Disney never had a deaf princess before, so they should try something unique.”

In the meanwhile, Mankowski is planning to write another children’s book, tentatively titled The Story of American Sign Language: A Deaf Perspective.

Mankowski, an ASL Studies lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, resides in Greenfield, Wisconsin.

Recent News

Stay up to date on all the gallaudet happenings, both stories, and initiatives, we are doing with our Signing community!