Deaf American Prose
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Gallaudet University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Introduction: Deaf Papers
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The working title of our collection, “Deaf Papers,” has a number of connotations that we intended to evoke for the reader. First, we use Deaf papers as in documentation, an assertion of equal rights—and recognition—as U.S. citizens, a response to attempts in the past to prevent deaf Americans from intermarrying, or even, more...
Mervin Garretson was born to a cattle ranching family in northern Wyoming. He became deaf at the age of five from spinal meningitis. He attended the Colorado School for the Deaf, Gallaudet University, the University of Wyoming, and the University of Maryland. He taught at the Maryland...
The Sonic Boom of 1994
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The year was 2008. Sixteen-year-old Randy Petrarco was sitting in history class at Northwestern High School in Denver. Like all of the other students in his school he was totally deaf, as was the teacher who was discussing in sign language the Sonic Boom of 1994. Randy had been two years old at that time and had forgotten what...
The Deaf Conspirators
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The next afternoon, Harry and Winona arrived at the door of Davenport’s apartment. Harry pushed the rectangular white flashing-light button on the doorframe. That was a sure sign that whoever lived there was deaf...
The late Douglas Bullard was born into a hearing family and grew up in Georgia and Florida. At the age of three, he lost his hearing due to spinal meningitis. He graduated in 1952 from the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Missouri. Bullard was a Gallaudet graduate (class of 1964)...
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Its peculiar position on the map, hidden away in a recess like a hind tit tucked up under the tenderloin of the great states of the Union, gave the distinct impression that the State of Islay was an afterthought, which indeed it was. At first glance Islay appears to be a river delta where the American River spills into Chesire Bay on the south...
Shanny Mow has spent over thirty years in the theater as a playwright, actor, director, and teacher with the National Theatre of the Deaf and the Cleveland Signstage; he is also a freelance writer. He directed a play in Stockholm, developed a play in Zurich, and led theatrical workshops in Asia. He has done...
My Life on Paper
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“Isn’t there anything you do regularly with your left hand?” I wrote.
I was visiting with Dick who worked as a photographer here at the Air Force Observatory on the top of a mountain east of White Sands. He had decided that we could converse quicker and cover more ground, too, if I would teach him sign language. I...
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The year I became six, the world decided I was different. It was then I learned that not only fruit jars get labeled—so do people. It began in a small room containing one chair, a tiny window, and a thick door that seemed to shut like King Tut’s tomb...
Terry Galloway was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and raised in Austin, Texas. She says that she is a little “d” deaf writer and performer who writes (plays, poems, creative nonfiction, TV, film) and performs (performance art, cabaret, cross-dressing Shakespeare, TV, film). She’s a founding member of...
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For years my place in my family was to watch. I’d sit there in the kitchen—where most stories of any importance were told—and read lips, piecing together the shapes they formed until they made a kind of sense. After every couple of stories I’d have to turn my gaze away and give myself a breather. It took me so much to understand...
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My father sits outside of a hot evening after his day’s work as a house painter. He is old, over fifty. He wears shorts; he’s just taken a bath. His face and arms are dark, but his chest and legs stark white. The corners of his wide mouth turn down, and his legs look spindly. His steel gray hair is cut off close, and with his long nose and...
Tom Willard was born and raised in the 1960s and 1970s in suburban New Jersey. His hearing worsened throughout his childhood, and by age twenty, he was profoundly deaf. He earned a bachelor’s degree in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1985. He went on to establish and direct...
How to Write Like a Hearing Reporter
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It’s interesting to observe the way hearing reporters write about deaf people. Over the years I’ve learned a few things and would like to offer this tongue-in-cheek guide to Writing About the Deaf for Hearing Reporters Only...
Read My Lips: Mabel Hubbard Bell’s “Subtle Art of Speechreading"
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In an effort to engage her life during a period of great change in deaf education and sign language, I have been writing postcards to Mabel Bell—who wrote voluminous letters in her own lifetime. Throughout her lifetime, Mabel Bell’s letters to her husband, the famous Alexander Graham Bell, repeatedly express frustration and even...
Willy Conley, a professor and chairperson of the Theatre Arts department at Gallaudet University, is an award-winning playwright who has published in American Theatre, The Deaf Way II Anthology, Deaf American Poetry, Deaf World, Theatre For Young Audiences Today, The Tactile Mind, 34th Parallel, and...
Characters in El Paso
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My friend Raymond straddles a rusted swivel stool at the counter of the Happy Jalapeno, a local café almost within spitting distance of the Rio Grande. It’s 7:30 in the morning and the Mexican waitress keeps coming back to give us a written report on their stock...
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Jessie Sweetwind was out on a five-mile run during a cold twilight evening thinking about her deaf students when she almost stepped on an ear. What caught her eye—and helped make that split-second decision to avoid stepping on it—was the wetness and color of flesh...
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The Deaf have a word just for them. The Hearing are described by an unqualified word as well, although they never describe themselves. But it takes three words to describe my hearing...
Michael Chorost is a freelance science writer. He grew up in suburban New Jersey, graduated from Brown in 1987, and finished his Ph.D. in educational technology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2000. After graduating from UT-Austin, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and worked at...
Looking for the Music in Myself
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When I was fifteen I listened to Ravel’s Boléro many times, lying on the living room couch with my eyes closed. For me Boléro was a poem of ascent and decline, glory and futility. For the upslope of each arc, the crisp sharp cry of flutes; for the fall back to earth, bassoons and oboes. The descending side of each arc was always...
Raymond Luczak is the author and editor of more than ten books. His novel Men with Their Hands (Queer Mojo) won first place in the Project: QueerLit 2006 Contest. His collections of poetry include St. Michael’s Fall (Deaf Life Press), Mute (A Midsummer Night’s Press) and Road Work Ahead (Sibling...
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Picture girl look good. T-t-y number there, good idea. Maybe deaf see her too.
What? Interpreter sit-there perfect. Me-ready now.
Me-accused kidnapping? What-for-for?
Nosy-nosy food me-buy what, can’t believe privacy none...
Deaf Girls Can
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The sun was setting across the Pacific as Evan snapped his suspenders out over his cream colored oxford shirt. The news conference was to begin in thirty minutes and he was feeling a certain sense of nervousness settling in his stomach, with his legs...
Stoffel’s Guide to Snazzy Responses:Deaf-Blind Edition
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Don’t you just hate it when people ask stupid questions or do thoughtless things that make your life more miserable than it already is? You’d love to give those idiots a piece of your mind, but, alas, you haven’t enough left to spare a slice...
Local Deaf Woman Abandons Twin Infants
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When the waitress came, I pointed to what I wanted: a burger, fries and coffee. I’m never sure how well strangers understand my voice, or gauge how loud background noises are. At 4:00 a.m. the diner looked quiet, but for all I knew there was a racket...
Kristen Harmon is a professor with the English Department at Gallaudet University. She also coordinates integration of research and education efforts and communications related to the National Science Foundation–funded Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at...
Gonna Buy You a Mockingbird
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When the police finally found Della’s seventeen-year-old son in an alley, he
refused to speak.
Instead, he shaped volatile words made of hands and motion, seized from the air and made over into anger. Sign language. When the police brought him home and...
Growing up in Africa and England surrounded by rich literary history brought out the desire in Haroun to scribble endlessly. She holds an M.F.A. degree in creative writing and publishing arts from the University of Baltimore and is currently a Ph.D. student in English. Her poems and short stories can be...
My Life as a Color Wheel
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Ralph Waldo Emerson says we must insist on ourselves and never imitate. While growing up in the 70s, we didn’t have a line of make-up of our own. I definitely don’t recall Iman Haywood’s delicious palettes of brownish terra cotta face powders or Fashion Fair’s tantalizing display of lipsticks ranging from “honey glow” to “mocha...
On the Bottom
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I walk into the bathroom with the mop and Terry’s Hyenas are all crowded around the toilet stall. Terry is in the doorway, two guys are standing on the sink peering over the divider, and John is in the next stall, standing on the toilet. I’m surprised John is with them. He doesn’t usually hang out with Terry’s group...
The Church Interpreter and My Sex Life:Adventures in Parent-Child Communication
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Somehow Mom found out that Karen and I were planning to move in together.
That’s how I came to meet the five-dollar-per-hour church interpreter she hired to
talk me out of it.
Let me quickly say here that my mother is a good woman. This all happened ten years ago. We had our private Communication War long before this incident, which...
Mary Ruth Summers
Mary Ruth Summers was born in Lynwood, California, in 1970 and grew up in Huntington Park. After receiving her B.A. degree from Gallaudet University, she worked in the nonprofit field for eight years before deciding to change careers. She has a master’s degree in deaf education from California...
The Deaf Person’s Guide to Teaching ASL
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There is no such thing as a sure destiny. That longing look you see in the mirror looks back at you in your classroom of diverse souls participating in their own movement. Avoid looking for gray hair in the mirror and reaching for the tweezers because you’d have no hair left. On the other hand, those puffy teenagers are staining their...
Josh Swiller’s first book The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa was a New York Times best seller. He has published articles in the Washington Post, the Washingtonian, The New York Times Magazine, and other national publications. Deaf since age four, he graduated from Yale University, has worked...
I Think I Hear You
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I’d never mentored a writer before, and Seth’s senior thesis didn’t begin well. He missed deadlines—computer issues mainly. Laptops broke, froze, got water spilled on them, refused to save, were locked in rooms that had no keys for the weekend. And then there were his physical ailments—fevers, chills, and mysterious illnesses that left...
I Am Not My Ears
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Hearing aids can be a great asset for me, except when the “hearing” part doesn’t work anymore. Then they are of no “aid” at all. One time, my hearing aid malfunctioned. Work at that time was extremely busy so I couldn’t take time off. As a result, I was without sound for a while, which was fine with me. After all, I am not one of...
Pamela Wright says she is an ardent student of many topics: people, cultures, theories, philosophies, the arts, and anything and everything to do with language. All her jobs over the past twenty-five years, except for the job loading trucks at a country band’s warehouse as a teenager, were related in some way to...
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Food stamps. It’s amazing how much such a simple thing could possibly become a study in human nature. The staples were miniature vises holding each booklet together. I flipped through the paper rectangles and crisply plucked the correct strip of paper out of a booklet. The fake dollar bills were in order of ones, fives, tens, and twenties...
Whispering with Cranes
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Kaelin sank into the overstuffed antique sofa studying her legs. They stuck out in front of her, following the curve of the sofa’s cushion, until her black Mary Janes disappeared over the edge. Her cream-colored taffeta skirt embroidered with sprigs of holly stopped at her knees, and she smoothed out her skirt in an arc around her...
Jed Gallimore is a freelance writer and amateur philosopher living in San Diego, California. His work has previously appeared in local magazines such as Northridge Review, SIGNews, USDSA e-news, and Vizzue. In the recent past, he worked as an adult literacy instructor at Deaf Community Services. Before...
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I used to watch her almost every day, because her apartment was right opposite mine on Rains Avenue. She and sometimes her boyfriend would stand outside on the steps to smoke. When I had a break between classes at Stanford, I watched by the window and used to look down at her steps, but I saw her progressively less and less...
Thank God for ABC Cards!
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When John was 35 years old, his mother took him to the study room.
“Son,” she said. “I have something to tell you that you do not know. You are deaf.”
“Oh, no!” John cried in gestures or cued speech, his mother couldn’t tell. She concluded it was a morse code from the FBI...
Trudy Suggs, born Deaf to Deaf parents, owns T.S. Writing Services, which can be found via a Google search. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet University and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago, she worked in the nonprofit sector for several years and maintained a...
A Thumbs Up For District One Hospital
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It was a question that lingered in many people’s minds, including ours. We all wondered, given that my husband is a third-generation deaf person and I second-generation, whether our new baby would be deaf or hearing. My husband and I threw out the obligatory “The important thing is our baby’s healthy” to anyone who...
Going Native at Ben Bahan’s House
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It’s 4:00 a.m. on Friday, June 25, 2010, I wake up with anticipation and nervousness for the day ahead. I go to reach for my hearing aid in the side drawer, only to realize for today—well, for the next week really—I won’t need it. Not for the journey ahead. I’m flying from Tallahassee, Florida, to Baltimore-Washington International (BWI)...
Sara Stallard grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from the California School for the Deaf, Fremont in 1994. She has an associate’s degree in graphic design from the Rochester Institute of Technology, a bachelor’s degree in English from Gallaudet University, and a master’s degree in education...
Coffee Shop Story No. 1
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Hurry, I want my cappuccino, the one I ordered, with whipped cream, my friend’s waiting outside. Huh, someone just signed hello to the barista, anybody I know from Gally? Oh wrong me, that guy isn’t deaf. A flummoxing of gesture, a posturing that rises above the babbling vine of subterfuge which snakes through the...
Hole in House Real Pish (An OJ & PJ Story)
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Real funny, must tell you about my cats OJ and PJ. Happen at my old home D.C. before leave Gally in year 2000. That house serious case shithole but huge and fun and perfect for us live there, 7 us, 5 girl and 2 guy—and house have 5 bedroom! Also 2 living room, big kitchen, 2 full bathroom, and big attic for us smoke cig during...
What That ASL Dialect?
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Know how when chat with other writers deaf same me, discuss how put down way of communicating, like “she said” or “she signed.” Feel awkward to put ASL in English frame. Both language very different. Translate ASL in English always hard, take ASL hand, squeeze, drip out left only idea, finish, idea fluff into English, end up...
Rosa Lee Timm
Rosa Lee Timm is a performance artist and instructor who has been involved with a variety of theater arts projects over the past twelve years. She created her first one-woman show—which eventually became the “Rosa Lee Show,” during the fall of 2004 and has since performed in front of thousands...
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That was my father’s favorite song when I was a child.
Now you should know: my father is deaf. And my father’s father: he was deaf. And my grandfather’s father, well, he was deaf too. This makes me a fourth generation deaf person who grew up in a large deaf family...
John Lee Clark
John Lee Cl ark was born deaf, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to a Deaf mother and a DeafBlind father. DeafBlind himself, Clark graduated from Minnesota School for the Deaf and briefly attended Gallaudet University. He and his wife started the Tactile Mind Press; during the six-year run of the press, they...
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From time to time, I am startled when one of my friends or acquaintances decides to “leave” our community. They are always non-natives, often people who found their way into our world as adults after excruciating childhoods as the only deaf one in their families and schools. One woman who recently did this said that “the Deaf...
Christy Smith is the cofounder of the nonprofit organization Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW) and is a full-time volunteer dedicated to carrying out DDW’s mission to empower deaf and hard of hearing people in developing countries. DDW strives to advance the capacity of local deaf communities...
I Am Deaf. See Me Roar
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I was always an impatient person. I came into this world three months before I was supposed to. I arrived on September 13, 1978, weighing less than the human brain—a measly two lbs. Months were spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to help this little six-month-old preemie grow strong enough to function on her own...
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Laura had taught herself to pee standing up because she was so fascinated with
King Eddie. She wondered what it felt like to be him.
She had seen him around, at basketball tournaments and football games. And everyone talked about him—not always directly, but he lurked at the center of stories...
Kristen Ringman was born hearing to a deaf mother in Johnston, Rhode Island. She gradually became deaf herself over time. She was mainstreamed, but began learning ASL during summer camps with the Rhode Island School for the Deaf during high school. Kristen did undergrad studies in painting...
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I was Fionnuala. My mother gave me that name. I carried it as far as India, and
then it got buried behind the house with the banana peels. I lost the name as quickly
as I was given it.
My father held me by the hand. His hands were pink like the Irish, even though he grew up in America. He was Irish enough to be pink-skinned. His faded brown...
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The backyard was dimming and full of the hum of crickets, lightning bugs, and the weird blue light of the gloaming. I sat on the porch, just out of window-shot, smoking one of my last few cigarettes, trying not to cry...
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I’d been waiting with my eyes barely open, world colorless and blurry, for hours. My hands clutched the ground tightly to keep myself from moving. My impatience kept me almost unnaturally rigid; I tried to relax. We had been running fast earlier that day, and I could see no sign of our being followed, but my mother had forbidden me to hunt, to show off my woodcraft. As if I wasn’t good enough, strong enough to...
According to Bobby Cox, he was born, and hasn’t died yet. Lots of stuff is happening in between, though. He went to elementary school in four different cities in three states (Utah, California, and Washington). After taking a detour through technical fields like computer science and computer engineering...
Devilishly Good Dim Sum
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On 7 Wednesday July 2000, Theodore Carver met the Devil.
He was in the subway station nearest his work and the train was leaving smoothly, fed by 625 volts on the third rail. Leaning over to tie his laces, he noticed that the man next to him lacked shoes. Below the edge of the person’s finely tailored gray pants...
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She can imagine him having sex. This surprises her; she glances around quickly
to see if anyone has noticed. Mouths are gaping, eyebrows scrunched up, trying to
decipher the verbs and tenses on the board. One guy has fallen asleep.
She can still feel the heat in her face, and she looks down at her notes and conjugates...
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You do not remember the drive home. The light coming in through the window
behind the sofa is gray, so you cannot tell if it is time for Evie to come home from
school. You lie here instead. Stare up at the dust, infinitesimal fractions of cosmic rust.
Little bits float above your nose in the afternoon light. Squiggles and bits and dashes...
Shoshannah Stern won the MacDougall Creative Writing contest as a freshman at Gallaudet University. She also contributed to and placed in numerous author-illustrator contests as a student at the California School for the Deaf, Fremont. Shoshannah Stern graduated from Gallaudet University with a...
Goodbye, My Valentine
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This is my story. It is the story of a girl who thought she knew a boy enough to think she was in love with him. Many other stories have begun this way, but this one is different. It’s not a light, pretty story. You imagine young girls who think they love boys as perfect dolls in perfect, plastic-covered boxes. I am not that. Feel free to look...
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A little white light goes off in Albert’s face. He groggily acknowledges it, the green-numbered alarm and the barely established sun peeking into the bedroom, and drags himself up out of his slumber. Who could be at the door, he wonders, especially at this hour? The white light goes off again. He finds a pair of boxers by the side, stuffs...
The Influence of the Spanish Inquisition on Colonial Europe
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Why do pens, when their clear tubes are still full of ink, suddenly stop working?
It is questions like this that cross my mind these days, when I find myself suddenly rapt by the insignificant things. The white of the paper, the dust floating in the air right above your head, just slightly in front of the faded chalkboard. Like background...
Born into a fully signing family of a seventh-generation deaf family and raised in the New England area, Seth is by nature familiar with the nuances of the Deaf, or the visual being. With his fascination lately being slanted toward Eastern philosophy and its views on the relationships between people and...
The Buzz Buzz Boom
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We pinned the awkward on our second date.
She told me she was pregnant on the fifth.
She told me it was a pregnancy scare on the seventh. That’s probably why God rested on the seventh, because Gaea told him she was pregnant with a deformed...
Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: The Gallaudet Deaf Literature Series