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Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany
Horst Biesold’s Crying Hands treats a neglected aspect of the Holocaust: the fate of the deaf in Nazi Germany. His book covers a story that has remained almost unknown. In the United States, even in Germany, few are aware that during the Nazi era human beings–men, women, and children–with impaired hearing were sterilized against their will, and even fewer know that many of the deaf were also murdered. --From the Foreword by Henry Friedlander When the Nazis assumed power in Germany in 1933, they wasted no time in implementing their radical policies, first by securing passage of the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases. Among those designated by this law as “congenitally disabled” were deaf people. Horst Biesold’s newly translated book examines this neglected aspect of Nazi “racial hygiene” through interviews with more than 1,000 deaf survivors of this brutal law that authorized forced sterilizations, abortions, and eventually murder. Crying Hands meticulously delineates the antecedents of Nazi eugenics, beginning with Social Darwinism (postulated in the mid-nineteenth century) and tracing the various sterilization laws later initiated throughout the world, including many passed and practiced in the United States. This exceptional scholarship is movingly paralleled by the human faces fixed to the numbing statistics, as in story after story those affected recount their irretrievable loss, pain, and misplaced shame imposed upon them by the Nazi regime. Through their stories, told to Biesold in German Sign Language, they have given voice to the countless others who died from the specious science practiced by the Third Reich. And now their own trials finally have been acknowledged.
The Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled
Until the recent recognition of Deaf culture and the legitimacy of signed languages, majority societies around the world have classified Deaf people as “disabled,” a term that separates all persons so designated from the mainstream in a disparaging way. Damned for Their Difference offers a well-founded explanation of how this discrimination came to be through a discursive exploration of the cultural, social, and historical contexts of these attitudes and behavior toward deaf people, especially in Great Britain. Authors Jan Branson and Don Miller examine the orientation toward and treatment of deaf people as it developed from the 17th century through the 20th century. Their wide-ranging study explores the varied constructions of the definition of “disabled,” a term whose meaning hinges upon constant negotiation between parties, ensuring that no finite meaning is ever established. Damned for Their Difference provides a sociological understanding of disabling practices in a way that has never been seen before.
The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter
Elizabeth Thompson’s hearing loss was detected when she was in elementary school, and her hearing continued to deteriorate until she became completely deaf. Like many other hard of hearing and late-deafened individuals, her hearing loss complicated the general challenges of life. She struggled through school, worked as a secretary, married, had a daughter, and then found herself living as a single mother. She remarried, and soon after learned that she had contracted Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Despite these hurdles, Thompson always expressed her determination to enjoy the best life had to offer. Her astonishing exuberance might have gone unnoticed if she hadn’t accepted a new position as a reporter/columnist in 1998 for the Suburban News Publications (SNP). Day by Day: The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter presents a marvelous blend of her experiences and best SNP columns that illustrate how she created her remarkable outlook. In her columns, Thompson presented how she handled her hearing loss as a personal guide for readers. She used every stratagem available to function full-throttle – hearing aids, FM systems, lights for alarms, TTYs, even training her dog Snert. She also gently counseled readers on how to treat deaf and hard of hearing people with practical consideration and respect. Her pursuit of a fully realized life enabled her to do what she loved most, to meet and write about inspiring persons, many of whom are profiled in her memoir. Thompson eventually underwent cochlear implantation that restored 95% of her hearing, an exalting moment for her. Yet, Day by Day celebrates the entire arc of her life, a wonderful testament to her joyous resilience.
The Story of a Deaf Serial Killer
From the day he was born, Patrick McCullough faced hardships and reacted with untempered anger. His mother, a soon-to-be-divorced military wife, was late to realize that he was deaf and never learned how to handle his outbursts. Eventually, she abandoned him by petitioning for him to be a ward of the state. Stints in mental institutions and dismissals from several schools punctuated the rest of McCullough=s early years. Despite this severe childhood, no one could have predicted the outcome of his life described in Deadly Charm: The Story of a Deaf Serial Killer. Authors McCay and Marie Vernon present a compelling story about McCullough, a strikingly handsome man with a winning personality. His charm was endearing, but his incendiary temper resulted in increasing aggression and abuse. Eventually, he was convicted for the murder of two men. Yet, McCullough ingratiated himself with the court and served only seven years in prison. Once free again, he resumed his pattern of sweetness and mayhem. He beguiled sympathetic women whom he then abused and stalked. Finally, his rage culminated in a crescendo of destruction. Deadly Charm depicts a deaf serial killer driven by frustration and violence and leaves much to consider. Did McCullough=s deafness exacerbate his lethally violent nature? Perhaps his vicious impulses could have been constrained if his time in mental institutions had been more productive than his time in prison.
Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development
In her landmark book Inner Lives of Deaf Children: Interviews and Analysis, Martha A. Sheridan explored the lifeworlds — the individual and collective elements and realities that are present within the participants’ existential experiences, their relationships, and their truths — of seven deaf and hard of hearing children between the ages of seven and ten. What she discovered were deaf children with strengths, positive experiences, and positive relationships. Sheridan’s new book Deaf Adolescents: Inner Lives and Lifeworld Development returns to these seven individuals, now between the ages of 13 and 17, to see how their lives have progressed since their first interviews. Establishing an identity is said to be a primary and necessary task of adolescence. Deaf Adolescents reveals how these young adults all have begun to deal with tasks and situations that lead them to rely more on themselves and others outside of their families. Many of them talk about the athletic challenges that they face, and how their success depends upon their own efforts. They also think about the future while biding their time, taking “a break” from the furious growth that they are experiencing and also enjoying time spent with other deaf friends. In this volume, Sheridan examines the similarities and differences that these deaf young adults reveal in their views at two developmental points in their lives. Her renewed study has advanced the quest to determine what pathways and spaces can foster productive, healthy, satisfying, actualized deaf lives.
Leo Jacobs has written a unique and personal account of what it is like to be deaf in a hearing world. He speaks out on such issues as mainstreaming and its effect on deaf children and the Deaf community, total communication versus oralism, employment opportunities for deaf adults, and public policy toward deaf people. This new edition includes an update of services by and for deaf people, and an expanded chapter on legislation and social issues that have had an impact on the Deaf community in the last ten years.
From Carnival to the Canon
“The moment when a society must contend with a powerful language other than its own is a decisive point in its evolution. This moment is occurring now in American society.” Cynthia Peters explains precisely how American Sign Language (ASL) literature achieved this moment by tracing its past and predicting its future in Deaf American Literature: From Carnival to the Canon. Peters connects ASL literature to the literary canon with the archetypal notion of carnival as “the counterculture of the dominated.” Throughout history, carnivals have been opportunities for the “low,” disenfranchised elements of society to displace their “high” counterparts. Citing the Deaf community’s long tradition of “literary nights” and festivals like the Deaf Way, Peters recognizes similar forces at work in the propagation of ASL literature. The agents of this movement, Deaf artists and ASL performers—“Tricksters,” as Peters calls them—jump between the two cultures and languages. Through this process, they create a synthesis of English literary content reinterpreted in sign language, which raises the profile of ASL as a distinct art form in itself. In this trailblazing study, Peters applies her analysis to the craft’s landmark works, including Douglas Bullard’s novel Islay and Ben Bahan’s video-recorded narrative Bird of a Different Feather. Deaf American Literature, the only work of its kind, is its own seminal moment in the emerging discipline of ASL literary criticism.
In Deaf life, the personal narrative holds sway because most Deaf individuals recall their formative years as solitary struggles to understand and to be understood. Few deaf people in the past related their stories in written form, relying instead on a different kind of “oral” tradition, that of American Sign Language. During the last several decades, however, a burgeoning bilingual deaf experience has ignited an explosion of Deaf writing that has pushed the potential of ASL-influenced English to extraordinary creative heights. Deaf American Prose: 1980–2010 presents a diverse cross-section of stories, essays, memoirs, and novel excerpts by a remarkable cadre of Deaf writers that mines this rich, bilingual environment. The works in Deaf American Prose frame the Deaf narrative in myriad forms: Tom Willard sends up hearing patronization in his wicked satire “What Exactly Am I Supposed to Overcome?” Terry Galloway injects humor in “Words,” her take on the identity issues of being hard of hearing rather than deaf or hearing. Other contributors relate familiar stories about familiar trials, such as Tonya Stremlau’s account of raising twins, and Joseph Santini’s short story of the impact on Deaf and hearing in-laws of the death of a son. The conflicts are well-known and heartfelt, but with wrinkles directly derived from the Deaf perspective. Several of the contributors expand the Deaf affect through ASL glosses and visual/spatial elements. Sara Stallard emulates ASL on paper through its syntax and glosses, and by eliminating English elements, a technique used in dialogue by Kristen Ringman and others. Deaf American Prose features the work of other well-known contemporary Deaf writers, including co-editor Kristen Harmon, Christopher Jon Heuer, Raymond Luczak, and Willy Conley. The rising Deaf writers presented here further distinguish the first volume in this new series by thinking in terms of what they can bring to English, not what English can bring to them.
This new anthology showcases the works of Deaf writers during a critical formative period in their history. From 1830 to 1930, these writers conveyed their impressions in autobiographies, travel narratives, romances, nonfiction short stories, editorials, descriptive pieces, and other forms of prose. The quick, often evocative snapshots and observations featured here, many explicitly addressing deafness and sign language, reflect their urgency to record Deaf American life at this pivotal time. Using sensory details, dialogue, characterization, narrative movement, and creative prose, these writers emphasized the capabilities of Deaf people to counter events that threatened their way of life. The volume opens with “The Orphan Mute,” a sentimental description of the misfortune of deaf people written by John Robertson Burnet in 1835. Less than 50 years later, James Denison, the only Deaf delegate at the 1880 Convention of Instructors of the Deaf in Milan, published his “impressions” that questioned the majority’s passage of a strict oralism agenda. In 1908, Thomas Flowers wrote “I was a little human plant,” a paean to education without irony despite the concurrent policy banning African Americans from attending Gallaudet College. These and a host of other Deaf writers—Laurent Clerc, Kate Farlow, Edmund Booth, Laura Redden Searing, Freda W. Bauman, Vera Gammon, Isaac H. Benedict, James Nack, John Carlin, Joseph Mount and many more—reveal the vitality and resilience of Deaf writers in an era of wrenching change.