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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 collection presents 14 essays by renowned scholars on Deaf people, Deafhood, Deaf histories, and Deaf identity, but from different points of view on the Deaf/Disability compass. Editors Susan Burch and Alison Kafer have divided these works around three themes. The first, Identities and Locations, explores Deaf identity in different contexts. Topics range from a history of activism shaped by the ableism of Deaf elites in the United States from 1880–1920, to a discussion of the roles that economics, location, race, and culture play in the experiences of a Deaf woman from northern Nigeria now living in Washington, D.C. Alliances and Activism showcases activisim organized across differences. Studies include a feminist analysis of how deaf and hearing women working together share responsibility, and an examination of how intra-cultural variations in New York City and Quebec affect deaf-focused HIV/AIDS programs. The third theme, Boundaries and Overlaps, explicitly addresses the relationships between Deaf Studies and Disability Studies. Interviews with scholars from both disciplines help define these relationships. Another contributor calls for hearing/not-deaf people with disabilities to support their Deaf peers in gaining language access to the United Nations. Deaf and Disability Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives reveals that different questions often lead to contrary conclusions among their authors, who still recognize that they all have a stake in this partnership.
Living the Life
Most stories about disabled people are written for the sake of being inspirational. These stories tend to focus on some achievement, such as a sports or academics, but rarely do they give a true and complete view of the challenges individuals must deal with on a daily basis. For example: How does a deaf-blind person interact with hearing-sighted people at a family reunion? How does she shop for groceries? What goes through his mind when he enters a classroom full of non-handicapped peers? These aren’t questions you are likely to find answers to while reading that incredible tale of success. They are, however, issues that a deaf-blind person wishes others understood. Deaf–Blind Reality: Living the Life explores what life is really like for persons with a combination of vision and hearing loss, and in a few cases, other disabilities as well. Editor Scott M. Stoffel presents extensive interviews with 12 deaf-blind individuals, including himself, who live around the world, from Missouri to New Zealand, Louisiana to South Africa, and Ohio to England. These contributors each describe their families’ reactions and the support they received; their experiences in school and entering adulthood; and how they coped with degeneration, ineffective treatments, and rehabilitation. Each discusses their personal education related to careers, relationships, and communication, including those with cochlear implants. Deaf–Blind Reality offers genuine understanding of the unspectacular, but altogether daunting challenges of daily life for deaf-blind people.
To learn how Chinese parents raise their deaf children, Alison Callaway in 1994 conducted extensive research in the city of Nanjing. There, she interviewed the parents of 26 deaf children while also carefully analyzing a large collection of letters written by other parents to the supervisor of a nursery school that was the center of her research. She also made fact-finding visits to several other schools and programs for deaf preschoolers, and had discussions with teachers, administrators, and staff members. The results of her study form the remarkable body of information presented in Deaf Children in China. Callaway crafted a comprehensive interview with 133 questions, 106 of which were strictly factual while 27 asked parents for their views, attitudes, reactions, and perceptions concerning various issues. Through detailed background analysis, she was able to enhance her interpretations through a balanced assessment of the cultural influences in China, such as the role of the family and the government's “one-child” policy. Although she speaks Chinese and is raising her Chinese son, she consciously monitored with even greater care any potential biases from her own Western antecedents that might affect her research. Deaf Children in China provides a striking profile of the views and attitudes of well-educated Chinese parents with preschool-age deaf children. Callaway's inclusion of a survey of 122 English mothers of deaf children reveals the differences between Western and Chinese parents, who rely upon grandparents to help them and who frequently search for medical cures. Yet, she also discovered that many issues cross cultures and contexts, especially the problems of achieving early diagnosis and intervention for all deaf children, and optimizing early development of language in deaf children of hearing parents. Her pioneering work will fascinate and enlighten readers invested in the development of deaf children for years to come.
Placement, Context, and Consequences
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.
Voices of Children from Inclusion Settings
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.
Emergence, Struggle, and Rhetoric
Employing the methodology successfully used to explore other social movements in America, this meticulous study examines the rhetorical foundation that motivated Deaf people to work for social change during the past two centuries. In clear, concise prose, Jankowski begins by explaining her use of the term social movement in relation to the desire for change among Deaf people and analyzes the rhetoric they used, not limited to spoken language, to galvanize effective action. Central to Deaf Empowerment is the struggle between the dominant hearing society and Deaf people over the best means of communication, with the educational setting as the constant battleground. This evocative work first tracks the history of interaction between these two factions, highlighting the speaking majority’s desire to compel Deaf people to conform to “the human sciences” conventionality by learning speech. Then, it sharply focuses on the development of the Deaf social movement's ideology to seek general recognition of sign language as a valid cultural variation. Also, the influence of social movements of the 60s and 70s is examined in relation to the changing context and perception of the Deaf movement, as well as to its rhetorical refinement. Deaf Empowerment delineates the apex of effective Deaf rhetoric in describing the success of the Deaf President Now! protest at Gallaudet University in 1988, its aftermath, and ensuing strategies. It concludes with an assessment of the goal of a multicultural society and offers suggestions for community building through a new humanitarianism. Scholars of social movements and Deaf studies will find it to be a uniquely provocative addition to their libraries and classrooms.
Multiple Perspectives on the Acquisition of Knowledge
Epistemology is the study of how “knowledge” is formed. Standard epistemology isolates the “known” from the “knowers,” thereby defining “knowledge” as objectively constant. Multiple epistemoligies suggest that individuals learn in different ways shaped by life factors such as education, family, ethnicity, history, and regional beliefs. In this groundbreaking volume, editors Peter V. Paul and Donald F. Moores call on ten other noted scholars and researchers to join them in examining the many ways that deaf people see and acquire deaf knowledge. This collection considers three major groups of deaf knowledge perspectives: sociological and anthropological, historical/psychological and literary, and educational and philosophical. The first explores the adoption of a naturalized, critical epistemological stance in evaluating research; the epistemology of a positive deaf identity; how personal epistemologies can help form deaf education policies; and valuing deaf indigenous knowledge in research. The next part considers dueling epistemologies in educating deaf learners; reforms in deaf education; the role of deaf children of hearing parents in creating Deaf epistemologies; and the benefit of reading literature with deaf characters for all studentds. The final part explores the application of the Qualitative-Similarity Hypothesis to deaf students’ acquisition of knowledge; a metaparadigm for literacy instruction in bilingual-bicultural education; collaborative knowledge-building to access academia; and and examination of the benefits and disadvantages of being deaf.
Born in 1938, R. H. Miller was the oldest of four hearing boys with deaf parents in Defiance, Ohio, a small agricultural community. Deaf Hearing Boy is Miller’s compelling account of the complex dynamics at work in his family, including the inter-generational conflicts in which he found himself, the oldest child of deaf adults (CODA), caught in the middle. In 1942, Miller’s family moved to Toledo so that his father could find work. There, they fared well during World War II because his father worked in manufacturing as a member of Roosevelt’s “civilian army.” Miller’s mother loved urban life, where she and the family could immerse themselves in the Toledo Deaf community, especially at the Toledo Silent Club. The end of the war marked the end of prosperity for the Miller family. Returning soldiers displaced all of the deaf workers, who then had to scrape for a living. The Millers, close to destitution, returned to the family farm in Defiance. Miller depicts the return to farm life as one of tremendous hardship, both economically and psychologically. They lived off the land from hand to mouth. He also describes his grandparents’ distrust of his parents because they were deaf, and he writes candidly of his role as an unwilling agent in the misunderstandings between them. Miller also portrays the bias he endured in school and town. Parents of girlfriends would force their daughters to stop dating him for fear that his family’s deafness would be passed down. In the early 1950s, Miller’s grandparents sold the farm and his parents returned to industrial work. Miller excelled at school, and eventually left home for college and life in academia. His later reflections reveal a deep, abiding respect for his parents, despite his early difficulties. Deaf Hearing Boy presents an intimate depiction of a changing time for hearing and deaf Americans alike, when the family farm disappeared and the isolation of Deaf people also began to fade. In witnessing this transformation of society through his family’s life, Miller adds an important chapter to the collective narrative of Deaf people, one made all the more poignant and vivid as told by their Deaf Hearing Boy.