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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.
Told through a series of quirky, irreverent short stories and letters home during the early 1980s, The Deaf Heart chronicles a year in the life of Dempsey “Max” McCall, a Deaf biomedical photography resident at a teaching hospital on the island of Galveston, Texas. Max strives to become certified as a Registered Biological Photographer while straddling the deaf and hearing worlds. He befriends Reynaldo, an impoverished Deaf Mexican, and they experience a number of unusual escapades on the island. At the hospital, Max has to contend with hearing doctors, nurses, scientists, and teachers. While struggling through the rigors of his residency and running into bad luck in meeting women, Max discovers an ally in his hearing housemate Zag, a fellow resident who is also vying for certification. Toward the end of his residency, Max meets Maddy, a Deaf woman, who helps bring balance to his life.
A Narrative History of Deaf America
Now, Jack R. Gannon’s original groundbreaking volume on Deaf history and culture is available once again. In Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America, Gannon brought together for the first time the story of the Deaf experience in America from a Deaf perspective. Recognizing the need to document the multifaceted history of this unique minority with its distinctive visual culture, he painstakingly gathered as much material as he could on Deaf American life. The result is a 17-chapter montage of artifacts and information that forms an utterly fascinating record from the early nineteenth century to the time of its original publication in 1981. Deaf Heritage tracks the development of the Deaf community both chronologically and by significant subjects. The initial chapter treats the critical topics of early attempts at deaf education, the impact of Deaf and Black deaf teachers, the establishment of schools for the deaf, and the founding of Gallaudet College. Individual chapters cover the 1880s through the 1970s, mixing milestones such as the birth of the National Association of the Deaf and the work of important figures, Deaf and hearing, with anecdotes about day-to-day deaf life. Other chapters single out important facets of Deaf culture: American Sign Language, Deaf Sports, Deaf artists, Deaf humor, and Deaf publications. The overall effect of this remarkable record, replete with archival photographs, tables, and lists of Deaf people’s accomplishments, reveals the growth of a vibrant legacy singular in American history.
A Reader of Primary Documents
In this landmark reader, Benjamin Fraser offers in five parts 44 Spanish documents dating from 1417 to the present, translated for the first time to trace the turbulent history of Deaf culture in Spain. Part I: The Birth of Oralism and Deafness as Metaphor illustrates the predominant impression of deafness as isolation, exemplified by Teresa de Cartagena writings in 1455-60 about deafness as an island. Part II: The Return to Deaf Education highlights writers who wished to restore “the Spanish ‘Art’” of educating deaf students. Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro wrote The Spanish School of Deafmutes, or Method of Teaching Them to Write and Speak the Spanish Language in 1795. Yet, Madrid’s Royal School for Deaf-Mutes, which opened in 1805, taught deaf students using methodical signs adopted from France’s Abbé de l’Epée. Readings in Part III :The Contemporary Deaf Experience reveal considerations from the 1970s to the ‘90s of Deaf culture and linguistics similar to those in the United States, typified by the works of Inés Polo and Félix-Jesús Pinedo Peydró. The fourth part, The Recognition of Deaf Language and Culture, marks the expansion of academic research in Spain. María Angeles Rodríguez González spearheaded Spanish Sign Language (LSE) linguistics in 1992 with her publication Sign Language. The final part, A Selection of Deaf Poetry, concludes these documents with verse in Spanish spoken dialects rather than LSE, indicating that the evolution of the Deaf experience in Spain continues on its own path today.
The Deaf History Reader presents nine masterful chapters that bring together a remarkably vivid depiction of the varied Deaf experience in America. This collection features the finest scholarship from a noteworthy group of historians, including Reginald Boyd, Barry A. Crouch, Mary French, Brian H. Greenwald, Harlan Lane, Harry G. Lang, Kent R. Olney, Richard Pillard, Jill Hendricks Porco, Michael Reis, and volume editor John Vickrey Van Cleve. The incisive articles collected here include an exploration of the genesis of the Deaf community and early evidence of the use of sign language; a comparison of a failed, oralist school for deaf students in Virginia to the success of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut; the development of Deaf consciousness among people who carried a dominant gene for deafness; a biographical sketch of Mary Ann Walworth Booth, an accomplished deaf woman who lived on the Western frontier; an account of Deaf agency in the Indiana Institution and the Evansville Day School; the early antecedents of mainstreaming deaf children despite the objections of their parents; a profile of Alexander Graham Bell that contrasts his support of eugenics to his defense of Deaf rights; the conflicting actions of supervisors of the Pennsylvania Society for the Advancement of the Deaf; and finally, the critical role played by deaf people in the Chicago Mission for the Deaf’s success in maintaining the Deaf community for more than five decades. The remarkably rich range of topics treated in The Deaf History Reader assure its future status as a standard resource for all Deaf scholars and students.
Interpretations from the New Scholarship
Deaf History Unveiled features 16 essays, including work by Harlan Lane, Renate Fischer, Margret Winzer, William McCagg, and other noted historians in this field. Readers will discover the new themes driving Deaf history, including a telling comparison of the similar experiences of Deaf people and African Americans, both minorities with identifying characteristics that cannot be hidden to thwart bias. Other studies track societal paternalism toward deaf people in Italy, Hungary, and the United States. Adding to its intrigue, the new research in this milestone study provides evidence for previously uncredited self-determination of Deaf people in establishing education, employment, and social structures common throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Historians, teachers, and students alike will prize Deaf History Unveiled as a singular collection of insights that will change historical perspectives on the Deaf experience worldwide.
Local Lives, Transnational Connections
In his revolutionary new book, Jan-Kåre Breivik profiles ten Norwegian Deaf people and their life stories within a translocal/transnational framework. Breivik notes that, unlike hearing people, who form their identities from familial roots and local senses of place, deaf individuals often find themselves distanced from their own families and akin to other deaf people in far locations. His study records emerging deaf identities, which he observes are always in the making, and if settled, only temporarily so. To capture the identification processes involved, he relies upon a narrative perspective to trace identity as temporarily produced through autobiographical accounts or capsule life stories. As a result, he has produced striking, in-depth accounts of how core questions of identity are approached from different deaf points of view. The ten stories in Deaf Identities in the Making reveal deaf people who would like a stronger link to the Deaf world. Each story sheds different light on the overriding, empowering master narrative that has become an integral feature of the Deaf community. Like success stories from other minorities, the Deaf life story reinforces the collective empowerment process in a Deaf social milieu. Because of these revelations, Breivik’s findings easily reverberate globally in conjunction to the striking similarities of deaf lives around the world, particularly those connected with the experiences of being translocal signers who have struggled for identity in an overwhelmingly hearing context.
Since the French Revolution in1789, Deaf French people have struggled to preserve their cultural heritage, to win full civil rights, and to gain access to society through their sign language. Anne T. Quartararo depicts this struggle in her new book Deaf Identity and Social Images in Nineteenth-Century France. In it, she portrays the genesis of the French Deaf community, examines its identity as a minority culture, and analyzes how deaf people developed their cultural heritage, a deaf patrimonie that has been historically connected to the preservation of French sign language. Quartararo begins by describing how Abbé de l’Epée promoted the education of deaf students with sign language, an approach supported by the French revolutionary government, which formally established the Paris Deaf Institute in 1791. In the early part of the nineteenth century, the school’s hearing director, Roch-Ambroise-Auguste Bébian, advocated the use of sign language even while the institute’s physician Dr. Jean-Marc-Gaspard Itard worked to discredit signing. In this meticulous study, Quartararo details the many variations in deaf education from 1830 to1930. She describes the banquet movement in the 1830s led by Ferdinand Berthier, Alponse Lenoir, and Claudius Forestier, which celebrated sign language and fostered the deaf association known as the Société Centrale. Quartararo also recounts how hearing educators at the Milan Congress in 1880 universally adopted oralism as the way to defeat deafness, and prohibited sign language in deaf schools. French deaf people refused to submit to this attack upon their cultural heritage, however, and an explosion of social activity among deaf people between 1880 and 1900 created a host of active deaf groups in all corners of the country. Deaf Identity and Social Images paints a unique, rich tapestry of the resilience of French deaf people in defending their culture through the most trying century in their history.
In his first memoir, Madan Vasishta described being a deaf boy in his homeland India, where “deaf” meant someone who is not human. After rising from herding cattle to being a respected photographer in Delhi, his first memoir concluded with his acceptance at Gallaudet College far away in America. Vasishta’s new memoir begins with his arrival in Washington, DC in 1967 with $40.00 in his pocket and very little knowledge of the new worlds he was entering. Vasishta faced myriad challenges from the outset—he knew no American Sign Language and could not speech read, yet he found himself thrust into classes at Gallaudet two weeks into the semester. Cultural differences mystified him, such as how all American car accidents were someone else’s fault even when one’s car hits a stationary object. He was amazed that his fellow students did not deride him for his mistakes, unlike in India where he would have been scorned for his weakness. After five years, he returned home to India for a visit and was stunned to learn that he no longer fit in, that “even if you do not have an American Dream, the American Dream will have you.” Deaf in DC follows Vasishta through half a century living in America. He witnessed the transformation from facing bias as a deaf, foreign man of color who could not get a job despite having a Ph.D., to receiving five offers as a school superintendent in the wake of the Civil Rights movement and Deaf President Now. His new memoir reflects a genuine worldview informed by the sage perceptions of a person who has lived widely in many worlds.