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Two Women's Stories
Deaf Lives in Contrast: Two Women’s Stories might seem to bring together polar opposites in the broad range of deaf experience. Yet, as these narratives unfold, the reader will recognize that common threads run through them despite their different circumstances. Mary V. Rivers, who came from a “dirt poor” Cajun family in Louisiana, was only 17 when she married Bruce Rivers, a member of the U.S. Air Force during World War II. She bore three children in quick succession, all boys, and traveled with them to Europe with her husband. When her third son Clay was nearly two, however, she learned that he was deaf. From that time on, she devoted her life to securing a good education for Clay. Dvora Shurman’s parents, deaf Jewish immigrants from Russia, met in Chicago after World War I. Both were educated orally, declaring “I am not born deaf. Signing only for born-deaf.” They did sign, but they also wanted hearing children, stemming from their own sense of devaluation. Shurman lived a dual life in the deaf and hearing worlds. She saw herself as her deaf parents’ ears, their voice to the hearing world, and as sharing with her mother the task of being mother. The resonating theme that echoes with both of these women centers on their resentment of the treatment received by their deaf loved ones. Early in her life, Shurman adopted a slogan with her father, “‘It’s Not Fair,’ to rebel against the shaming, the demeaning, our family suffered.” After years of struggling for her son, Rivers asserts that “deaf people have a right to prove themselves as first class citizens.” Their uncommon stories reveal that they share more in common, a belief in equal rights for all, deaf and hearing.
“Albert Ballin’s greatest ambition was that The Deaf Mute Howls would transform education for deaf children and more, the relations between deaf and hearing people everywhere. While his primary concern was to improve the lot of the deaf person ‘shunned and isolated as a useless member of society,’ his ambitions were larger yet. He sought to make sign language universally known among both hearing and deaf. He believed that would be the great "Remedy,” as he called it, for the ills that afflicted deaf people in the world, and would vastly enrich the lives of hearing people as well.” --From the Introduction by Douglas Baynton, author, Forbidden Signs Originally published in 1930, The Deaf Mute Howls flew in the face of the accepted practice of teaching deaf children to speak and read lips while prohibiting the use of sign language. The sharp observations in Albert Ballin’s remarkable book detail his experiences (and those of others) at a late 19th-century residential school for deaf students and his frustrations as an adult seeking acceptance in the majority hearing society. The Deaf Mute Howls charts the ambiguous attitudes of deaf people toward themselves at this time. Ballin himself makes matter-of-fact use of terms now considered disparaging, such as “deaf-mute,” and he frequently rues the “atrophying” of the parts of his brain necessary for language acquisition. At the same time, he rails against the loss of opportunity for deaf people, and he commandingly shifts the burden of blame to hearing people unwilling to learn the “Universal Sign Language,” his solution to the communication problems of society. From his lively encounters with Alexander Graham Bell (whose desire to close residential schools he surprisingly supports), to his enthrallment with the film industry, Ballin’s highly readable book offers an appealing look at the deaf world during his richly colored lifetime.
Confessions of an Inside Man
In airports and train stations it is not unusual for waiting passengers to be approached by a person who will hand out a brochure or trinket, then indicate that he or she is deaf and ask for payment, anything they can afford. In many instances, the travelers feel pity for the poor unfortunate and dole out a dollar or two, yet most are utterly unaware that these pitiful beggars earn hundred of dollars this way in a matter of a few hours. Dennis Buck knows this unique form of panhandling intimately because, despite holding a degree in computer science and receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), he was a deaf peddler for 11 years. In Deaf Peddler: Confessions of an Inside Man, Buck unveils all of the ins and outs of exploiting his “disabilities” to earn easy money. Buck details the day-to-day life of a deaf peddler, including where to go to make the most money in the least time (airports with their constant transient clientele, malls on weekends, and fast food restaurants), how to live on the cheap (wait for people checking out to leave their motel rooms, then sneak in to use the shower), and how to live well when business is good. He also explains how he organized his rounds using a spreadsheet program. Deaf Peddler also provides a historical perspective on deaf peddling as a way for under-educated deaf people to make a living when jobs were hard to find, wages were low, and Social Security did not exist. The “no good” life served as the rationale to many deaf people for peddling, but many more in the Deaf community deplored their actions, and the National Association of the Deaf campaigned to discourage this behavior that reinforced deaf stereotypes. Buck abandoned peddling himself for this reason, but he points out that deaf peddling survives today, frequently in the highly exploitative form of rings of deaf workers completely controlled by oppressive deaf and hearing overseers. Deaf Peddler presents in engaging fashion a little-known cultural phenomenon that offers a revealing turn on the general issue of panhandling in our society today.
Inspired by the conference “Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, 1933–1945,” hosted jointly by Gallaudet University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1998, this extraordinary collection, organized into three parts, integrates key presentations and important postconference research. Henry Friedlander begins “Part I: Racial Hygiene” by analyzing the assault on deaf people and people with disabilities as an integral element in the Nazi attempt to implement their theories of racial hygiene. Robert Proctor documents the role of medical professionals in deciding who should be sterilized or forbidden to marry, and whom the Nazi authorities would murder. In an essay written especially for this volume, Patricia Heberer details how Nazi manipulation of eugenics theory and practice facilitated the justification for the murder of those considered socially undesirable. “Part II: The German Experience” commences with Jochen Muhs’s interviews of deaf Berliners who lived under Nazi rule, both those who suffered abuse and those who, as members of the Nazi Party, persecuted others, especially deaf Jews. John S. Schuchman describes the remarkable 1932 film Misjudged People, which so successfully portrayed the German deaf community as a vibrant contributor to society that the Nazis banned its showing when they came to power. Horst Biesold’s contribution confirms the complicity of teachers who denounced their own students, labeling them hereditarily deaf and thus exposing them to compulsory sterilization. The section also includes the reprint of a chilling 1934 article entitled “The Place of the School for the Deaf in the New Reich,” in which author Kurt Lietz rued the expense of educating deaf students, who could not become soldiers or bear “healthy children.” In “Part III: The Jewish Deaf Experience,” John S. Schuchman discusses the plight of deaf Jews in Hungary. His historical analysis is complemented by a chapter containing excerpts from the testimony of six deaf Jewish survivors who describe their personal ordeals. Peter Black’s reflections on the need for more research conclude this vital study of a little-known chapter of the Holocaust.
The 1988 Revolution at Gallaudet University
Deaf President Now! reveals the groundswell leading up to the history-making week in 1988 when the students at Gallaudet University seized the campus and closed it down until their demands were met. To research this probing study, the authors interviewed in-depth more than 50 of the principal players. This telling book reveals the critical role played by a little-known group called the “Ducks,” a tight-knit band of six alumni determined to see a deaf president at Gallaudet. Deaf President Now! details how they urged the student leaders to ultimate success, including an analysis of the reasons for their achievement in light of the failure of many other student movements. This fascinating study also scrutinizes the lasting effects of this remarkable episode in “the civil rights movement of the deaf.” Deaf President Now! tells the full story of the insurrection at Gallaudet University, an exciting study of how deaf people won social change for themselves and all disabled people everywhere through a peaceful revolution.
The Impact of Sports Within the Deaf Community
Deaf Sport describes the full ramifications of athletics for Deaf people, from the meaning of individual participation to the cultural bonding resulting from their organization. Deaf Sport profiles noted deaf sports figures and the differences particular to Deaf sports, such as the use of sign language for score keeping, officiating, and other communication. This important book analyzes the governing and business aspects of Deaf sport, both local deaf groups and the American Athletic Association of the Deaf and the World Games for the Deaf. It shows the positive psychological and educational impact of Deaf sport, and how it serves to socialize further the geographically dispersed members of the Deaf community. David A. Stewart was Professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.
Between Identities and Places
In this probing exploration of what it means to be deaf, Brenda Brueggemann goes beyond any simple notion of identity politics to explore the very nature of identity itself. Looking at a variety of cultural texts, she brings her fascination with borders and between-places to expose and enrich our understanding of how deafness embodies itself in the world, in the visual, and in language.
Taking on the creation of the modern deaf subject, Brueggemann ranges from the intersections of gender and deafness in the work of photographers Mary and Frances Allen at the turn of the last century, to the state of the field of Deaf Studies at the beginning of our new century. She explores the power and potential of American Sign Language—wedged, as she sees it, between letter-bound language and visual ways of learning—and argues for a rhetorical approach and digital future for ASL literature.
The narration of deaf lives through writing becomes a pivot around which to imagine how digital media and documentary can be used to convey deaf life stories. Finally, she expands our notion of diversity within the deaf identity itself, takes on the complex relationship between deaf and hearing people, and offers compelling illustrations of the intertwined, and sometimes knotted, nature of individual and collective identities within Deaf culture.
Perspectives from the International Conference on Deaf Culture
The Deaf Way documents the vast scholarly and artistic endeavors that took place in July 1989 when more than 6,000 deaf people from around the world met at Gallaudet University to celebrate Deaf culture. More than 150 articles by world-renowned experts examine every aspect of Deaf life in societies across the globe. This outstanding volume is divided into ten distinct sections: Deaf Culture Around the World, Deaf History, The Study of Sign Language in Society, Diversity in the Deaf Community, Deaf Clubs and Sports, The Deaf Child in the Family, Education, Deaf/Hearing Interaction, Deaf People and the Arts, and Deaf People and Human Rights Issues.
A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers
In July 2002, the second Deaf Way Conference and Festival took place at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., attracting more than 5,000 people worldwide. Researchers, artists, performers, and others converged to create a singular blend of scholarship and social interaction, which inspired The Deaf Way II Anthology. The Deaf Way II Anthology brings together stellar contributions by 16 international writers who are deaf or hard of hearing. This remarkable collection features poetry, essays, short stories, and one play, all of which offer thought-provoking perspectives on elements from the personal universes of these gifted authors. Many are United States writers well-known for their past publications, such as Douglas Bullard, Willy Conley, Christopher Heuer, and Raymond Luczak, while the outstanding work of John Lee Clark, volume editor Tonya Stremlau, Melissa Whalen, and several others have been collected for the first time in this volume. The international contributions further distinguish this anthology, ranging from poetry by Romanian Carmen Cristiu, verse by Sibylle Gurtner May from Switzerland, to a play by Nigerian Sotonwa Opeoluwa. All of the writers showcased in The Deaf Way II Anthology portray the Deaf experience with unmatched authenticity, presenting a perfect introduction to the Deaf world. Simultaneously, their work demonstrates that deaf and hard of hearing people can write at the highest aesthetic level and offer invaluable insights on the complete human spectrum.