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Reads for Deaf History Month

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Reads for Deaf History Month

Deaf History Month

The National Association for the Deaf has designated April as Deaf History Month, in order to celebrate the accomplishments of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and to raise awareness about deaf culture. April was selected because of two important events: the opening of the American School for the Deaf in April 1817, and the April 1864 founding of Galludet University, the first higher education institution for hearing-impaired students. In recognition of Deaf History Month, here are some fiction & nonfiction books published in recent years that feature the triumphs, struggles, and everyday lives of deaf individuals. (Descriptions provided by the publishers.)

hearing test

The Hearing Test by Eliza Barry Callahan

Diagnosed with Sudden Deafness, an artist in her late twenties keeps a record of her year-one filled with a series of fleeting and often humorous encounters–as she reorients her relationship to the world while living alone in a New York City studio apartment with her dog.

A Sign of Her Own by Sarah Marsh

Inspired by a true story, this novel describes the life of Ellen Lark, a deaf woman who became a favorite student of Alexander Graham Bell while he raced against Western Union to cast a human voice over wires.

The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness by Katie Booth

It recounts an extraordinary piece of forgotten history. Weaving together a moving love story with a fascinating tale of innovation, it follows the complicated tragedy of a brilliant young man who set about stamping out what he saw as a dangerous language: Sign. The audiobook offers a heartbreaking look at how heroes can become villains and how good intentions are, unfortunately, nowhere near enough, as well as a powerful account of the dawn of a civil rights movement and the triumphant tale of how the Deaf community reclaimed their once-forbidden language.

After the Miracle: The Political Crusades of Helen Keller by Max Wallace

In this powerful new history, New York Times bestselling author Max Wallace draws on groundbreaking research to reframe Helen Keller’s journey after the miracle at the water pump, vividly bringing to light her rarely discussed, lifelong fight for social justice across gender, class, race, and ability. Raised in Alabama, she sent shockwaves through the South when she launched a public broadside against Jim Crow and donated to the NAACP. She used her fame to oppose American intervention in WWI. She spoke out against Hitler the month he took power in 1933 and embraced the anti-fascist cause during the Spanish Civil War. She was one of the first public figures to alert the world to the evils of Apartheid, raising money to defend Nelson Mandela when he faced the death penalty for High Treason, and she lambasted Joseph McCarthy at the height of the Cold War, even as her contemporaries shied away from his notorious witch hunt. But who was this revolutionary figure? She was Helen Keller. From books to movies to Barbie dolls, most mainstream portrayals of Keller focus heavily on her struggles as a deafblind child–portraying her Teacher, Annie Sullivan, as a miracle worker. This narrative–which has often made Keller a secondary character in her own story–has resulted in few people knowing that her greatest accomplishment was not learning to speak, but what she did with her voice when she found it. After the Miracle is a much-needed corrective to this antiquated narrative. In this first major biography of Keller in decades, Max Wallace reveals that the lionization of Sullivan at the expense of her famous pupil was no accident, and calls attention to Keller’s efforts as a card-carrying socialist, fierce anti-racist, and progressive disability advocate. Despite being raised in an era when eugenics and discrimination were commonplace, Keller consistently challenged the media for its ableist coverage and was one of the first activists to highlight the links between disability and capitalism, even as she struggled against the expectations and prejudices of those closest to her.

Fighting in the Shadows: The Untold Story of Deaf People in the Civil War by Harry Lang

This visually rich volume presents Harry G. Lang’s groundbreaking study of deaf people’s experiences in the Civil War. Based on meticulous archival research, Fighting in the Shadows reveals the stories of both ordinary and extraordinary deaf soldiers and civilians who lived during this transformative period in American history. Lang documents the participation of deaf soldiers in the war, whose personal tests of fortitude and perseverance have not been previously explored. There were also many deaf people in noncombat roles whose stories have not yet been told–clerks and cooks, nurses and spies, tradespeople supporting the armies, farmers supplying food to soldiers, and landowners who assisted (or resisted) troops during battles. Deaf writers, diarists, and artists documented the war. Even deaf children contributed actively to the war efforts. Lang pieces together hundreds of stories, accompanied by numerous historical images, to reveal a powerful new perspective on the Civil War. These soldiers and civilians were not “disabled” by their deafness. On the contrary, despite the marginalization and paternalism they experienced in society, they were able to apply their skills and knowledge to support the causes in which they ardently believed. Fighting in the Shadows is a story of how deaf civilians and soldiers put aside personal concerns about deafness, in spite of the discrimination they faced daily, in order to pursue a cause larger than themselves. Yet their stories have remained in the shadows, leaving most Americans, hearing and deaf, largely unaware of the deaf people who made significant contributions to the events that changed the course of our nation’s history. This book provides new insights into Deaf history as well as into mainstream interpretations of the Civil War.

deaf utopia

Deaf Utopia: A Memoir and a Love Letter to a Way of Life – Nyle DiMarco

Before becoming the actor, producer, advocate, and model that people know today, Nyle DiMarco was half of a pair of Deaf twins born to a multi-generational Deaf family in Queens, New York. Nyle shares stories, both heartbreaking and humorous, of what it means to navigate a world built for hearing people. This is more than a memoir, it is a cultural anthem – a proud and defiant song of Deaf culture and a love letter to American Sign Language, Nyle’s primary language.

Life After Deaf: My Misadventures in Hearing Loss and Recovery by Noel Holston

On a spring night in 2010, Noel Holston, a journalist, songwriter, and storyteller, went to bed with reasonably intact hearing. By dawn, it was gone, thus beginning a long process of hearing-restoration that included misdiagnoses, an obstinate health-insurance bureaucracy, failed cochlear-implant surgery, and a second surgery that finally worked. He negotiated the gauntlet with a wry sense of humor and the aid of his supportive wife, Marty. Life After Deaf details his experience with warmth, understanding, and candor. It’s the story not only of his way back to the world of the hearing, but of a great marriage that weathered serious testing. Their determination and resilience serve as a source of inspiration for all.

Subculture Vulture: A Memoir in Six Scenes by Moshe Kasher

From his current vantage point as a successful stand-up comic, Kasher looks back on his years careening from subculture to subculture, and he immerses readers in the hilariously strange nuances of each of the scenes he’s found himself in. Immediately after getting sober, Kasher began serving as the self-appointed sheriff of his Young People’s AA group. He then went on to start his own club-promoting business from scratch in the heart of the 90s California rave scene, and later became a security guard at Burning Man. Once, he caught a man who worked as a coyote at the US border sneaking punk kids into the festival as a side hustle. A child of deaf adults, he’s also served as a sign language interpreter, and once helped an angry client cuss out a police officer. Later in life, Kasher went on to reconnect with his Jewish heritage after the death of his father, and now has a booming career as a stand-up comic.

Interesting Facts About Space by Emily R. Austin

Meet Enid: a lesbian who’s a serial dater and deaf in one ear. She works at The Space Agency as an information architect, and when she’s not obsessing over true crime podcasts, she’s managing her crippling phobia of bald people. While she tries not think about her teenage years, she can’t seem to stop obsessively watching her childhood YouTube channel. But as Enid fumbles her way through her first serious relationship and navigates a new family life with her estranged half-sisters, she starts to worry that someone is following her. As her paranoia starts to take over her life, and the personal growth she’s worked to achieve, she gradually discovers the one thing she can’t outrun–herself. Brimming with Emily Austin’s signature style, charming characters, and irresistible humor, Interesting Facts about Space will remind you to treasure the relationships you hold most dear, and will offer hope to those who seek to connect in ways they never thought to be possible.

Joe, Adult Services & Acquisitions

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