Walker’s writing style is honest and clear. This for example is straight to the point “My parents are deaf. I can hear. And the fact of their deafness has made all the difference.” In her childhood she was often sad. She grew up very fast. She had many odd chores other children wouldn’t such as being a interpreter for her parents.
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This book would be great learning for someone who was new to the deaf community and needed help understanding some things. Walker talks in detail about her family history like how her parents became deaf (both following illness in infancy) and both parents often were abused by their families, health professionals and the school system alike. A revealing example of insensitive treatment is when she talks about her own birth. A crude hearing test was performed and then people pointed to their ears, nodding and smiling at her mother “Everyone in the delivery room was relieved I was a ‘normal’ baby.” The hearing professionals had no idea of the impact of such an offensive attitude and showed no understanding of the pride often felt by deaf people about their culture and community; the same as with most other communities.
Walker describes how living in a deaf household is also physically different, like having vibrating alarms and flashing lights along with the beeps and rings. She also talks about and describes some American Sign Language signs for common words, such as “mother” or “ice-cream.” She writes lovingly about her mother’s “love pats” and about her parents’ concern for her as a hearing child. They were worried about her learning to speak well and being able to fit in with the hearing world. She talks about her the differences between when she was with her whole family and when she was just with her sisters. She taught her little sister how to speak mostly by herself. She protected her parents by hiding things from them, such as dirty phone calls by saying they were wrong numbers. Really her parents knew of such horrible things happening to them they just were very optimistic about life, something she came to realization later on. With this phrase she sort of made me think she finally accepted that her life was just a weird family like everyone else’s and nothing horrible; “For me, the past had finally emerged from being a horrible, dark secret to being an unusual family’s history.”
Walker talks about how not only did her parents have hard times at school but her and her sisters did as well. At school, she quickly learned that certain things that she did with her parents would get her made fun-of and be unacceptable. There are many examples of how she felt alienated from her peers, who did not understand the culture and language barriers faced by deaf people, for whom American Sign Language is their first language. Early on in the book, she talks about leaving home for the first time to go and study at Harvard. She returns to this later, when she refers to receiving a letter from her uncle and aunt, addressed to their “nice”, rather than “niece”. Embarrassed by their poor literacy, she hid the letter from her roommate. One time she was rudely left by a boy after telling him what her father did for a living. Walker had to get used to a whole other world at Harvard, where people used language that she was not familiar with.”Words as decorations, extra flutes and hand motions to trick the ear into thinking there was more substance to answers than there actually was.”
Walker goes on about after college she became a teacher for the deaf, a teacher of sign language and an interpreter, where she is deep in her familiar and happy deaf-hearing world. Through these experiences, she came to see herself as a “robot” and she needs to find her own identity.
Walker narrates the assessments, fights, and triumphs of her own life. Nothing gets a person’s concentration better than knowing it is written by somebody who has been there and not by someone who is conjecturing what it should be like. From the time she was a toddler, Lou Ann Walker was the ears and voice for her deaf parents. Their family life was warm and loving, but outside the home, they faced a world that misunderstood and often rejected them .
The epilogue was set at Walker’s sister, Jan’s wedding, where both hearing and deaf people came and had a great time. A beautiful day celebrating family and forgetting about anything bad and remember all the good.
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