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Deaf Culture and Hearing Aids in Literature: 4 Books with Hearing Impaired Characters


Deaf Culture: I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin and Betsy Sharkey

The only deaf and youngest ever Academy Award winner for Best Actress for her performance in Children of a Lesser God, Marlee Matlin recounts the obstacles she faced after becoming deaf at eighteen-months-old and having to use hearing aids. She details her battle with addition, her abusive relationship with co-star William Hurt, and how acting helped her with her troubles throughout high school and tumultuous relationship with her mother. Matlin also discusses how her sudden success in Hollywood thrust her into her position as the deaf spokesperson to the world. Follow her through her unconventional journey to success and stability in her autobiography. (Good Reads)

Deaf Culture: Seeing Voices by Dr. Oliver Sacks

Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, examines Deaf culture, a culture of an underrepresented minority with its own unique visual form of communication. After interviewing children who lost their ability to hear before learning a language, Sacks discusses his observation that the lack of a language “stunts the intellectual and emotional development” and how sign language gave people an outlet to communicate pent up thoughts that they had previously been unable to express. Dr. Sacks describes his observations of the deaf as an ethnic group to fully understand the nuances of Deaf culture. His book provides extraordinary insight into a culture of which few are aware or understand. (Amazon)

Deaf Culture: Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby

Targeting elementary and middle school audiences, author Ginny Rorby uses her fictional work to show the necessity of having a language for the hearing impaired to use to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Joey Willis, a thirteen-year-old girl who became deaf at the age of six, must resort to attempting to read lips to understand others because her mom refuses to let her learn sign language. Rorby describes the loneliness and sadness Joey feels from not being able to listen and talk to other people, until she meets Dr. Charles Mansell and his chimpanzee, who communicate with each other in sign language. Joey learns sign language from her new friends and rediscovers the beauty of a world with language. (Good Reads)

Deaf Culture: The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa by Josh Swiller

Deaf since a young age, Josh Swiller recounts his life stuck between the hearing community and the deaf community, not really belonging in either one. Having learned to lip-read and use his hearing aids, Josh could communicate and live in the hearing world, but never felt like a true member of the community. After moving to Zambia to volunteer as a member of the Peace Corps, Josh found that in this community, his deafness did not matter. His memoir follows him through his struggle with the hearing community in America and the more welcoming environment he found in Zambia, where people saw past his deafness. (Good Reads)

by Diana Ruan

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