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2:11 Wednesday, November 22, 2000

I move - a silent exile on this earth;
As in his dreary cell one doomed for life,
My tongue is mute, and closed ear heedeth not;
No gleam of hope this darken'd mind assures
That the blest power of speech shall e'er be known.

from John Carlin's 1847 poem, The Mute's Lament

Carlin's sorrowful verse may not be representative of all deaf Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, but it hints at the steep challenges and stereotypes the fledgling deaf community faced. Lack of resources and the broad dispersion of the agrarian population meant a deaf individual had little or no opportunity to receive an education, pursue a career, or even meet another deaf person. All of this began to change with the education initiatives of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc; however, as editor Christopher Krentz demonstrates in his new collection A Mighty Change: An Anthology of Deaf American Writing, 1816-1864, the coalescence of the American Deaf community was not solely brought about by these two pioneers, but rather was a broad effort initiated by a uniquely literate group of deaf men and women.

A Mighty Change collects the earliest writings by prominent and previously obscure deaf Americans. The anthology includes prose and poetry by Laurent Clerc, James Nack, John Burnet, John Carlin, Edmund Booth, Adele M. Jewel, and Laura Redden Searing, as well as exchanges in the debate over a Deaf Commonwealth and the inauguration of the National Deaf-Mute College, later Gallaudet University. As reflected in Carlin's poem above, many of the writers internalized popular stereotypes about deaf people at the time, and these stereotypes become evident even as the authors make the case for the Deaf community's legitimacy. Yet the eloquence of these writers, writing in English about the beauty and power of their native sign language, remains unsurpassed and unprecedented. Read chapter six, Adele M. Jewel, which includes an excerpt from her pamphlet A Brief Narrative on the Life of Mrs. Adele M. Jewel (Being Deaf and Dumb); you can also order A Mighty Change now at 20% off the regular price.

Dennis Buck's Deaf Peddler: Confessions of an Inside Man received considerable attention in the "Hot Type" section of the October 27th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Under the heading It's a Living the article begins, "Not all techies make their profits on the job. Dennis S. Buck, a deaf computer programmer (who also happened to be in a wheelchair and whose boss deemed him unpromotable) supplemented his $8-an-hour wage the old-fashioned way: peddling sign-language cards in airports and shopping malls around the country." Read the complete article and order Deaf Peddler.

QST, a magazine devoted to independent radio operators, published a lengthy and adulatory review of Harry Lang's A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell in its November issue: "The tale that unfolds in A Phone of Our Own has all the elements of a Greek tragedy, complete with a doomed hero [Robert H. Weitbrecht].... Harry Lang spins a story that is unflinching in its honesty....You don't have to be deaf to be intrigued by A Phone of Our Own. On the contrary, you'll come away with a deeper appreciation of this little-known struggle for equal communication access." You can read chapter one and order A Phone of Our Own.

And speaking of A Phone of Our Own, thanks to all who attempted to send questions to author Harry Lang last month as part of our new "Ask the Author" feature. Unfortunately, as many of you discovered, the link to the feature's e-mail address did not work properly and interfered with the transmission of your questions. We apologize for the inconvenience, and below give you another opportunity to submit your questions about A Phone of Our Own, the political history of the TTY, to Harry Lang. Simply write your question in the first line, write your signature, if any, in the second, and click "send." Read more about our "Ask the Author" feature in last month's e-newsletter.

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