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3:2 Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Born on the Bayou

A Louisiana Deaf Woman Discovers
that Home is Where the Heart Is

It can be difficult for most any adult to make peace with their family and the place they were raised, and Kitty Fischer is no exception. Born to a Cajun family in rural Lousiana, Fischer first left home for the opportunity of an education at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, then left her people altogether for the promise of a better life at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Graduated, working as a librarian at her alma mater, married and raising a son, Fischer had little reason and little time to contemplate the people and places she had left behind. Her discovery that she had Usher syndrome, a genetic condition that causes both deafness and blindness, however, proved to be an unlikely catalyst toward revisitng her cultural roots, a powerful story movingly told by Cathryn Carroll (author of Clerc) and Catherine "Kitty" Hoffpauir Fischer in Orchid of the Bayou: A Deaf Woman Faces Blindness.

In coming to terms with Usher syndrome, Fischer learned of the high incidence of the condition among Cajun people; suddenly, what seemed like disparate parts of her life began to come together. "I couldn’t help but feel that the key to my inheritance lay in the mysterious word 'Cajun,'" she muses. "Now, as an adult, I undertook to learn about the heritage that was my birthright and slowly managed to overcome some of the ignorance that occurs when one is cut off from one’s hearing family by being deaf." Orchid of the Bayou is a story not only of personal triumph but also of the multiple cultural traditions - Deaf, Blind, and Cajun - that comprise one woman's genuinely postmodern identity. Read chapter 19, "Yes, I have Usher syndrome", and order Orchid of the Bayou at 20% off the regular price.

Brenda Jo Brueggemann's Lend Me Your Ear: Rhetorical Constructions of Deafness continues to garner warm reviews, most recently from the Fall 2000 issue of Rhetoric Review. "Given rhetoric's emphasis on speaking and listening," Cheryl Glenn of the Pennsylvania State University writes, "how might we determine the rhetorical abilities of the deaf--men and women who cannot manage their delivery in terms of modulated volume, pitch, or rhythm, whose delivery might be flat, signed, or even silent? What if their impression upon their (hearing) audience is not entirely pleasing, let alone persuasive? If they cannot speak "well," much less hear, can the deaf ever enter or participate in the realm of rhetoric? If so, how? When? To what degree? With what measure of success? These are the questions that Brueggemann addresses with insight, confidence, and eloquence on every page of Lend Me Your Ear....Brueggemann's examination of the rhetorical constructions of deafness is often moving, frequently polemical, and always informative." Read chapter two, and order Lend Me Your Ear.

Lingua Franca devoted considerable space in its February 2001 issue to a feature on Harry Lang's A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell and the history of Deaf telecommunication. "Today, the movement [to build a nationwide TTY network] has its own historian: Harry G. Lang, a deaf professor of physics at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. Lang's recent book, A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell, chronicles the development of the TTY and its role in the deaf community's fight for accessible and affordable telephone service in the days before faxes and e-mail." Read chapter one or order A Phone of Our Own.

Lang's political history also received praise in the December 2000 edition of The Midwest Book Review: "A Phone of Our Own is a remarkable and enduring story of innovation and the enduring human spirit." Read the full text of the review here.


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