Gallaudet University Press

11:12 Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sign, Spanish, and English Filling the Air

Growing Up Hearing in a Deaf Puerto Rican Family

In Signing in Puerto Rican: A Hearing Son and His Deaf Family, Andrés Torres, the only child of deaf Puerto Rican immigrants, writes of growing up in New York in a Deaf/hearing family that communicated freely in a mix of Spanish, ASL, and English.

“My parents, Andrés Torres and Bienvenida Ayala, were married in April of 1946,” shares Torres, “having met the previous year at a party at the Ayalas’ apartment at 1494 Madison Avenue, near 103rd Street. The apartment had been a center of socializing for deaf people who had come to New York from Puerto Rico because the Ayalas had four beautiful deaf daughters, known as las mudas, and deaf men came from all over the city to ingratiate themselves with the Ayala elders. Andrés had fixed his sights on Bienvenida. It was a brief courtship steered aggressively by my father, who at thirty-two was nine years older than my mother. She resisted because she enjoyed the single life and didn’t want to tie herself down to a man just yet. But her three deaf sisters had already been married off, and her parents pressured her to wed.”

Torres, the only hearing member of his family, describes his early life as one of conflicting influences in his search for identity. Nevertheless, his journey never took him too far from his Deaf Puerto Rican family roots and the passion of arms, hands, and fingers filling the air with simultaneous translation and understanding.

Read more about Torres’s unique family life in chapter one, The A Train, and save 20% when you order Signing in Puerto Rican online or by mail. For online orders, type “DEC2009” in the box labeled “use promo code” located next to the “checkout” button.

“The scope of the discipline of sign language/deaf studies needs greater international perspective,” notes Samuel J. Supalla, “and Deaf History and Culture in Spain: A Reader of Primary Sources, edited by Benjamin Fraser, is a critical step toward realizing this goal. Oralism and manualism are polarizing models and need to be replaced with an alternative model in which signed languages used throughout the world are embraced and promoted. Before going further, we must understand how and why we arrived at the present situation. Examining the history of deaf education in Spain may shed light on this problem.”

In this volume of primary sources, editor and translator Benjamin Fraser presents 44 Spanish documents – translated into English – dating from 1417 to the present which trace the turbulent history of Deaf culture in Spain. Supalla further states, “This book represents a developing international perspective, and I sincerely hope we can begin to leave the well-known oralism versus manualism debate behind us and move forward in the twenty-first century.”

Both the table of contents and Benjamin Fraser’s introduction are available online. Order Deaf History and Culture in Spain now for a 20% savings off the regular price. For online orders, type “DEC2009” in the box labeled “use promo code” located next to the “checkout” button, or you can order by mail.

Recently, John Lee Clark’s Deaf American Poetry: An Anthology received a rave review from CHOICE magazine: “In this refreshing, rich, vivid anthology, the Deaf and legally blind Clark (himself a poet) presents 95 poems by 35 Deaf American poets from the signing community. The brief biographies that precede each poet’s work give a texture to the volume and increase understanding of Deaf poetics, a new area of poetics that ‘that opens boundaries between language,’ i.e., American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Clark intends the collection to serve two functions: to ‘introduc[e] the mainstream poetry-reading public to the Deaf world’ and to ‘increas[e] appreciation among Deaf people of poetry as a fine historical record and art form.’ He succeeds on both counts. Adding to a burgeoning ASL literature, this volume is companion to No Walls of Stone, ed. by Jill Jepson (1992), and The Deaf Way II Anthology, ed. by Tonya Stremlau (2002). An invaluable volume for those involved with the Deaf community. Summing Up: Highly recommended.” Read select poems from Deaf American Poetry, and order your copy today.

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