Gallaudet University Press

16:3 Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Art of Life, The Art of Love

A Thought-Provoking Question Prompts a Deaf Woman to Reach into the Past to Discover Her True Identity

“Your hearing loss must have had a big impact on you?” asked the psychologist of Donna McDonald, author of The Art of Being Deaf: A Memoir. McDonald—who was urged to see a psychologist by a social worker friend who had observed her mounting distress about the gap between her achievements in her public service career and her disappointments in romantic relationships—did not want to answer this question. “The bluntness of it offended me,” recalls McDonald. “It irritated me, felt voyeuristic. I could not see its relevance to my work stress.”

Nevertheless, she was curious about what it would mean for her if she considered the psychologist’s question for her private exploration: “What was the impact of my deafness on my life?” she pondered. “What threat would be posed to me if I tackled this question head-on? Where were my childhood deaf friends? What would my life have been like if I had stayed at the deaf school? How were my relationships affected by my deafness: not just my friendships but also my romantic relationships too? Eventually, I found myself confronted with the ultimate question: what was holding me back from finding, and then telling, my own story of deafness?”

In The Art of Being Deaf, McDonald addresses the personal barrier she had constructed between her deaf-self and her hearing persona, and traces her long, arduous pursuit of finding out exactly who she is. Read the prologue and chapter one, “Deaf,” now, and receive a savings of 20% off when you order The Art of Being Deaf online or by mail. When ordering online, type “MAR2014” in the box labeled “use promo code” next to the checkout button.

“My early introduction to the deaf community in the United States connected religious rhetoric with sign language,” shares author Tracy Ann Morse. “When I was a child growing up in the 1970s, my family had a Sunday morning routine. My brother and I would watch Popeye cartoons until we had to get ready for church. While we were cleaning up and changing, my mother or father would change the TV channel to a televised church service. When I was dressed and ready, I would go back and sit in front of the TV until it was time to leave. I didn’t watch the preacher standing behind the pulpit, but I did watch the sign language interpreter sharing the screen. My first exposure to the deaf community in the United States was through this sign language interpreter in the little bubble on the right side of the screen interpreting a sermon delivered by a Baptist minister.”

“Historically, the deaf community in the United States has been oppressed by a dominant hearing community that has sought to control deaf Americans’ use of language,” Morse notes. “The influence of religion has helped the deaf community to acquire a language that encourages others to support the use and recognition of sign language.” In her new study, Signs and Wonders: Religious Rhetoric and the Preservation of Sign Language, Tracy Ann Morse examines religious arguments for the preservation and use of sign language in historical documents and contemporary experiences related to deaf education, church ministries and congregations for deaf people, and activism in the deaf community. “In all of these venues,” says Morse, “religious rhetoric empowers the deaf community to advocate for the use and recognition of sign language.”

Read chapter two, “Protestant Ideology and the Arguments for Sign Language in Late Nineteenth-Century Schools for Deaf Children,” and order Signs and Wonders at 20% off the regular price. For online orders, use the code MAR2014, or order by mail here.

Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community, volume eighteen in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series, is the culmination of a four-year research project designed to document language attitudes within the American Deaf community. The Midwest Book Review had this to say about author Joseph Christopher Hill’s study: “Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community offers college-level readers an analysis that assesses cognitive, affective and behavioral types of responses toward particular language varieties, from ASL to contact signing and Signed English. It considers social groups in the American Def community and how they use and choose among these disparate signing types; considers racial and generational issues involved in signing communication; and evaluates different signing standards and the values they hold. The result is a unique ‘must’ for any collection strong in Deaf community culture and issues.” Read more in chapter two, and order your copy online or by mail.

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