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Interview With the Editor

Kristin Snoddon,
Editor, Telling Deaf Lives: Agents of Change

GUPress: What does it mean to be an “agent of change?”

Kristin Snoddon: As editor, I work with other people’s words. The subtitle for the book comes from Anita Small, who served as program chair for the Eighth Deaf History International Conference. As she writes in her foreword to the book, both the Deaf individuals whose histories are featured and the readers themselves are “agents of change.” A change agent is someone whose knowledge is used to support an intervention that benefits a particular community. Put another way, Deaf leaders in all forms—writers, teachers, artists, and witnesses to historical events—support our community through their acts of creation, documentation, and resistance.

GUPress: What can Deaf people achieve through writing about their lives?

Kristin Snoddon: Storytelling can take many forms and a multiplicity of modes—this is seen, for example, in Victor Palenny’s chapter about oral histories of Deaf Russians, based on his videotaping of short stories in Russian Sign Language about Deaf people’s lives during Soviet times. The multimodal nature of storytelling is also glimpsed in Drew Robarge’s chapter about Deaf photographers. But most of the chapters focus on writing by Deaf people, about Deaf people. There is a proverb—variously attributed to Plato or to Native Americans—that those who tell stories rule society. But maybe this is more true of storytellers from dominant cultures. Through writing, Deaf people can, in Elizabeth Ellsworth’s words, “share common and also differing experiences of oppression, a language for naming, fighting, and surviving that oppression.” But also writing allows us to record and celebrate our many and notable achievements across time and space.

GUPress: What do you think has sparked the interest in the transnational lives of Deaf people?

Kristin Snoddon: In Joseph J. Murray’s remarkable introduction to the book, he writes of the establishment of Deaf History International (DHI) and its conferences where community historians vastly outnumber academic historians and graduate students. This grassroots Deaf community interest in what Dr. Murray calls the historic “‘details’ and ‘anecdotes’ of deaf lives” is sparked by the need to “understand what it means to navigate one’s difference across various places and times in history.” This navigation takes place not only in relation to the dominant society but also in “deaf-centered spaces” run by Deaf people, as seen, for example, in Jannelle Legg’s chapter about St. Ann’s Church for Deaf-Mutes in nineteenth-century New York City. The transnational lives of Deaf people are reflected in our participation in international gatherings, such as DHI, and international communications such as the early twentieth-century Cosmopolitan Correspondence Club described in Melissa Anderson and Breda Carty’s chapter. The transnational lives of Deaf people may also be related to what Paddy Ladd calls our “positive biology” that has given rise to sign languages. Deaf signers from different countries have an ease of communicating with each other as compared to spoken language users.

16:10 Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Delve into Collective Histories from International Deaf Communities

A New Anthology Showcases Autobiographies and Biographies of Deaf Individuals from Around the World

Telling Deaf Lives: Agents of Change, edited by Kristin Snoddon, showcases the best of the Eighth Deaf History International Conference, which took place in July 2012 in Toronto, Canada. “In this book,” states contributor Anita Small in her foreword, “the real lives of Deaf people as individuals and as parts of a collective take their rightful place in history through storytelling that reaches a large audience far beyond one conference. The stories are told through a variety of methods, including autobiographies, biographies, visual art, literature (sign language poetry and historical novels), and photography. In these ways, the contributors become agents of change as they preserve Deaf people’s contributions and experiences for generations to come.”

Twenty-eight authors from eight countries—Australia, Canada, Japan, Poland, Russia, Sweden, England, and the United States—provide essays that range far beyond their respective borders. The stories move from the personal telling of one’s history through autobiography to sharing other individuals’ histories via biographies. They go on to share collective histories and the products of those histories in terms of the evolution of the arts. Finally, they conclude with instructions on how to preserve and access these stories and products of history.

“In summary,” Anita Small explains, “this book is about the Deaf community taking charge of its own stories and history, compelling readers not only to learn about Deaf history but also to take action by sharing what they have learned and by recording their own Deaf lives and those of the Deaf community around them.”

Read more about this engrossing collection now, and use your exclusive subscriber discount to receive a savings of 20% off when you order Telling Deaf Lives. Use the code “OCT2014” for ordering online and by mail.


Building Bridges, Crossing Borders: One Young Deaf Woman’s Education is “the culmination of more than thirty-five years of experience in the field of Deaf education,” writes author Ann Darby Getty. “It explores a variety of hot-button topics, discussions, and dilemmas currently faced by parents of deaf children and the professionals who serve them. These issues are confronted as each comes into play in the life of Kyler Daniels, a young deaf woman who was born to hearing parents Bob and Ginny Daniels.” In a recent issue, The Midwest Book Review aptly stated: “It’s rare to have a perspective on deaf education from a teacher with long-term experience working with one individual. Building Bridges, Crossing Borders: One Young Deaf Woman’s Education will thus help parents of other deaf children and professionals working with them. [It] is a unique, highly recommended account!” Read more about Kyler Daniels—who today is a college graduate, gifted artist, and veterinarian’s assistant—here. Order your copy of Building Bridges, Crossing Borders online or by mail today.


In Deaf Students and the Qualitative Similarity Hypothesis: Understanding Language and Literacy Development, the third volume in the Deaf Education series, authors Peter V. Paul, Ye Wang, and Cheri Williams set about to describe the theoretical underpinnings of research based on the qualitative similarity hypothesis. The Midwest Book Review published this description: “Deaf Students and the Qualitative Similarity Hypothesis: Understanding Language and Literacy Development is a college-level recommendation for anyone working with deaf and hard of hearing students, and uses the latest research to link deaf student language and learning skills with hearing student strategies. It presents the Qualitative Similarity Hypothesis to describe this process, documents its theory and research findings, and provides important educational insights for anyone working with deaf students. [This] technical study is recommended for both educators and anyone who would understand the basics of how deaf students learn and acquire literacy skills in the world of the hearing.” For more insight into this study, read chapter one and order your copy by mail or online.


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