|Sounds Like Home|
Growing Up Black and Deaf in the South
Mary Herring Wright
From Disabilities Studies Quarterly
While scholars and laypersons alike have thoroughly debated Du Bois’ argument that race was the pivotal issue of the 20th century, few would question the claim that the past century’s most unexamined construct may be disability. As we know, American society and educational institutions have been greatly enriched by an array of popular and scholarly works that have interpreted the experiences of African Americans and other marginalized communities of color. And in the recent past, academia and mainstream society has similarly benefited from a modest but growing collection of works that have chronicled the experiences of individuals with disabilities.
To date, however, precious few works have examined the intersection between race and disability. Sounds Like Home: Growing Up Black and Deaf in the South, an autobiographical account by Mary Herring Wright of her childhood in the rural south, explores this convergence. Her manner is insightful and unpretentious. In accessible prose she recounts her coming of age in Depression era rural North Carolina.
In addition, readers most interested in African American history and culture will be heartened by Wright’s description of the ways that poor but close-knit black families and communities advanced despite the oppressive economic, legal and cultural constraints that defined the Jim Crow south. Her descriptions, in this regard, are suggestive of Henry Louis Gates’ autobiographical account: Colored People: A Memoir.
Readers interested in disability as well as deaf history and culture will also appreciate this account. “[M]y story,” Wright explains in the foreword, is also the story of many other deaf adults. In particular, Wright’s recounting of her education at the segregated North Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind is notable, as is here discussion of her transition into the deaf community (She began to lose her hearing when she was eight).
Looking back on the difficulties and accomplishments of her childhood and youth, Wright describes her life as one of ‘enduring faith, perseverance and optimism.’ Above all, Sounds Like Home is a welcomed illustration of the quiet resolve and considerable accomplishments of working women of all colors and communities. Their efforts grace our lives forever; their stories only infrequently enrich our books.
—Bob Buchanan, Goddard College, Plainfield, VT
Mary Herring Wright lived in Wallace, NC.
Print Edition: ISBN 978-1-56368-080-9, 6 x 9 paperback, 296 pages, photographs
E-Book: ISBN 978-1-56368-249-0
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