Amy Signs

A Mother, Her Deaf Daughter, and Their Stories

First Edition

By Rebecca Willman Gernon & Amy Willman

Categories: Biography / Memoir, Parenting / Family
Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781563685378, 248 pages, August 2012
Ebook : 9781563685385, 248 pages, August 2012
Request a Desk or Exam Copy Request a Media Review Copy

Rebecca Willman Gernon describes her struggle to raise her deaf daughter, Amy, and the long search to find the right educational environment. For the first time, both mother and daughter relate their shared story about the arduous journey that led to Amy's ability to thrive in today's world.



“Thirty-seven years ago, I vowed to write a truthful book about raising a deaf child.” Rebecca Willman Gernon followed through on her promise with her deaf daughter Amy Willman in this extraordinary new narrative. Many stories have been told about a parent’s struggle to help her deaf child succeed in a mostly hearing world. Amy Signs marks a signature departure in that both Rebecca and Amy relate their perspectives on their journey together.
       When she learns of 11-month-old Amy’s deafness in 1969, Rebecca fully expresses her anguish, and traces all of the difficulties she endured in trying to find the right educational environment for Amy. The sacrifices of the rest of her family weighed heavily on her, also. Though she resolved to place four-year-old Amy in Nebraska’s residential school for deaf students, the emotional toll seemed too much to bear.
       Amy’s view acts as the perfect counterpoint. Interwoven with her mother’s story, Amy’s account confirms that signing served her best. She summarizes life in boarding school as “laughter and homesickness.” She laughed with all of her deaf friends, though felt homesick at times. Amy thanks her mother for the gift of sign, asserting that a mainstream education would never have led her to earn a master’s degree and later teach American Sign Language at the University of Nebraska. Amy Signs is a positive albeit cautionary tale for parents of deaf children today whose only choice is a mainstreamed education.


Rebecca Willman Gernon writes plays, short stories, and memoirs in New Orleans, LA.
Amy Willman is a Lecturer in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.



"Amy's story reveals her life at a boarding school, her world of deaf friends living away from home, and her introduction to the world of sign. A fine account evolves with two different perspectives revealed."

— Midwest Book Review