Chronicling her father's life as well as her own, the author reveals her unique cultural background as the hearing daughter of a Deaf Nanticoke man who grew up in Dover, Delaware's Black community.
Clara Jean Mosley Hall has inhabited various cultural worlds in her life: Native American, African American, Deaf, and hearing. The hearing daughter of a Deaf Nanticoke man, who grew up in Dover, Delaware’s Black community in the 1950s and 60s, Hall describes the intersections of these identities in Paris in America. By sharing her father’s experiences and relating her own struggles and successes, Hall honors her father’s legacy of hard work and perseverance and reveals the complexities of her own unique background.
Hall was abandoned by her Deaf African American mother at a young age and forged a close bond with her father, James Paris Mosley, who communicated with her in American Sign Language. Although his family was Native American, they—like many other Nanticoke Native Americans of that region—had assimilated over time into Dover’s Black community. Hall vividly recounts the social and cultural elements that shaped her, from Jim Crow to the forced integration of public schools, to JFK and Motown. As a Coda (child of deaf adults) in a time when no accessibility or interpreting services were available, she was her father’s sole means of communication with the hearing world, a heavy responsibility for a child. After her turbulent teenage years, and with the encouragement of her future husband, she attended college and discovered that her skills as a fluent ASL user were a valuable asset in the field of education.
Hall went on to become a college professor, mentor, philanthropist, and advocate for Deaf students from diverse backgrounds. Her memoir is a celebration of her family, her faith, her journey, and her heritage.
Clara Jean Mosley Hall is a professor in the American Sign Language and Deaf Interpretive Services Program at Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio.
"While the theme of Deafness transcends the entire memoir, the themes of complex social constructs are significant to the development of Mosley Hall's story. This story was quick to read and written for accessibility of a larger audience. The social themes were a critical part of this story and could be used to discuss difficult topics in an inviting manner...the reader could easily read this memoir for pleasure or for deep discussion."— Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education
"Several major themes run through Paris in America that may be of special interest to history scholars. Hall inhabited many cultural worlds, and her story takes place against the backdrop of the civil rights movement; perhaps unsurprisingly, race and identity play a central role in the book. Family, friends, music, and the author’s irrepressible spirit suffuse the book, and she closes by reiterating the importance of gratitude, persistence, and enthusiasm."— Caroline Lieffers, H-Disability
“Paris in America opens a door for deepening our understanding of the complexity of black and Native American (Nanticoke) history, and achieves this feat in a moving story of a daughter's love for her deaf father. Clara Jean Mosley Hall's memoir inspires even as it sensitizes us to the rich lives our country tends to marginalize.”— Charles Johnson, National Book Award winner and Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
“Paris in America contains the heartfelt truths of a family that was hardworking and faithful. They had each other and they pushed through any challenge with integrity. Dr. Mosley Hall puts into writing what many families of our Native and mixed community went through. What an inspiration!”— Chief Natosha Norwood Carmine of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe
“As deaf of deaf, with both black and Cherokee roots, I was fascinated with Paris in America. This book has educated me to the core. Clara Jean Mosley Hall should be applauded for her extraordinarily personal account of her life and her relationship with her father.”— CJ Jones, Producer, Director, Writer, and Actor, Sign World TV
“This is a compelling and unique story about a woman who was raised in an African American community by a single father, who was a deaf Native American. Her memoir describes their trials and tribulations, as well as the communication and love between them and their extended family. Her journey ultimately leads to her having her own family, a PhD, and a career dedicated to the deaf community.”— Sterling Street, Museum Coordinator and Historian, Nanticoke Indian Museum