The Art of Being Deaf

A Memoir

1st Edition

By Donna McDonald

Categories: Biography / Memoir
Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781563685972, 224 pages, March 2014
Ebook : 9781563685989, 224 pages, March 2014
Request a Desk or Exam Copy Request a Media Review Copy

In her memoir, the author 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.



Concerned about aspects of her romantic relationships, Donna McDonald consulted with a psychologist who asked, “Your hearing loss must have had a big impact on you?” At age 45, with a successful career in social work policy, McDonald took umbrage at the question. Then, she realized that she never had addressed the personal barrier she had constructed between her deaf-self and her hearing persona. In The Art of Being Deaf, she describes her long, arduous pursuit of finding out exactly who she was.
       Born in 1950s Australia, McDonald was placed in an oral deaf school when she was five. There, she was trained to communicate only in spoken English. Afterwards, she attended mainstream schools where she excelled with speechreading and hard work. Her determination led to achievements that proved her to be “the deaf girl that had made good.” Yet, despite her constant focus on fitting in the hearing world, McDonald soon realized that she missed her deaf schoolmates and desired to explore her closed-off feelings about being deaf.
       When she reconnected with her friends, one urged her to write about her experiences to tell all about “the Forgotten Generation, the orally-raised deaf kids that no one wants to talk about.” In writing her memoir, McDonald did learn to reconcile her deaf-self with her “hearing-deaf” persona, and she realized that the art of being deaf is the art of life, the art of love.


Donna McDonald is Senior Lecturer and Convener of the Disability Studies Program in the School of Human Services and Social Work, Griffith University, Meadowbrook, Queensland, Australia.



"[The Art of Being Deaf is a] sensitive and thoughtful memoir ... Much of the book is devoted to McDonald’s conversations with people who had a significant role in her life, but she also includes a thoughtful layer informed by cultural portrayals in both fiction and nonfiction that are deftly interweaved with moments from her personal life. Although there are segments that will tug at a reader’s heart, this is no tearjerker; rather, it is a personal and informative look at 'deaf lives as told by deaf people.'"

— Publishers Weekly

"There seems to be an image of what deafness is amongst those who are not; McDonald asks the reader, 'What does it mean to be deaf?' Born in 1950s Australia, she was the only deaf child in a family of five. Placed in an oral-deaf school at age three, she was trained to communicate only in spoken English. After being mainstreamed at age eight, she excelled in speechreading, determination, and hard work. Oralism has its share of controversy; to the Deaf community, it is a denying of self, a demand to adapt to the hearing world or else. When a psychologist asked the author if her hearing loss had a big impact on her, McDonald resented the question but used it as a jumping-off point to reexamine her life, and where her deafness fit into her perception of it. Her personal recollections are fascinating and often stunningly vivid in visual imagery. VERDICT Will appeal to those interested in Deaf culture and disability awareness in general, as well as biography enthusiasts."

— Library Journal

"Offers a compelling narrative readers will find engrossing."

— Midwest Book Review