||My Life of Language
Paul W. Ogden
Content Notice: ableism, mental illness, and talk of suicide
“Ogden considers communication frequently and deeply, and has a very understandable way of presenting the challenges he faced as a deaf child and adult...this is one of the best memoirs you’ve never heard of.”
—Summer Loomis, Book Riot
“Paul Ogden takes the reader along not just on his journey, but on a journey that many deaf children have traveled before and that many more will travel in the future. My Life of Language is a book that needs to be read by every parent and grandparent of every deaf child.”
—Marc Marschark, National Technical Institute for the Deaf
“In my thirty-seven year career as a university academic advisor and administrator of student services, I have worked with over 3,000 deaf and hard of hearing students from diverse backgrounds. Every one of them will find their own story in My Life of Language. Paul Ogden’s life is a tapestry of rich deaf experiences, and his personal story is an inspiration for all young deaf people and their families.”
—Robert Sidansky, California State University, Northridge (retired)
“My Life of Language is the uplifting journey of a man who society did not think would excel. Paul Ogden’s story highlights his loving family, his academic success, and his advocacy for social reform. His memoir shares his experiences of finding community, connecting with people, and the happiness it brought him.”
—Lisalee D. Egbert, Vice President, American Society for Deaf Children
“With passion, humor, insight and hard-won wisdom, Paul Ogden lets both hearing and deaf people know what it takes to live a rich, dynamic life—just like the one he has led.”
—Rick Hamlin, executive editor, Guideposts magazine
“My Life of Language is an honest and down-to-earth memoir from Paul Ogden that relates his adventures growing up in two worlds—deaf and hearing—using two communication modes—oral and signed. His life is shaped by rejections and triumphs, from his humble beginnings to his experiences as a highly successful professional.”
Paul W. Ogden has dedicated his life to educating young deaf and hard of hearing people and raising awareness of what it means to be deaf in a hearing world. He has taught and mentored a generation of teachers, and his classic volume, The Silent Garden, has served as a guide for parents and educators for over thirty years. Now he tells his personal story of challenges faced and lessons learned, revealing that the critical, guiding factors for him have always been language and successful communication.
Born in a time when many deaf children had no access to language, Paul learned spoken and written language skills at a young age through the painstaking efforts of his mother. His tight-knit family, which included one deaf and two hearing older brothers, facilitated open and constant communication using a variety of methods. His father was a pastor who was involved in the civil rights movement. He struggled with depression, an illness that would take the life of one of Paul’s brothers. As a student at a residential deaf school where the use of American Sign Language (ASL) was suppressed, Paul continued to build on the speech and lipreading skills he had learned at home. He returned home for high school and graduated as co-valedictorian—unaware of the standing ovation he received as he walked to the podium.
Following a rewarding experience as an undergraduate at Antioch College, Paul went on to earn a PhD from the University of Illinois, a rare accomplishment for a deaf person at that time. During his graduate studies, he finally had the opportunity to learn ASL. As an award-winning professor of Deaf Studies at California State University, Fresno, he successfully petitioned for the university to recognize ASL as a language, and he established the Silent Garden program, which has grown into a flourishing provider of training and resources to support the Deaf community. In My Life of Language, Paul offers eloquent reflections on both the joyful and difficult periods of his life as he navigated relationships, faced discrimination, questioned his faith, and found great happiness in his marriage.
Paul W. Ogden is Professor Emeritus of Deaf Studies at California State University, Fresno.