Sunday, September 21, 2008

Singing Hands by Delia Ray

image from LibraryThing
My good friend, Phyllis, recommended this book to me. She knows my connections to sign language. It's one of the new books in our school library this year.

Here is a great moment in time captured by the granddaughter of two deaf grandparents. So, it's based on many real family stories of Delia. The story centers around Gussie who hates that her deaf parents aren't like everyone else in Birmingham. It all comes to a head one hot summer. It begins with her humming loudly during the worship service at the deaf church where her father is the minister - she and her two hearing sisters are the only ones that can hear her.

Her nasty and obstinate side continues through clandestine searches through the boarders rooms upstairs and continues to her skipping Sunday school at the hearing church downtown. All this naughtiness comes to a screeching halt when she is discovered. Her punishment is a very eye-opening experience which changes the way she sees her family and her life.

I worked with hearing impaired students for 2 years in Ohio and lived with a hearing impaired adult. Nancy taught me sign language and a whole lot more. I think she would really like this book.

Nancy grew up in the mid 70s when signing was still not really very accepted. She went through hearing schools and was proud of her lip reading abilities. That is until she went to Galludet College in Washington DC. It was there that she understood and embraced what it meant to be deaf. She completely changed her life. She became a teacher of deaf children - starting a preschool for deaf kids in Wooster, OH. That's where I came to know her. Today, Nancy is teaching deaf children in Belize.

This book made me think about what life was like for Nancy - growing up different. When I lived in Ohio, Nancy and I went out to eat one time and sat at the table signing back and forth to each other. I didn't really think about it until the waitress came to our table and didn't know what to do. She stood and stared and then bent over and very carefully and clearly asked us for our order. There was a moment when I had to decide what to do... I answered her, she blushed and moved away. In that moment - I understood what it really felt like to be different - to be deaf.

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