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A Journey into the Deaf World

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Prior to reading A Journey into the DEAF-WORLD, I was not quite sure what to expect. After finishing the first chapter, I began to think that the entire book would be filled with anecdotal stories similar to that in chapter one. However, it became immediately apparent, after finishing chapters two and three, that this was not the case. Instead, the first chapter simply served as an introduction to the DEAF-WORLD, and therefore to the rest of the book (or at least to part one). Chapters two and three, on the other hand, discussed more objectively issues concerning family and language, respectively, associated with the DEAF-WORLD.

Nevertheless, each chapter divulged a fair amount of rather engaging information. A Journey into the DEAF-WORLD was written by Harlan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister and Ben Bahan. This book is a compilation of stories and information from four deaf people as we follow them through their life experiences. This book also had a lot of information regarding everything about becoming or being born deaf, and also touched on issues and information that the characters weren’t involved in. This book shows us what it’s like to be a deaf minority and how many deaf people feel excluded from certain opportunities.

It walks the reader through questions, like “how could there be equal opportunities for everyone? ” or “how to teach the same as hearing people? ” This book also talks about the future of the DEAF-WORLD and how a gap between the hearing and deaf will continue to remain. This book addresses many questions, such as- what is deaf culture all about? what can we learn from deaf society’s in other lands? and many more. It discusses the issue for deaf people, would they rather live in the ‘DEAF-WORLD’ rather than be included into such society us hearing people are involved in.

Mainly this book was written in the style that each chapter was a new topic. It starts out with an interview with characters, Jake, Laurel, Gloria and Roberto, at Gallaudet University. GU is the first all deaf college, and we follow the four through their way at the ASL Metro Club 1. At ASLMC1, they are taught to interact with other deaf students and it gives them a chance to fit in. After the interview, the authors move into descriptions regarding what ASL is, different forms of deafness, the struggles, the language its self, how deaf interact in society and much more information.

They end the book out with the continuing story of the four deaf students having a fun time together, playing and being social with not only members of ASLMC1 but hearing students as well. I decided to focus my paper on Part 1: In the Center of the DEAF-WORLD, because that section and the chapters within were the most captivating and intriguing to me. Chapter one, titled “Welcome to the DEAF-WORLD,” was perhaps the most reader-friendly and yet the trickiest to learn from.

In other words, the story-type format of chapter one made it much easier to read and feel involved in the text than did the data/research-result-type format of chapters two and three, and yet chapters two and three directly lay out regurgitate-able information whereas chapter one requires some individual interpretation and analysis on the part of the reader. The authors often do, however, refer back to the story in chapter one and use pieces of it to explain its relativity to the DEAF-WORLD, thereby belatedly analyzing the story.

I rather enjoyed the way the book started, with an introduction of the authors and an explanation of the commonality of such a practice in the DEAF-WORLD. Although this had already been discussed in our classroom, I felt that it was still a good refresher. I was particularly interested in the moment in which Gloria accidentally used the term “hearing-impaired,” followed by the line: “Their eyes met, and for a moment Jake held her gaze, as if trying to see into her mind” (13).

Although seemingly trivial, it spoke to me as a reflection of the visual dominance in the DEAF-WORLD, of not relying on sound to communicate but on sight, and of the difficulties hearing and Deaf people often face when communicating with one another (i. e. resulting in an attempt to read minds). Chapter two, titled “Families with Deaf Children,” was broken up into two headings, “The Birth of a Deaf Baby to Deaf Parents” and “A Deaf Child Born to Hearing Parents.

” Something I found interesting under the first heading was about a Deaf parent beginning to teach their Deaf child to sign, saying, “They place the baby on their lap with the baby’s back touching their chest and read, using signs that, when they touch the body, touch the baby’s body rather than their own” (27). It seems so simple and yet ultimately clever as well, internalizing the signs for the baby and giving them some proper perspective. The process of socialization continues all throughout life.

It influences greatly in the Deaf-World because they do not have a choice if they are born deaf at birth. If a child is born into Deaf-Parents then the way they are raised is based upon a silent quiet home. The social interaction between deaf people is followed by the patterns in groups. People in the Deaf-World have to make the hard decision to talk or sign and stick with it usually for the rest of their life’s. Along with that, the social norm is to be quite and sign, yet some step out and chose to speak and get cochlear implants to try and let them feel a part of the hearing world.

If a baby is born deaf, they do not know it, and usually the parents do not either until they show signs. The baby has the ascribed status of being diagnosed deaf, and the decision to use ASL, or to speak, is a major decision on the way the baby will be raised. As said before, they do not have the choice. So, if a parent makes the decision to get a Cochlear Implant, then the baby will have to get accustom to that lifestyle. Depending on the ways their parents choose, they will never know the other side to the life that they live. As for the second heading, it was more appalling than impressive.

I was particularly disgusted when I read, “Some physicians even inform parents and other medical professionals that the opinions and experiences of Deaf adults have no bearing on how to raise and ‘manage’ their Deaf child” (36). I couldn’t, and still can’t believe the ignorance stated here, and these aren’t just average people mind you; these are physicians…self-proclaimed professionals! Chapter three, titled “The Language of the DEAF-WORLD,” was the lengthiest yet, covering the acquisition of ASL, its history, diversity and cultural roles.

It’s a disappointment to realize the recurrence of discrimination and attempted “normalization” of minorities throughout human history, and yet I am now aware of another example to add to my collective repertoire: The Congress of Milan. One final note that I would like to touch on is in regard to the cultural customs of Deaf languages. I was intrigued by the concepts of both frank talk and name signs. Personally, I rather admire the value that is placed on frank talk in the DEAF-WORLD, as opposed to hearing culture where explicitness is frowned upon.

Considering that there were almost twice as many pages total in chapters four, five and six compared to chapters one, two and three, it makes sense then that there was also almost twice as much information comparatively. In other words, there was a lot more to take in and reflect on this time around. This being said, instead of even trying to wrap a two-page paper around 132 pages of information, I will simply pick a few points of personal interest that jumped out at me while reading these chapters and to reflect on those particular moments.

In chapter four, titled “Form and Function in ASL,” I was particularly intrigued by the discussion of Deaf students and their recognition of rhyming words. According to the authors, “Deaf college students asked to think of words that rhyme with a given word can frequently do it; interestingly, words that they claim rhyme look alike in lip-reading” (99). To me, this is surprising because when I ? and other hearing people I know ? have typically tried to think of a rhyming word or a list of rhyming words, they have simply started rattling off words with same-sound endings, infrequently even thinking about the spelling involved.

For Deaf people, however, the sound of words is obviously not an option, and therefore, in terms of making English words rhyme, it makes sense to refer to either spelling or lip movements. But ASL is not a written or spoken language; it is a signed language. What then, if any, is the equivalent of an English rhyme in ASL? Based on the provided information, especially from the discussion of ASL poetry, I can only assume that the equivalent of same-sounding spoken words would be visually-similar performed signs.

Chapter five, titled “Deaf Culture,” was perhaps the most enticing and my favorite chapter of the book, and it discusses a number of features of the DEAF-WORLD, one of which is the athletic organizations. According to the authors, “Deaf clubs are involved in numerous sports, including volleyball, softball, and basketball” (131). I remember finding this rather interesting because while reading this, because I am an athlete and have played sports my whole life. I can remember instances during basketball or volleyball games, a pass was made to a player who was focused on getting into position, or a ball was being set to a hitter.

Had the passer or the setter not called out the other players name in time and the receiving player not reacted, the ball would likely have hit them or the ball would have dropped without a hit. The concept of Deaf sports had me thinking, what might have happened in that situation if everybody was Deaf? The conclusion I’ve come to is that the receiving player would likely have been warned of the incoming ball not by the passer or setter behind them, but either by another teammate signing a warning in front of them, or by the receiving player’s recognition of a facial expression by perhaps an opponent looking to steal the blundering pass.

Something else I found interesting in chapter five was the explanation of the book’s cover art by Harry Williams, saying, “Williams’ discovery of language came when he grasped that the finger spelled word B-A-L-L matched the picture of a ball; then the door of enlightenment opened for him […] The flower in full bloom is Williams’ rendering of the moment of discovery: I-UNDERSTAND” (141-142). I’ve been staring at this cover for a while now and constantly contemplating its meaning, but with this explanation, it has become quite clear for me.

I particularly like the arc of the flower protruding from the ball and the explanation of “I-UNDERSTAND” because it evokes, at least for me, the image of the sign for understand. Also in chapter five the authors write, “It is often said that Deaf people love comic strips. After all, their language is visual and comic strips, although they may contain some print, are a largely visual means of communication” (157).

This hooked me because I am an avid reader of comic books (more so than comic strips) and I am actually aware of a semi-prominent Deaf character in the Marvel Universe named Maya Lopez, or Echo. In fact, due to my own interest in comic books and both mine and my girlfriend’s interest in Deaf culture, I recently bought her a mini-series of five comic books centered around the character Echo to start off her collection. Therefore, having read this, it satisfied some of my curiosity on the attitudes toward comics in the DEAF-WORLD.

Lastly, in chapter six, titled “The World Deaf Scene,” not much really jumped out at me until near the end of the chapter in a section called “Assimilative Societies around the World. ” According to the authors, “People [of Martha’s Vineyard] were described using spy glasses to see the signs of a neighbor across the way, taking turns signing and looking in the days before telephones. The Deaf and the hearing were equally adept at this long-distance communication” (206).

This, if you ask me, is pretty cool. It is yet another practical application of sign language that I had not thought of. Furthermore, in the section “International Sign,” I was surprised to read of the attempt to create a shared international sign language called Gestuno, especially after reading about the seemingly wide tradition of invented signs amongst families. Unfortunately, as the authors point out, it had a similar impact to that of Esperanto in the hearing world: “limited.

” Overall, I would say that ? despite the doubling of the amount of information in these chapters compared to chapters one, two and three ? chapters four, five and six have served to open my eyes, even if only just a little more. A Journey into the Deaf-World was really different than any other book I’ve ever read before. Even though this book was really informational and did not have many characters involved, it wad still a fascinating and interesting read.

I think that being in class with you all year and then reading this book toward the end made it more enjoyable than perhaps never taking this class and then reading it. Personally, I don’t think many people would get enjoyment from reading this informationally heavy book unless there was some previous knowledge, sparked interest, or had taken a deaf studies course. Overall, I loved reading and learning more, especially learning that deaf culture is highly influenced by hearing individuals and our society makes an impact on theirs.

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