Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hands of My Father

Hands of My Father tells the story of growing up in a deaf household in1940’s Brooklyn.. Born during the Great Depression, both of Myron Uhlberg’s parents were deaf, so ASL was his first language. His memoir describes some of the painful insults and cruelty they faced but also the warmth his family shared. His parents had to hide their sign language and struggled to relate to the hearing world through their son. Uhlberg’s limited vocabulary wasn’t strong enough to sign a boxing match at the age of six, so he simply acted out the events in the ring as they were described by a radio announcer. He learned to laugh at himself and his family's situation. Uhlberg paints a vivid picture of his relationship with his dad. Here’s a quote:

"I was never able to get used to the initial look of incomprehension that bloomed on the stranger's face when my father failed to answer, and the way that look turned to shock at the sound of his harsh voice announcing his deafness, then metastasized into revulsion, at which point the stranger would turn and flee as if my father's deafness were a contagious disease. Even now, seventy long years in the future, the memory of the shame I sometimes felt as a child is as corrosive as battery acid in my veins, and bile rises unbidden in my throat… ‘Hearing people think I'm stupid. I am not stupid.’ My father's hands fell silent.”
Uhlberg has written several children's books including Dad, Jackie, and Me, which won a 2006 Patterson Prize. Here’s more about the book.