Written by authors who are themselves Deaf, this unique book illuminates the life and culture of Deaf people from the inside, through their everyday talk, their shared myths, their art and performances, and the lessons they teach one another. Padden and Humphries employ the capitalized "Deaf" to refer to deaf people who share a natural language--American Sign Language (ASL)--and a complex culture, historically created and actively transmitted across generations.Signed languages have traditionally been considered to be simply sets of gestures rather than natural languages. This mistaken belief, fostered by hearing people's cultural views, has had tragic consequences for the education of deaf children; generations of children have attended schools in which they were forbidden to use a signed language. For Deaf people, as Padden and Humphries make clear, their signed language is life-giving, and is at the center of a rich cultural heritage.The tension between Deaf people's views of themselves and the way the hearing world views them finds its way into their stories, which include tales about their origins and the characteristics they consider necessary for their existence and survival. "Deaf in America" includes folktales, accounts of old home movies, jokes, reminiscences, and translations of signed poems and modern signed performances. The authors introduce new material that has never before been published and also offer translations that capture as closely as possible the richness of the original material in ASL."Deaf in America" will be of great interest to those interested in culture and language as well as to Deaf people and those who work with deaf children and Deaf people.
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(229mm x 152mm x 9mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
Slim, scholarly, crusading work by two deaf scholars arguing that the Deaf (the capital "D" denoting a community apart) possess their own distinctive culture. Padden was born deaf in a Deaf family, Humphries became deaf in childhood - both authors know whereof they speak. Their main contention is that the Deaf usually don't think of themselves as disabled, but as members of a different culture with its own history, folk tales, art, literature, and language. Language (in the case of these American authors, American Sign Language) is the key; ASL is "the essence of how Deaf people live and how they understand their lives." Much space is devoted to advancing the controversial theory with ASL is an independent language rather than an artificial system of signs. In their efforts to prove the worthiness of Deaf culture, the authors sometimes strain credulity - e.g., when they read rich symbolic meaning into the simplest of stories about the Abbe de l'Epee, who first systematized sign language. The authors also examine Deaf plays, poems, films, songs, and a number of humorous and revealing folk tales about the Deaf; the problem of where hearing children of deaf parents fit into Deaf culture; and what it's like for a child to discover his or her own deafness. A pioneering work. The wagon wheels may spin a bit recklessly at times, but some new and compelling territory is covered along the way. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Carol Padden
Carol Padden is a Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of California, San Diego. Tom Humphries is associate professor in the Department of Communication and the Teacher Education Program at the University of California, San Diego.