Thursday, May 7, 2015

Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks

My American Sign Language teacher recommended the class read Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks, so I decided to read it during our break between terms. I quickly found myself immersed in a world within the world in which we live. Sacks, a hearing man, explores the Deaf world and Deaf Culture in a way that brings clarity to something that feels impossible to understand. Sacks provides a glimpse into the history of deaf people and their interactions with the world. His observations are compassionate but never pitying. At times I found myself wincing at the cruelty people are capable of inflicting on one another as I read his descriptions of the attitudes toward deaf people throughout history. In his discussion on communication among the Deaf and between Deaf and hearing people, I felt a sense of the urgency all living beings feel to communicate. His examination of deaf people's attempts to communicate and how often hearing people force their communication on other people as if its the only way to communicate left me heartsick but more aware of my own tendencies. I felt incredibly aware of how often I take hearing for granted and how often it serves me without me giving it a second thought. Sacks also pushed me to think about how "normal" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone, something I know but sometimes forget. Seeing Voices is about more than Deaf Culture and deaf people, it's a book about how society functions and normalizes and fears and creates and destroys and changes. Seeing Voices screams for us to open our world and see beyond the limitations we place on ourselves and others based on misconception and lack of communication...

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