Fitting In? Standing Out.
Book Review by Chris Wixtrom © 1999
On the Edge of Deaf Culture: Hearing Children/Deaf Parents, Annotated Bibliography
by Thomas Bull, 360 pages, $30.00 US
Deaf Family Research Press, P.O. Box 8417, Alexandria, VA 22306-8417
Have you ever been in a group where you knew you belonged, but felt still, somehow, as if you didn't quite fit in? What if that place were, by stroke of fate, your very own family?
Statistics show that over 90% of deaf children have hearing parents. When deaf children grow up, they often choose deaf partners and like to socialize as members of the deaf community, using sign language to communicate. Of those deaf couples who have children, over 90% have children who can hear. A hearing child in a deaf family circle can feel like an oddity. Perceiving the world differently, he or she is part of the family, yet distinctly different.
These kids may feel that their "extra" sense is not highly valued, except in circumstances that are uncomfortable for little ones. If pushed too-early into mediating messages between the Speaking World and that of his signing family, the hearing child may feel that his small talent has translated from a plus to a minus. Still, a childhood rich with bi-lingual and bi-cultural experiences is often viewed, in retrospect, as a gift.
All grown up and out of the home, the coda (child of deaf adults) remembers another way, another self. Lingering in the soul is another language. Despite the appearance of blending into the larger society, the coda may feel slightly out of synch there. Thomas Bull, himself the hearing son of deaf parents, has compiled a comprehensive bibliography of books, journal and newspaper and other articles, conference proceedings, videos, films, and more, all touching on this topic. He explains that codas "live half their life in the Deaf World and half in the Hearing World," finding themselves "inextricably woven together" with the Deaf community, even in adulthood. Bull began researching and writing the bibliography to explore coda history, "language, literature, values, beliefs, and shared characteristics," looking for "common ties ... with codas from other cultures and other times."
Those interested in psychology, cultural issues, and multi-lingual experiences will find much to think about here. It's not a book to read, but a bibliography to explore. More than 300 pages of detailed references and notes provide clues for the merely curious and details for the serious researcher. It should be noted, however, that many of the items of interest (such as news clippings) are only accessible to those who can get to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where the campus library holds these specialized records. While most of the videotapes listed may be seen on the Gallaudet cable TV system, they are difficult to access elsewhere. (Check with ASL Access, www.aslaccess.org, for additional information on ASL video resources.) Internet contact points are given. More information may be found through related organizations - 98 of which are listed under "International Resources" - or through local libraries.