“He saw the crowd roar.”
One of the best baseball players never heard the crowd cheer for him. William Hoy was born on an Ohio farm in 1862. When he was only a toddler, he caught meningitis and lost his hearing. He went to the state’s school for the deaf where he learned to communicate with sign language. William did well and graduated as valedictorian, but there was one thing he could not do while he was in school—play baseball.
In El Deafo, author Cece Bell loses her hearing at age four. Despite this sudden tragedy, Bell's graphic novel memoir is an inspiring and even entertaining look at her childhood. Most importantly, it clearly explains navigating life in ways that would not occur to hearing people.
If memoirs are written to both connect with the reader and exorcise the writer's personal demons, then Moshe Kasher had one gigantic, stinky, firebreathing, sword-wielding demon.
His debut book's title says it all: Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. Sure the Salinger-inspired pun is as obvious as a rhino stampede, but Moshe Kasher has had quite a colorful life. A life that I would not want to wish on my worst enemy.
Now a stand-up comic, Kasher was born to not one, but two, deaf parents. Mom and Dad separated within a year of his birth, and his mother took him and his older brother from Brooklyn to Oakland where a life of food stamps, less than stellar public schools, and years of therapy awaited them. This menagerie of elements was perfect for young Moshe (who at the time went by the less-Semitic name Mark) to rebel.
One of the first things hearing parents ask themselves when they discover they have deaf children is how they will communicate with them, and how, eventually, will their children communicate with the world. The decision is not an easy one. There are many factors to consider, including how much hearing remains, whether or not a cochlear implant will be an option, and whether or not the child has additional educational issues. Proponents of each communication approach have what seem to be ironclad arguments as to why their way is the best.