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The compelling memoir of a profoundly deaf woman lawyer and professor surviving the ironies and trials of accommodating a hearing world

The Feel of Silence

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Bonnie Poitras Tucker, foreword by Frederic Hafferty

"The humor, anger, sadness, victory, and frustration she expresses combine to leave readers with a refreshing understanding of hearing loss."
Library Journal

"I spin a roll of toilet paper—hard, and the paper unwinds to the floor. Does it make a noise as it unfurls? As it hits the floor? When ice cream melts and drips on my sleeve does it make a noise? Or will it only make a noise if it drips onto a hard surface, like the ground, rather than on my soft sleeve? ...They tell me that escaping air makes a sound. How? When?"

With these seemingly simple questions, Bonnie Poitras Tucker introduces us to "the feel of silence." Tucker, profoundly deaf since infancy, became an expert lipreader who never learned sign language and did not meet another deaf person until her mid-thirties. Her compelling story propels the reader through an odyssey of motions—the tension inherent in a battle against the odds.

This intimate memoir is interlaced with moving examples of the ironies and trials of accommodating a hearing world. After spending 17 years as a full-time wife and mother, Tucker embarked on a "second life," divorced, with several children to support. Alternately angry and sad, funny and introspective, Tucker explains how she sometimes "bluffed" instead of announcing her deafness.

Unable to read lips in the dark, candle-lit restaurants, or the turn of dusk left Tucker without a means of communication, virtually paralyzed. Daily frustration resulted from the practicalities of responding to a crying child, airplane announcements, repairmen knocking at the door, a ringing telephone, and following the rapid-fire debates that take place in the classroom and the courtroom.

Opposed to the "Deaf is Dandy" movement, Tucker successfully strategized her way through college, dating, motherhood, and law school, and went on to become a corporate litigator, a law professor, and an expert in several areas of the law, including disability rights.

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Excerpt

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 and 2 (pdf).

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Reviews

"A successful lawyer who does not consider herself a deaf person but a person who happens to be deaf, Bonnie Tucker comes across as a highly motivated woman with a remarkable sense of conviction, self-discipline, and a determination to live completely in a world she does not hear. This talented and unique individual has to be one of the world's best lip-readers, if not the very best, as lipreading itself is indeed an art. Coming from a completely different perspective, living with deafness as I have with both American Sign Language and English, I found The Feel of Silence a fascinating and engrossing autobiography."
Merv Garretson, deaf educator, editor, and advocate

"The Feel of Silence is a remarkable book and reading it is an emotional and enlightening experience. Bonnie Poitras Tucker bristles with honest anger at her deafness. She has also faced the classic problems of contemporary women, compounded by her deafness: divorce, single motherhood, and the need to develop a career in mid-life. But anger has not soured Bonnie Tucker; she has transformed and redeemed it by wit, intelligence, incredibly hard work, success, a lot of forgiveness, and—to some extent—acceptance. This book, and the author's insistence on making a go of living in the hearing world, may not please the deaf community. But through a multitude of stories from her life, she teaches indelible lessons to those who hear and choose to learn."
Mary Maples Dunn, President Emeritus of Smith College

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Contents

Foreword – Fred Hafferty
The Feel of Silence
Introduction
The First Life: Child and Student
The Second Life: Wife and Mother
The Third Life: Lawyer, Law Professor, and Grandmother
Epilogue

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About the Author(s)

Bonnie Poitras Tucker, Professor of Law at Arizona State University College of Law, was a corporate litigator with the firm Brown & Bain for seven years. She has publiched several books and numerous articles on federal disability law, public policy, civil rights, and education.

Subject Categories

Biography/Memoir/Autobiography
Disability Studies
General Interest


In the series

Health, Society, and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola.

No longer active.

Health, Society and Policy, edited by Sheryl Ruzek and Irving Kenneth Zola, takes a critical stance with regard to health policy and medical practice, ranging broadly in subject matter. Backlist titles include books on the legal and professional status of midwifery, the experience and regulation of kidney transplants, the evolution of federal law on architectural access, and a political/ethical argument for making the community responsible for universal access to health care.

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