Deaf Again: An Inside Look
When people ask what's the main motivation behind Deaf Culture Online, I refer them to
an autobiographical piece of work I started putting together when I was barely out of college.
Deaf Again was originally published in 1997. It was written with just one purpose in mind. Sam Scott, a dear friend and mentor, hit the nail on the head when he once made this simple yet powerful declaration:
Everybody wants one thing: To be understood.
After all of the experiences I went through as a hearing toddler, a hard of hearing child, a solitaire in high school, a bumbling supermarket clerk, a re-solitaired college student, and finally a Deaf college student at Gallaudet University... I came out of it with a sobering realization.
Hey! Nobody gets it!
During all those years in the mainstream, people around me kept marveling about how "normal" I was. I could look, talk, and act like a hearing person. (Yahoo! I had achieved The Ideal!)
Little did they know how miserable I was. In fact, because I had no frame of reference at the time, little did I know how miserable I was. Because it meant so much to the hearing people around me, I learned how to adeptly fake it through life. I even fooled myself.
Yes, there are all sorts of tricks that deaf and hard of hearing people resort to in order to look like they fit in. I've revealed some of them in this website (even more are revealed in a great article by Karen Putz, aptly titled
Calling Our Bluff: Using Communication Strategies in Social Situations).
I have no doubt that thousands, if not millions, of deaf and hard of hearing kids today are still pulling off this charade.
It's time to stop. It's time to start being authentic.
And that, my dear friends, is why I wrote Deaf Again.
Ten Years and Counting
Three editions later, Deaf Again is still going strong. Quite frankly, I'm amazed. It was supposed to validate the experiences of deaf and hard of hearing readers and then ride off into the sunset. But a funny thing happened on its journey into oblivion.
First, it went international. It got picked up by bookstores in England, Australia, and Germany. Signum Press in Germany went so far as to publish a translated edition titled Endlich Gehorlos. Emails from all over the world started pouring in. Emails along the lines of "This is exactly what I went through! I showed it to my family and friends. Finally, they understand." (Validation!)
Second, and very unexpectedly, Deaf Again became required reading in several ASL / Deaf Studies classes throughout the United States. The reason for this is the book's ability to take its readers along for an enlightening ride. Anyone can read it and come out of it with a better understanding of what it means to be deaf. ("It's one thing to teach what deafness is," one teacher explained. "It's another to show what it feels like.")
The Mission Continues
Deaf Again continues to unearth the importance of discovering one's own
It's power lies in it's frame of reference. I've been on both sides of the fence and lived to tell about it. Although I found my place in Deaf culture, this is not a chest thumping Deaf Power book. It's more about being true to yourself. A lot of the truths in this book are universal and apply to everyone (and this, in turn, helps people from all walks of life understand that there is such a thing as a deaf identity).
Being true to yourself is a theme that continues to this day in Deaf Culture Online. One of the central themes that have popped up in DCO lately is the difference between fitting in and belonging. Here's a quote from elsewhere on this site:
Fitting in requires effort. It's exhausting and you can also argue that it's not genuine because it involves trying to win other people's approval. Belonging is a far more rewarding phenomenon where you can kick back, be yourself, and know you are accepted. This is far more authentic and often happens in the presence of one's true peers.
Last but not least, here's another resource from DCO which emphasizes the importance of belonging; click here for an article titled
Free Online Course
There was a time when I used to travel everywhere and do presentations based on Deaf Again. Due to numerous other commitments, I rarely do this anymore. But I feel so strongly
about making this information acessible to everyone that there's now a
7-Part Autoresponder Course
available right here on Deaf Culture Online.
All you have to do is sign up online and the entire works will be emailed to you -- at no charge -- in seven different installments. It's divided up in such a manner that each installment sheds new light on a unique perspective. A perspective that many people in the mainstream world may not have been aware of before. It'll definitely open some eyes. Also, this format makes for convenient reading assignments in ASL and Deaf Studies courses. Either way, enjoy and make the most of it!
Last but not least: If you would like a closer look at the inspiration that's the Granddaddy of this website, feel free to check out
Deaf Again at Handwave Publications
for more information.