rating: 4 of 5 stars
Myron Uhlberg’s memoir Hands of My Fathertells of his experiences growing up in Brooklyn, NY in the 1930’s and 1940’s. But, this is not a typical coming of age memoir….both of Uhlberg’s parents were completely deaf. Uhlberg could hear and starting at a very early age that he had to act as a translator between his parents and the hearing world.
My second language was spoken English. I have no memory of learning this language, or at what age, but somehow I did. And with the acquisition of spoken language, a big part of my childhood ended before it began. As the hearing child of a deaf father, I was expected to perform the daily alchemy of transmuting the silent visual movements of my father’s hands into the sound of speech and meaning for the hearing, and then to perform the magic all over again for him, in reverse, transmuting invisible sound into visible sign.
I found the memoir to be a compassionate and moving account of the author’s relationship with his father and the clash Uhlberg felt between an obligation to assist his parents and his desire to have a carefree childhood. A young Myron learned early about the discrimination the hearing world had against the deaf. Most people either ignored the deaf or assumed that they were stupid. Myron’s love for his parents and younger brother shines out from the pages of the memoir in a way that isn’t too over the top or cheesy. There are numerous family photos scattered throughout the book and help draw the reader closer to the family.