Words in My Hands, A Teacher, a Deaf-Blind Man, An Unforgettable Journey
by Yevgeniy Tethukhin
An entirely new world opened to me when I got to know the people portrayed in this book, the world where willpower prevails over the physical possibility (or rather impossibility), the world of super challenges and the world in which people never say die.
Sometimes (or perhaps very often) there happen to be moments in everybody’s life when a person seems to come to his limits, when he/she seems to be ruined by desperate failures and frustrations. And if this person, in addition to his mental troubles, is physically disadvantaged, then there comes the time for a choice, for weighing all pros and cons, for considering all good and bad sides in the endeavor to find a possible equilibrium for further existence. And sometimes it may happen so that the negative part of the life can prevail and can come dominating over you and would demand an immediate choice from you so urgently, that you can hardly breathe, that you seem completely disoriented and lost…And here would come such characters, such people , such heroes as pictured in this book, and they will give you a warm welcoming hand through the darkness of desperation and would cast a majestic light onto your life road. And you will suddenly understand where to go and what to do as you are enlightened by their desire to live, to enjoy life no matter how hard it can be.
These are the thoughts that came to me when I read this book, as I read it not with my eyes, but with my heart. I do not see the words and decipher their meaning. I see the real life, I feel the burning heart beating extending its influence far beyond the limits of words. And I feel the same that Burt–the main hero felt, I am groping in darkness together with him when he is trying to get through his physical disability, I am growing with him, and I begin to breathe new air–the air of real freedom and independence, which makes me see what was hidden from me as I saw things as they appear before my eyes but I could not see things which were secretly hidden in hearts and minds of people.
Yevgeniy Tetyukhin, Kandidat of Philology Sciences, is an Associate Professor of Linguistics at North Kazakhstan State University and an international wheelchair racer, and two-time Paralympian. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Words in My Hands: A Teacher, A Deaf-Blind Man, An Unforgettable Journey
Reviewed by Robert Hamilton
California Association of Resource Specialists and Special Education Teachers Newsletter Director
When I agreed to read and review Ms. Chambers’ book, I expected something like Tuesdays With Morrie. A little volume of reminiscences, celebrating the precious frailty of life and the human spirit, blah blah blah. Mea Culpa, I know, but that’s what I expected.
What I got was, indeed, all that, and a whole lot more. Ms. Chambers has woven four stories together into one inspirational book. The first and foremost is, of course, the story of her teacher-student relationship with the 86-year-old deaf-blind Bert Riedel, and her quest to reconnect him to life through signing communication. Fleshing out that narrative is his personal history, gathered from friends and relatives, bringing him alive to us not as a subject but as a human being, surrounded by his own universe of memories and experiences, and with his own particular philosophy of life. The third story is the history of the author and how she came to be an interpreter for the deaf as well as their advocate. And through it all is interwoven the history of the Deaf community, American Sign Language, and the hearing world’s perception and treatment of the deaf.
These four stories combine to produce many Aha! moments. Ms. Chambers’ explanation of what obstacles the deaf/blind experience in their everyday lives goes beyond the merely obvious. I have had experience with deaf and blind in my teaching life. I do not consider myself naïve nor insensitive to their problems. Yet over and over again while reading this book, I found myself stopping and saying to myself, “I never knew that. I never even thought of that.”
Ms. Chambers is a writer. Never pretentious or awkward, her story flows easily towards its inevitable conclusion. A bonus is her footnoted references (which never get in the way of the reading), and her extensive bibliography, which ranges from Erma Bombeck to scholarly dissertations for those inclined to further study.
When I agreed to read Words in My Hands, I expected something like Tuesdays With Morrie. What I didn’t expect, but got anyway, was a book I really enjoyed reading, that taught me more than one book should be able to teach me, and, yes, that left me feeling good about the precious frailty of life and the human spirit. It also reminded me of who I am and why I do what I do. That’s a lot for a small package.
The late Dr. McCay Vernon, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, McDaniel College said:
Words in My Hands is a penetrating look at deaf-blindness and the interpreting issues involved when the condition has its onset in an adult with no previous exposure to sign language. Ms. Chambers, the author, is an experienced interpreter and her book is a valuable contribution to the field of interpreting. It should be a part of every interpreter’s professional library and must reading in programs preparing students planning to be interpreters.
The interpreting needs of individuals who are deaf-blind in a neglected but important area. Words in My Hands is a welcome addition to this field.
Read More Reviews by: The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education ( fall 2006)
Midwest Book Review
Oklahoma Speech-Language Hearing Association
The National League of American Pen Women