Wednesday, May 4, 2022

“MOTHER-FATHER-DEAF; Living Between Sound and Silence” is a 1998 book written by Paul Preston, a Child of Deaf Adults and family interpreter.
In adulthood, he became a researcher and, in that role, interviewed a great many CODAs who really opened up to share their thoughts, experiences, and emotions simply because he, himself, was one of them. In my opinion, of the books about deaf people and books about hearing children of deaf people that I have read, this one is outstanding. What he discovered in the process is fascinating. He said he realized afresh “How the dreams and shadows of childhood become part of the fabric of our adult lives.”

The author states that it is well-known that hearing people are socialized and learn their identity from their hearing families, and that deaf children learn the same from their deaf families. Then he asks, "How do hearing children within a deaf family learn their identity and become socialized?” This is the focus of Mr. Preston's work and the subject of his book.

The first third of the book is mainly an introduction. After that come the chapters involving his subjects, all of whom are CODAs. A quick glance at the stories reveals a wide variety of personalities and attitudes.

One chapter I included in my own story introduces a deaf couple's two hearing teenagers, both of whom are ashamed of signing. The boy takes advantage of his parents’ deafness and sneaks out at night when his folks are sleeping. I, too, went through a short period when I was ashamed of signing. And I know of a hearing son of deaf parents who has become a well-known comedian by portraying them as ignorant fools. That really confounds me because I knew his parents very well, and they were a personable and intelligent couple who treated their son well. It is beyond my understanding to realize that offspring of deaf people sometimes take advantage of their parents' disability for their own gain and purposes.

Well, I realize I was very fortunate to have had my grandmother and her family take care of me while my parents were working at their jobs. Not only did I learn about life in a hearing family, that family was not a typical American family. My grandparents were immigrants who spoke Italian and who struggled with speaking English, and their children were bi-lingual. I learned there were different languages, customs, religions and foods, to name a few disparities. I venture to say that my exposure to both a deaf and a hearing family at the same time would have either disqualified me for Mr. Preston's research or added another category for CODAs like me. If the latter, I assume I would be the only member of that category. As my deaf father used to comment, "Life is funny that way!"