The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness

Katie Booth. Simon & Schuster, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5011-6709-6
Booth, a writing instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, debuts with an impassioned and scrupulously researched account of inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s fraught legacy within the deaf community. The son of a deaf mother and the husband of a deaf wife, Bell was an ardent advocate for the social inclusion and education of deaf people. Booth explains how these good intentions, combined with his own pride as a speech educator, led Bell to work toward the universal adoption of a method of deaf education that prioritized the spoken word and lip-reading. When this oralist approach was adopted over manualism (sign language) or a combined practice, Booth argues, deaf people who failed to acquire speech had no functional language—and thus no way to conceptualize and communicate their thoughts and feelings. Booth uses moving anecdotes about her deaf grandparents and great-aunt to illustrate the psychologically corrosive effects of oralism, and notes the irony that Bell, who saw the education of the deaf as his most important work, came to believe that the world would be better with fewer deaf people in it. Enriched with vivid sketches of Bell’s wife, Mabel Hubbard, and other historical figures, including Helen Keller, this revelatory history deserves a wide readership. Agent: Farley Chase, Chase Literary. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/14/2021
Release date: 04/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-2355-4
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-5011-6710-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-2353-0
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