In his first memoir, Hands of My Father, children's book author Myron Uhlberg writes of being a hearing child brought up by deaf parents.
Do you think having American Sign Language as your first language helped you develop the creativity to become a writer?
It played a very important part. My parents were deaf and I lived in that environment in the midst of the hearing world. Deaf people are very keen observers, and I absorbed that ability. That's great training to be a writer—to get behind surface impressions and go deeper.
In terms of the writing process, did you approach your first adult book the same way as your children's books?
I think there are about 25 chapters [in the memoir] and in theory I could have made that into 25 children's books just by changing the structure and tinkering with some of the language.
Is there one memory from your childhood that stands out among all the rest?
There are a cluster of memories that are all infused with love and shame and resentment. The resentment of having to be, at age six, appointed the interface between my father and the uncaring hearing world that would call him a stupid dummy to his face. I can never get it out of my head, the shame I felt, and the resentment.
Yet the book is so full of love and understanding.
The love that my mother and father lavished on me and my brother was extraordinary by any standards. I don't think that they were making up for the fact they were deaf and I could hear, but I do think it was because they were deaf. They had to experience their hearing son in ways other than the ways in which two hearing parents with a hearing child would relate. They had no verbal communication. What I am dealing with in all my books is the love between parent and child and that shifting relationship as a child matures.
Did you write this book as a form of catharsis?
To me catharsis is understanding, and then shedding. I don't want to shed anything. It was more of a revisiting with an adult perspective and, for the first time, understanding incidents, as I certainly never did at the time.