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Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard Paperback – April 14, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0674270411 ISBN-10: 067427041X

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Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard + A Place of Their Own: Creating the Deaf Community in America
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 169 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 14, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067427041X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674270411
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

When is deafness neither handicap nor stigma? When, as this remarkable book recounts, the entire hearing community learns from childhood to be bilingual in conventional speech and sign language, and when the deaf are wholly integrated into the community's social, economic, religious, and recreational life...A vivid ethnography of a hearing community's full acceptance of, and adaptation to, deafness. Groce also constructs a fascinating ethnohistory of this genetic disorder. (Choice)

Beautiful and fascinating...I was so moved by Groce's book that the moment I finished it I jumped in the car, with only a toothbrush, a tape recorder, and a camera--I had to see this enchanted island for myself. (Oliver Sacks New York Review of Books)

Brilliantly argued and lively...[Groce's] information consists of the oral history she herself garnered from some 50 witnesses, almost all more than 75 years old, and the documents in print and in manuscript that cross-check and extend their first-hand accounts. Human genetic theory, ethnographic counterparts and a clear-eyed account of social attitudes are the analytic tools that form her brief and telling work...[A] persuasive and compassionate investigation. (Scientific American)

Fascinating...Groce accomplishes much just by pointing out that "handicaps" are something a culture creates, and thus the joint responsibility of us all. That's what places this book squarely within the best tradition of anthropological writing, and makes it both moving and encouraging. (Village Voice)

About the Author

Nora Ellen Groce, a cultural and medical anthropologist, received her doctorate from Brown University. She is currently a Fellow at the Family Development Study, Children's Hospital, Boston, and in the Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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One could 'talk' to another person in the next building without opening windows.
Christy B.
This book gives you History, Culture, and Humor along with sage insight to what our world could be if we were a little more accepting of the Deaf community.
Mom
The book was very interesting although I didn't learn much about my particular relatives.
Jelsy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By absent_minded_prof on February 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Originally written as an ethnographic study, it is also completely readable for a non-professional popular audience. Basically, it is the story of the islanders of Martha's Vineyard, a large island off the coast of Massachusetts. The islanders originally came from the same 2 or 3 boatloads of colonists from England, by way of Boston and Scituate, from a region in Kent which already seems to have had a high incidence of hereditary deafness. Due to the geographic isolation of the island, recessive genes for deafness, which were already prominent in the original Kentish colonists, came increasingly to the fore. As the proportions of islanders who happened to be deaf gradually increased, what was the islanders' answer? Not shunning the deaf. Far from it. Rather, a tradition arose that EVERYONE on the island, deaf or hearing, simply learned sign language as children!
This book is full of fascinating little anecdotes, about how island society worked to include its deaf members. For example, we learn about families and friends, some deaf and some hearing, who would regularly sit next to each other in church. The hearing members would sign the sermons to their deaf friends. Or, sometimes groups of people who could hear perfectly well might be together, for whatever reason, and they might happen to converse by signing just as much as in spoken English. Everyone spoke both languages.
Some of my favorite parts of the book focus on the benefits of signing. For example, perhaps two neighbors wanted to converse, while being separated by 200 yards of noisy space, made vocally impenetrable by sounds of surf and sea.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language is a wonderful look at the Deaf population on Martha's Vineyard and the extent to which it was integrated with the Hearing community. Groce's research is supurb and she draws interesting and relevant conclusions. I highly recommend this book to anyone studying ASL/Deaf Studies or someone who is just interested in the topic.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Heather on May 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language" is a look at the effect of a large deaf population on Martha's Vineyard. Though a dry read at times, this book gives an interesting look at how for once in the history of deaf culture the *hearing* adapted for the deaf instead of vice versa. While most people might assume that the large deaf population would force a hefty amount of deaf people to adapt to hearing life, the opposite was actually true; the brilliance of Martha's Vineyard was that nearly all hearing people knew sign language to some degree.
The book analyses cultural impact of the large deaf population within the Vineyard's communities, which was biologically caused by the genetic predisposition for deafness. The book, largely written like an anthropological study, focuses on both physical and cultural aspect of the deafness in the communities. However, the most interesting implications within the book are those discussing deaf and hearing interrelations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christy B. on June 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the right attitude toward the deaf people in Martha's Vineyard back in the 17th and 18th centuries. I only wish it was true in USA and elsewhere today but it isn't.

This book also talk of people that aren't deaf, were using sign language to talk to each other - for example, from one boat to another or from the cliff down to the beach or because the high wind was drowning out their voices. I can think of many examples that people can use sign language today. Scuba diving sign language is so limited so why not use ASL? A person can tell a minister of an emergency problem quickly from the back of the church without having to go up to whisper in his ear. One could 'talk' to another person in the next building without opening windows. (Windows can't be opened in some office buildings) I could go on and on.

Today, parents are using sign language with their babies (not deaf). Some researchers are saying that it enhances language, cognitive, and social-emotional development. However, I am sure that at the same time, there are some parents of deaf babies, are being told not to use sign language. There are few schools that are pro-oral. Those deaf babies need sign language even more. Where are their language and social-emotional development?? This is irony and sharp contrast to this book. This book prove that all deaf babies need to be exposed to sign language everyday by comparing the Vineyard Deaf people to the Mainland Deaf people.

I am keeping this book to show others because it does support my view of point on the education for the deaf.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gretta M. Farley on October 28, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book a couple of years ago after reading Oliver Sack's book "Seeing Voices". I read many books each year and I must agree with the other readers here in stating that this is one of the books that has stuck with me. The sense of community and integration encountered by the deaf people on Martha's Vineyard are truley lessons to us all on acceptance and normal treatment of disabilities. I only wish it had a follow up edition.
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