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Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love Hardcover – February 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553806882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553806885
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, February 2009: With touching simplicity, author Myron Uhlberg recounts his complex childhood spent bridging the gap between sign language and the spoken word. As the hearing son of deaf parents, young Myron served as their emissary to the audible world while enduring the painful ignorance of a society that dismissed the hearing-impaired as "dummies." Yet eliciting pity is not the aim of this memoir. Hands of My Father is less about the challenges Uhlberg faced, and more about the love that bound his family together. Amid each tale of hardship, he describes moments so profoundly tender that you are immediately excused for the lump forming in the back of your throat. "All that I needed, in order to understand how much my father loved me," he explains, "was the feel of his arms around me." Though there may have been much to struggle against, Uhlberg's stories reveal that he had even more to be thankful for. - Dave Callanan

From Publishers Weekly

In this memoir about growing up the son of deaf parents in 1940s Brooklyn, Uhlberg recalls the time his uncle told him he saw his nephew as cleaved into two parts, half hearing, half deaf, forever joined together. These worlds come together in this work, his first for adults, as Uhlberg, who has written several children's books (including Dad, Jackie, and Me, which won a 2006 Patterson Prize) effortlessly weaves his way through a childhood of trying to interpret the speaking world for his parents while trying to learn the lessons of life from the richly executed Technicolor language of his father's hands. With the interconnection of two different worlds, there is bound to be humor, and Uhlberg is able to laugh at himself and his family's situation. He recounts unsuccessfully trying to reinterpret his teacher's constructive criticism for his parents and finding himself pressed into duty interpreting the Joe Louis prize fights for his dad. There are, of course, more poignant moments, as Uhlberg tries to explain the sound of waves for his curious father or when he finds himself in charge of caring for his epileptic baby brother because his parents can't hear the seizures. As Uhlberg grows up through the polio epidemic, WWII and Jackie Robinson's arrival in Brooklyn, he also grows out of his insecurities about his family and the way they are viewed as outsiders. Instead, looking back, he gives readers a well-crafted, heartwarming tale of family love and understanding. (Apr.)
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Customer Reviews

I believe it will also give most hearing people insight into the joys of deaf people.
MamaBear007
Author Myron Uhlberg tells a sensitive story in gentle, yet truthful words in his book, Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love.
Marilyn Dalrymple
At heart a love story between Uhlberg and his father Lou (though Sarah is not shirked), it is all the more moving because it is so real...and so very well written.
A. Reid

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Kayla Rigney VINE VOICE on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved Hands of My Father! I devoured it. And I, the woman whose books *never* have so much as a cracked binding, highlighted passages of particular beauty. And there are quite a few passages like that...

Born to two deaf parents, American Sign Language was Uhlberg's first language; then, English, spoken and written. As a very young child, he was forced to "translate" the hearing world for his parents. He learned early on that words are often painful but sometimes wonderful. Uhlberg endured a child's shame at seeing his father being treated like a child himself simply because he was deaf. (He translated slurs and hateful words exactly as they were said, because his father demanded it.)

Even though his childhood was stunted by having to act as his parents' go-between with the hearing world as well as by having to be responsible for his epileptic younger brother, it's obvious Ulberg was raised with love and concern. Afraid his precious new baby was born deaf, his father went to great lengths to make sure Myron could hear. During the Great Depression, Ulberg slept with a radio always playing beside his bed -- first a "baby" table-top model and then a gigantic Philco aptly described as looking like a cathedral -- because his parents worried that his hearing might waste away if not used.

This book is rich with love of all kinds: Mother Sarah's love-through-food and his father's love-through-touch, the boy's love for his father. There's old love and lost love and love of 1940's comic books. In Uhlberg's word, Love, like ASL, is varied and knee-deep in contextual meaning. And somewhere along the way -- after the cathedral radio and before his first library card -- it's obvious that Myron Uhlberg fell in love words.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Reid VINE VOICE on January 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Uhlberg does not romanticize growing up the oldest son of deaf parents, Sarah and Lou, at a time when little cultural effort was made to understand or accommodate the deaf. He speaks frankly and with some shame of the humiliation he felt when others mocked his family, of the resentment for having to do so much more than most little boys have to handle in helping them navigate through the world. But he doesn't cast himself as the hero of a tragedy. The picture he paints is a well-rounded one of parents whose needs were often a challenge, but who offered much in return. Uhlberg seems pretty clear that in spite of the burden of their deafness, his parents themselves were a gift--a gift I thank him for sharing.

I read it. I loved it. I am confident others will, too. Uhlberg can indeed speak the language of love--not just the sign language he used to communicate with his deaf parents, but the written language he uses to communicate to his readers. I have not read many memoirs that speak as straight to the heart as this one does. It doesn't rely for emotional appeal on overblown metaphors or flights of fancy, but on honesty and a willingness to share. At heart a love story between Uhlberg and his father Lou (though Sarah is not shirked), it is all the more moving because it is so real...and so very well written. With clear, fluid prose and well-chosen detail, Uhlberg evokes both imagination and emotion. I laughed; I cried; I hated to put it down.

One of Lou's greatest fears was the loss of his ability to communicate. His parents, like Sarah's, had never really learned to sign; he never knew them. Gazing on a child in an iron lung, he could not help but think of the horror of being so cut off.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Kanigan VINE VOICE on February 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Myron Uhlberg tells the story of his childhood - he was born of two deaf parents in Brooklyn in the depression years through the early 50's. As a child he had to carry the responsibility of being the bridge to the hearing world for his parents and also keep a watchful eye on his epileptic younger brother. Uhlberg shares the unvarnished truth - brutal honesty on the shame and embarrassment he felt by these "burdens" - in addition to seeing, hearing and feeling the ignorance that his Father faced in all aspects of his life (work, shopping, riding train) - and enduring the cruel painful slights, slurs and the mocking directed at his Father.

"I was never able to get used to the initial look of incomprehension that bloomed on the stranger's face when my father failed to answer, and the way that look turned to shock at the sound of his harsh voice announcing his deafness, then metastasized into revulsion, at which point the stranger would turn and flee as if my father's deafness were a contagious disease. Even now, seventy long years in the future, the memory of the shame I sometimes felt as a child is as corrosive as battery acid in my veins, and bile rises unbidden in my throat."

What is clear from reading this book is that Uhlberg's Father was an exceptional man - a man who persevered with sheer determination and will power in a hearing world.

`"Hearing people think I'm stupid. I am not stupid." My father's hands fell silent.'

I found myself yearning for more details on how Uhlberg's Father and Mother coped in an unforgiving environment in the harsh depression era - more details on their struggle of being deaf in a hearing world - how they managed to raise two infants in a hearing world.
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