From Publishers Weekly
Called the Silents by some, and the Shtimmers (its Yiddish equivalent) by others, deaf Joe and Ruthie Herzberg were simply mother and father to Abrams and her sister, Adelaide. In part, this is a straightforward story of growing up during the Depression and WWII. It's also a nice, but unremarkable story of a child discovering the difference between the image and the reality of her parents, as when Abrams discovers that her quick-tempered father had been a hobo, a boxer and a bootlegger. But much rarer and hence more affecting, are the scenes that are unique to a hearing child of deaf parents. These give insights into a different normalcy. Abrams describes how her parents tried to provide her and her sister a "regular" childhood by having hearing friends and relatives come to speak to them while they were young; and she recalls her mother's habit of calling out, when the doorbell-activated light flashed, "Who is it?" even though she would never hear the answer. There was a crisis, when Abrams was first given a radio and her father feared it as an activity that would divide the household into hearing and not. At least until he discovered that the fights were broadcast, and, surrounded by his deaf friends, he had the two girls sign and act out the parts of the contenders. Strangely, what stand out most, are the sounds: the knockings of a card player signaling a pass; the hmn, hmn that is Abrams's father's laugh; her mother's crying as she grapples with the additional hurdle of blindness; the whoops, groans and moans in a large, otherwise silent party.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Back Cover
Author Charlotte Abrams presents her memoir of life in Chicago with her sister and her deaf parents. Hers is a loving portrayal of how a close Jewish family survived the Depression and the home front hardships of World War II with the added complications of communication for her mother and father. Rich episodes detail history from a particularly acute point of view that entertain as they subtly inform. Her father, a former prizefighter, considered the gift of a radio an intrusion until he found that he could have his hearing daughters pantomime the Joe Louis-Billy Conn fight as it occurred. The Silents departs from other narratives about deaf parents and hearing children when the family discovers that Abrams' mother is becoming blind. With resiliency, the family turned the secret, terrifying sorrow their mother felt at losing her only contact with the world into a quest for the best way to bring it back. Should she learn braille? Should she use a cane? All of the old communication and day-to-day living routines needed to be made anew. And through it all, the family, their friends, and their neighbors, hearing and deaf, worked together to ensure that Abrams' parents remained the close, vital members of the community that they had always been.