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The Story of My Life: The Restored Classic, Complete and Unabridged, Centennial Edition Hardcover – May 5, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 327 customer reviews

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Helen Keller would not be bound by conditions. Rendered deaf and blind at 19 months by scarlet fever, she learned to read (in several languages) and even speak, eventually graduating with honors from Radcliffe College in 1904, where as a student she wrote The Story of My Life. That she accomplished all of this in an age when few women attended college and the disabled were often relegated to the background, spoken of only in hushed tones, is remarkable. But Keller's many other achievements are impressive by any standard: she authored 13 books, wrote countless articles, and devoted her life to social reform. An active and effective suffragist, pacifist, and socialist (the latter association earned her an FBI file), she lectured on behalf of disabled people everywhere. She also helped start several foundations that continue to improve the lives of the deaf and blind around the world.

As a young girl Keller was obstinate, prone to fits of violence, and seething with rage at her inability to express herself. But at the age of 7 this wild child was transformed when, at the urging of Alexander Graham Bell, Anne Sullivan became her teacher, an event she declares "the most important day I remember in all my life." (Sullivan herself had once been blind, but partially recovered her sight after a series of operations.) In a memorable passage, Keller writes of the day "Teacher" led her to a stream and repeatedly spelled out the letters w-a-t-e-r on one of her hands while pouring water over the other. This method proved a revelation: "That living world awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away." And, indeed, most of them were.

In her lovingly crafted and deeply perceptive autobiography, Keller's joyous spirit is most vividly expressed in her connection to nature:

Indeed, everything that could hum, or buzz, or sing, or bloom, had a part in my education.... Few know what joy it is to feel the roses pressing softly into the hand, or the beautiful motion of the lilies as they sway in the morning breeze. Sometimes I caught an insect in the flower I was plucking, and I felt the faint noise of a pair of wings rubbed together in a sudden terror....

The idea of feeling rather than hearing a sound, or of admiring a flower's motion rather than its color, evokes a strong visceral sensation in the reader, giving The Story of My Life a subtle power and beauty. Keller's celebration of discovery becomes our own. In the end, this blind and deaf woman succeeds in sharpening our eyes and ears to the beauty of the world. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

More than a 100th-anniversary reprint, this book was reedited by literary scholar Roger Shattuck and Keller biographer Dorothy Hermann to include excised material.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Restored Classic
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Cen Sub edition (May 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393057445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393057447
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (327 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on October 28, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Helen Keller (1880-1968) is a revered figure in American popular culture. Struck deaf and blind by illness at the age of 19 months, she still managed to get an education and become a writer and activist. Her story was further popularized by William Gibson's play "The Miracle Worker," which was also adapted for both film and television.
Keller's autobiography, "The Story of My Life," first appeared in installments in "Ladies' Home Journal" in 1902. This book is truly one of the great American autobiographies: an inspiring story of a courageous individual who overcame tremendous odds.
Keller writes about many things: her childhood in Alabama; her relationship with her beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan; her attendance at the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City; and meeting such eminent figures as Mark Twain. She especially stresses her love of literature, which she describes as "my Utopia."
Along the way are some fascinating details and profoundly moving passages. Her tribute to the Homer, the blind poet of ancient Greece, is particularly powerful. I also loved her interpretation of the biblical Book of Ruth: a story of "love which can rise above conflicting creeds and deep-seated racial prejudices."
I think that many will regard Keller's autobiography as a mere historical or sociological document. But I think the book deserves a place as a great work of literature, and moreover as a work of literature in the great American tradition. Keller's poetic, often sensuous words about the natural world are comparable to the work of Emily Dickinson. And her stirring account of her revelatory awareness of language reminds me of Frederick Douglass' account of his first awareness of the power of literacy.
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Format: Paperback
I was about 8 years old, my grandmother had a "bed and breakfast" type of house in Garmisch, Germany, I was on my way home from school and had picked some flowers for her "B & B" tables, when I saw a lady with awhite cane, I gave her the flowers which I had picked for my grandma, The lady to whom I gave the flowers was Ms. Keller, the lady accompanying her was Ms. Sullivan. The next day, my teacher at school asked me to her office. Thinking that I was in trouble (again) I was worried about what was going on. She asked me where I had met Helen Keller; To which I replied "Helen who??" , She then explained to me who Helen Keller was. My grandmother and I then were invited to one of the finer hotels in Garmisch to have dinner with Ms Keller and Ms Sullivan. At which time she presented me with a hardcover of her book "The story of my life". What I belive makes this book special is the fact that Ms Keller wrote a note to me In GERMAN, she wrote: "An meiner kleine freund der meine hand froh machte mit 'Primrosen', eine botschft from fruehling mit liebe Helen Keller" In rough translation: "To my little friend, who made my hand happy with a message of spring with love Hellen Keller". This book is most certainly one of my most price posessions.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Story of My Life is written while Helen Keller is in her second year at Radcliff, so it's really a story of how she became educated, not a story of her whole life. It was very interesting how she came to understand that words exist, or that things have words associated with them. Also very interesting that she has memories of things before she even had words for them.

It's explaned in the book that she wants to act as "normal" as possible, so that's why she describes things in color, or describes what she "saw," even though she doesn't remember any colors and can't see anything. She wants to describe them in the most "normal" way possible.

She also talks about how difficult it was to take college classes without any accomidations for disabilities. For example, she relied on her professors to learn the manuel alphabet and voluntarily give one-on-one instruction on their own time, and she was responsible for getting her own braille text books. But I was impressed with how much she was able to learn, through the help of dedicated individuals. (English, French, German, Latin, all as college prep before entering Radcliff. That's more than I'll ever know!)

Her letters show the progression of her language and writing ability from her very first letter. I was really amazed at her words and especially her spelling at such a young age.

It's really a story of hope, of how anyone can learn.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The miraculous Helen Keller and her equally astounding teacher, Annie Sullivan, go into great detail of their struggles to overcome Helen's grave disabilities. It is so astounding, in fact, that it's almost incomprehensible. Helen's amazing mental ability, Annie's guidance and their mutual tenacity are surely to be credited.
It is a wonderful story to read, especially so because it is told BY them and not as interpreted by a third-party biographer.
Unfortunately, Helen's eloquence and the prose of the day can border on the flowery side (to be it mildly) which made me unable to push through as quickly as I might have otherwise.
But then again, that's the beauty of her success story: it WASN'T too good to be true!
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