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Novels of interest

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Hearing impairment

Deafening, Frances Itani (2003). HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

From the Publisher

Deaf since she was five years old, Grania has learned that watching is not always enough to survive in the world of the hearing. She has learned that words can often be impossible to see, their shape disappearing into a place where she cannot decipher their skittery ways. Sent to the Ontario School for the Deaf in Belleville, Grania must learn to live away from her loving family, lonely for the company of her sister and the secret language they shared. When Grania falls in love with Jim, a young hearing man from the east coast, her life seems complete, but the First World War soon tears them apart and sweeps him into the worst of experiences - trench warfare. At the Western Front, Jim is tested to his limit as he and his buddy Irish - both stretcher bearers - retrieve the shattered bodies of their comrades.

Fueled by tremendous word-of-mouth excitement at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Deafening has already become an international publishing phenomenon, with rights sold in over 12 countries so far. Author Frances Itani, the source of this unprecedented attention for a debut novel, has steadily been gaining a stellar reputation for her short fiction collections, her most recent, Leaning, Leaning Over Water, receiving ecstatic reviews. Touted as "writer to watch," Itani has lived up to her accolades with Deafening.

Her depiction of a world where sound exists only in the margins is a singular feat in literary fiction, a place difficult to leave and even harder to forget. Elegantly written, with grace and precision, Deafening is, above all, a deeply moving journey through the strands of strength and vulnerability that weave heart and spirit together.


Journey into the Deaf World, Harlan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister, & Ben Bahan. (1996). San Diego: Dawn Sign Press.

From the Publisher

A compelling story of this much misunderstood minority as it struggles for self-determination.


Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf, Oliver Sacks (2000). NY: Vintage Books.

From the Publisher

"This book will shake your preconceptions about the deaf, about language and about thought--. Sacks [is] one of the finest and most thoughtful writers of our time."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

Like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, this is a fascinating voyage into a strange and wonderful land, a provocative meditation on communication, biology, adaptation, and culture. In Seeing Voices, Oliver Sacks turns his attention to the subject of deafness, and the result is a deeply felt portrait of a minority struggling for recognition and respect--a minority with its own rich, sometimes astonishing, culture and unique visual language, an extraordinary mode of communication that tells us much about the basis of language in hearing people as well. Seeing Voices is, as Studs Terkel has written, "an exquisite, as well as revelatory, work."


Train Go Sorry, Leah H. Cohen (1995). Random House Canada.

From the Publisher

This portrait of New York's Lafayette School for the Deaf is not just a work of journalism. It is also a memoir, since Leah Hager Cohen grew up on the school's campus and her father is its superintendent. As a hearing person raised among the deaf, Cohen appreciates both the intimate textures of that silent world and the gulf that separates it from our own.


Wired for Sound: A Journey into Hearing, Beverly Biderman (1998). Trifolium Books Inc.

From the Publisher

This rare "inside" account of hearing with a cochlear implant, the first effective artificial sensory organ ever developed, is a moving story about a deaf woman's journey through deafness and into hearing. Wired for Sound is essential for understanding both deafness and the strange experience of hearing with a cochlear implant. Includes the voices of a wide range of deaf people talking about their deafness, and a balanced exploration of the explosive issues of the Deaf culture's opposition to cochlear implants. A "must read" for anyone needing to make an informed choice about cochlear implants, and for parents of deaf children, as well as teachers, doctors, therapists, audiologists, and other professionals who work with hearing impaired people. Detailed appendix includes comprehensive listing of over 75 international resources on deafness and cochlear implants, plus an annotated Recommended Reading list.

Cultural issues

Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. Anne Fadiman (1998). Douglas & McIntyre.

From the Publisher

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia's parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run "Quiet War" in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia's pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Parents and doctors both wanted the best for Lia, but their ideas about the causes of her illness and its treatment could hardly have been more different. The Hmong see illness aand healing as spiritual matters linked to virtually everything in the universe, while medical community marks a division between body and soul, and concerns itself almost exclusively with the former. Lia's doctors ascribed her seizures to the misfiring of her cerebral neurons; her parents called her illness, "qaug dab peg--the spirit catches you and you fall down--and ascribed it to the wandering of her soul. The doctors prescribed anticonvulsants; her parents preferred animal sacrifices.

Neurological Disorders

An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales, Oliver Sacks (1995). Random House Canada

chapters.indigo Review

Imagine being a respected artist - with no ability to see or imagine colour. Or a surgeon who routinely performs delicate operations despite outbursts of Tourette's syndrome. Or a professor with a Ph.D in animal science but no grasp of human emotion thanks to autism. With these and four other fascinating tales, Dr. Oliver Sacks explores the world of neurological disorder and creativity.


A Life Shaken: My Encounter with Parkinson's Disease, Joel Havemann (2004). The John Hopkins University Press.

From the Publisher

I'm flat on my back on a couch that's too short in a windowless room in the bureau. I can't even sit at a computer, much less make a keyboard work. My arms and legs are shaking uncontrollably. Although I am only 53 years old, I have already been struggling with Parkinson's disease for seven years. And right now the disease is winning." So begins Joel Havemann's account of the insidious disease that is Parkinson's. Into his own story, Havemann weaves accessible explanations of how Parkinson's disrupts the brain's circuitry, how symptoms are managed through drugs and surgery, and how people cope with the disease's psychological challenges. This new paperback edition features an updated discussion of the latest treatment options as well as recent developments in the search for a cure.


Awakenings, Oliver Sacks (1999). Vintage.

From the Publisher

"One of the most beautifully composed and moving works of our time." --The Washington Post

"Compulsively readable. . . . Dr. Sacks writes beautifully and with exceptional subtlety and penetration into both the state of mind of his patients and the nature of illness generally. . . . A brilliant and humane book." --A. Alvarez, The Observer

Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for decades in a trance-like state, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Oliver Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, "awakening" effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of his patients, their lives, and the extraordinary transformations which went with their reintroduction to a changed world.


By His Side: Life and Love after Stroke, Eileen Steets Quann (2002). Fastrak Press.

Book Description

In April 1997 John Quann, 59 years old and in excellent health, suffers a catastrophic stroke. Following an emergency craniotomy, he remains paralyzed on his right side, unable to understand or communicate. By His Side - Life and Love after Stroke is a courageous story of determination, hope, patience and love as he and his wife Eileen work together to recover. After coping with the initial terror of the stroke, they are faced with the challenge of living with and recovering from aphasia, a communication disorder that affects a person's ability to understand, speak, read or write. Written with honesty and humor by the spouse, this book explores the difficult decisions that must be made and the wide range of emotions experienced by the spouse-caregiver. While offering hope, encouragement and practical advice, ultimately this is a love story about a husband and wife who fall in love after the stroke. As both parties grow and change together, they discover that who they have become is far more important than what happened to them. Unlike other books on the subject that focus on the physical disabilities of a stroke, it describes how they dealt with aphasia, the personal aspects of which are rarely documented since its victims are often unable to tell the story, yet aphasia is a fascinating and bizarre aberration of the mind that affects more than one million Americans, with 85,000 new cases occurring every year.


How to Conquer the World with One Hand and an Attitude, Paul E. Berger & Stephanie Mensh (1999). Positive Power Publishing.

Book Description

This is the story of a young man's recovery from a devastating stroke, taking the reader on a journey far beyond the typical "survivor" story, into the depths of a young man's feelings, across ten years of physical and emotional challenges. "Paul does not let anything stop him from exploring and treating life as a gutsy adventure," says Barbara Newborn, author of "Return to Ithaca." Follow Paul's story from his fight to live...his stubborn determination to return to work...his joy in testing his physical limits...getting lost in a coal mine...lobbying Congress on the space program...traveling to Europe...finding job, losing jobs...building a new career and a new life.


My Stroke of Luck, Kirk Douglas (2001). HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

From the Publisher

My stroke taught me so much, and for all that it stole, it gave me even more. In the process of healing, my life has changed for the better. Now I want to share what I have learned.

In this vivid and very personal reflection upon his extraordinary life as an actor, author, and legend in his own time, Kirk Douglas offers a candid and heartfelt memoir of where it all went right in his life -- even after suffering a debilitating stroke. Revealing not only the incredible physical and emotional toll of his stroke but how it has changed his life for the better, Douglas shares the lessons that saved him and helped him to heal. Alongside his heartfelt advice and insight, he also recalls warm memories of some of the most famous figures of our time -- including Burt Lancaster, Michael J. Fox, and Gary Cooper -- as well as others who have soared to greatness in the face of adversity.

Charming, soulful, and filled with personal photographs, My Stroke of Luck is an intimate look at the real person behind the fabulous talent -- and at a life lived to its very fullest.


My Year Off: Recovering Life After a Stroke, Robert McCrum (1999). Broadway.

Book Description

Four years ago, Robert McCrum -- 42 years old, newly married, and at the top of Britain's publishing world -- awoke to find himself totally paralyzed on the left side. In the weeks to come, McCrum would have to face harsh realites: His life was irrevocably changed by a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and medical science could neither pinpoint the cause nor offer any guarantee of recovery. My Year Off poignantly traces McCrum's frustrations and inspirations as he faces an incomprehensible battle of recovery. Interspersed with excerpts from the journals he and his wife kept, and now featuring a poignant afterword on the tremendous reader response McCrum has received, My Year Off reflects the remarkable power of love to heal the body and soul.


One-Handed in a Two-Handed World, Tommye-K. Mayer (1999). Prince-Gallison Press.

Book Description

A step-by-step guidebook for managing just about everything with the use of one hand whether your one-handedness is temporary, long-term, or permanent.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Jean-Dominique Bauby (1998). Random House Canada.

From the Publisher

In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.

By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," keeping in touch with himself and the life around him.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This book is a lasting testament to his life.


The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks (1998). Touchstone.

From the Publisher

In his most extraordinary book, "one of the great clinical writers of the 20th century" (The New York Times) recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders. Oliver Sacks's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat tells the stories of individuals afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.

If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks's splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do. A great healer, Sacks never loses sight of medicine's ultimate responsibility: "the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject."


Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson Mitch Albom (2002). Broadway Books

From the Publisher

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.

For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.

Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger?

Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final "class": lessons in how to live.

Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world.

Autism and PDD

Emergence: Labeled Autistic, Temple Grandin (1996). Warner Books.

chapters.indigo Review

A true story that is both uniquely moving and exceptionally inspiring, Emergence is the first-hand account of a courageous autistic woman who beat the odds and cured herself. As a child, Temple Grandin was forced to leave her "normal" school and enroll in a school for autistic children. This searingly honest account captures the isolation and fears suffered by people with autism and their families and the quiet strength of one woman who insisted on a miracle.


Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter's Life with Autism, Clara Claiborne-Park (2002). Little Brown USA

From the Publisher

Reprising her own now classic work The Siege, which covered the early years of her autistic daughter's life, Clara Claiborne Park gives us a moving, eloquent portrait of Jessy as an autistic adult -- still struggling with language, with hypersensitivities and obsessions, and with the social interactions that most of us take for granted, but at the same time achieving more than her parents could have hoped for, becoming an accomplished artist, and growing into an active member of her family and community.


Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic, Donna Williams (1994). Avon Books.

From the Publisher

"This is a story of two battles, a battle to keep out 'the world' and a battle to join it."She inhabits a place of chaos, cacophony, and dancing light--where physical contact is painful and sights and sounds have no meaning. Although labeled, at times, deaf, retarded, or disturbed, Donna Williams is autistic--afflicted by a baffling condition of heightened sensory perception that imprisons the sufferer in a private, almost hallucinatory universe of patterns and colors. Nobody Nowhere is Donna's story in her own words--a haunting, courageous memoir of the titanic struggles she has endured in her quest to merge "my world" with "the world."


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Mark Haddon (2003). Doubleday Canada

From the Publisher

Narrated by a fifteen-year-old autistic savant obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, this dazzling novel weaves together an old-fashioned mystery, a contemporary coming-of-age story, and a fascinating excursion into a mind incapable of processing emotions.

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. At fifteen, Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbour's dog Wellington impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer, and turns to his favourite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents' marriage. As Christopher tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, the narrative draws readers into the workings of Christopher's mind.

And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon's choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotions. The effect is dazzling, making for one of the freshest debut in years: a comedy, a tearjerker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is great fun to read.


The Siege: A Family's Journal into the World of an Autistic Child, Clara Claiborne-Park (1982). Little Brown USA

From the Publisher

At age two, in 1960, Jessy Park was withdrawn, unable to walk or talk, yet oddly content within the invisible walls that surrounded her. The study of autism was still in its infancy. This powerfully moving book charts a surprising journey of discovery as it records the challenges and rewards of the first eight years of Jessys life.


Thinking in Pictures, Temple Grandin (1996). Random House Canada.

From the Publisher

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the United States. She also lectures widely on autism because she is autistic, a woman who thinks, feels, and experiences the world in ways that are incomprehensible to the rest of us. In this unprecedented book, Grandin writes from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person. She tells us how she managed to breach the boundaries of autism to function in the outside world. What emerges is the document of an extraordinary human being, one who gracefully bridges the gulf between her condition and our own while shedding light on our common identity.

Down Syndrome

A Special Kind of Hero, Chris Burke (1993). Dell.

Book Description

Chris Burke became one of America's favorite personalities when he starred as "Corky" on the hit ABC television series Life Goes On. Not since Helen Keller has one person so thoroughly changed the way the world views people with disabilities. Twenty-five years earlier, when Chris was born with Down syndrome, doctors advised his parents to put him in an institution. Instead, they showered him with love, and encouraged him to reach for his dreams.This is Chris' story, and the story of his family's love and determination. Here he tells what it's really like to grow up with Down syndromeĂ–how he pursued his seemingly impossible show business goals...and how he has dedicated his life to helping people with special needs, especially those with what he calls "Up syndrome." Journalist JoBeth McDaniel first wrote about Chris in a Life magazine cover story. For this book, she spent many months with Chris and his family, and interviewed dozens of his coworkers and friends.Profoundly inspirational, A Special Kind of Hero is a triumphant story of courage and hope that proves Chris' motto: "Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goal.


Choosing Naia: A Family's Journey, Mitchell Zuckoff (2002). Beacon Press.

From the Publisher

A powerful story, based on an award-winning series of articles, about a modern family and Down syndrome

Halfway through their first pregnancy, Greg and Tierney Fairchild hear the news all expectant parents dread: their baby isn't perfect. A routine ultrasound reveals that the fetus Tierney carries has a major heart defect. Making matters worse, the nature of the defect leads doctors to suspect it might be a symptom of Down syndrome. With those events as its starting point, Choosing Naia examines the exploding world of prenatal information--and the emotional maelstrom that ensues from an unwanted test result--through the prism of the Fairchild family's experiences.

Rapid advances in prenatal testing are enabling doctors to diagnose with great certainty a wide assortment of problems inside the womb. But that's where certainty ends. As they struggle with grief and confusion, would-be parents have only days or weeks to make choices--abortion, adoption, or continuing the pregnancy and keeping the child--whose reverberations are bound to alter the course of many lives.

In the Fairchilds' case, those choices are further complicated by race. Having married across racial lines, Greg and Tierney can imagine the discrimination felt by the disabled. Ultimately, that understanding informs their decision about whether and how to parent a disabled child. Once the choice is made, they face a difficult delivery, where Tierney's vigilance literally saves her baby's life, and high-risk open-heart surgery before the baby they name Naia can celebrate her first birthday. After clearing those hurdles, the Fairchilds face new barriers they must tear down on behalf of their beloved child for all thedays of their lives.

Mitchell Zuckoff won the 2000 Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors for his series "Choosing Naia," which also was honored by the National Down Syndrome Congress and the American Association on Mental Retardation.


Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic, Martha Beck (2000). Berkley

From the Publisher

The "slyly ironic, frequently hilarious" (Time) memoir about angels, academics, and a boy named Adam...

A national bestseller and an important reminder that life is what happens when you're making other plans.

Put aside your expectations. This "rueful, riveting, piercingly funny" (Julia Cameron) book is written by a Harvard graduate -- but it tells a story in which hearts trump brains every time. It's a tale about mothering a Down syndrome child that opts for sass over sap, and it's a book of heavenly visions and inexplicable phenomena that's as down-to-earth as anyone could ask for. This small masterpiece is Martha Beck's own story -- of leaving behind the life of a stressed-out superachiever, opening herself to things she'd never dared consider, meeting her son for (maybe) the first time ... and "unlearn[ing] virtually everything Harvard taught [her] about what is precious and what is garbage."

"Beck [is] very funny, particularly about the most serious possible subjects -- childbirth, angels and surviving at Harvard." --New York Times Book Review

"Immensely appealing...hooked me on the first page and propelled me right through visions and out-of-body experiences I would normally scoff at." --Detroit Free Press

"I challenge any reader not to be moved by it." --Newsday

"Brilliant." --Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Learning disabilities

Reading David: A Mother and Son's Journey Through the Labyrinth of Dyslexia, Lisa Weinstein (2003). Continuum Publishing Co.

From the Publisher

Lissa Weinstein made a career of helping others understand the nature of learning disabilities, but when her own son was diagnosed with dyslexia, she found herself just as frustrated and confused as the parents she counseled.

In their own words, Lissa and David Weinstein express the confusion, fear, faith and love they found on a journey that taught David to read, and brought mother and son closer than they had ever been.