ABOUT THIS BOOK
From the seventeenth century to the early years of the twentieth, the population of Martha’s Vineyard manifested an extremely high rate of profound hereditary deafness. In stark contrast to the experience of most Deaf people in our own society, the Vineyarders who were born Deaf were so thoroughly integrated into the daily life of the community that they were not seen—and did not see themselves—as handicapped or as a group apart. Deaf people were included in all aspects of life, such as town politics, jobs, church affairs, and social life. How was this possible?
On the Vineyard, hearing and Deaf islanders alike grew up speaking sign language. This unique sociolinguistic adaptation meant that the usual barriers to communication between the hearing and the Deaf, which so isolate many Deaf people today, did not exist.
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
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
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
It must become essential reading for all concerned with the psychosocial aspects of deafness and for anyone interested in the history of hearing problems. Furthermore, for anyone with a serious interest in the hearing impaired and their problems it will make fascinating and valuable reading… The most readable of books.
-- British Journal of Audiology
[Groce] illuminates and challenges the assumption that discrimination has existed always and everywhere. [She] has made a major contribution to our understanding of deafness, disability and handicap as socially meaningful, dynamic categories.
-- Qualitative Sociology
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.