Sounds Like Home: Growing Up Black and Deaf in the South by Mary Herring Wright
I almost didn’t include this book in the series, because it’s out of print, used copies are expensive, and it’s not held by all that many libraries.
The book is just too good to exclude, even if finding it may be a challenge. It’s a completely fascinating look at an amazing woman who had to overcome numerous challenges in her life.
Her situation is uncommon, and yet she writes in a way that brings the reader along and lets you experience events with her. The book is filled with small historical details that brings the time to life – such as the fact that the residential school she moved to was an all-day train ride away, back when there was no interstate to makes the almost 90 mile trip less onerous.
I studied sign language for a year in college, and read a number of autobiographies or memoirs by people who were deaf from birth, or became deaf later in life. This was easily my favorite one – her experiences were so compelling and her writing is strong.
Mary Herring Wright began to lose her hearing when she was eight and a half years old, and was completely deaf by the age of ten. At that time, she began to travel back and forth from her home in Iron Mine, NC, to Raleigh, where she attended a residential school for black deaf and blind children from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s. Her account adds an important dimension to current literature in that it is a story by and about an African American deaf child. It is unique and historically significant because it provides valuable descriptive information about the faculty and staff of her school from the perspective of a student as well as a student teacher. This engrossing narrative contains details about the curriculum, which included a week-long Black History celebration where students learned about important Black figures such as Madame Walker, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and George Washington Carver. Also, the story occurs during the time of two major events in American history, the Depression and World War II.
Wright has written another memoir, Far from Home: Memories of World War II and Afterward, that continues her story after Sounds Like Home ends. I haven’t read it, but have just gotten it through interlibrary loan, and will be reading it soon.
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.
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