The best books about deaf culture

Why am I passionate about this?

Years ago, I visited a school for the deaf to see how the children learn to read. It opened my eyes: It is exceedingly difficult to learn to read a language you cannot hear. I am a linguist and a writer for children. So this experience lit a fire under me – I wanted to learn about the deaf experience, sign languages, and what sorts of ways I might be able to support the effort to learn to read. I now analyze sign languages, work with a team to advocate for deaf children’s language rights, and am co-director of the RISE project, producing videobooks for deaf children and their families.


I wrote...

In a Flash

By Donna Jo Napoli,

Book cover of In a Flash

What is my book about?

You may have read a lot about World War II, but maybe not what happened on Japanese soil. This is the story of Italian sisters who are living with their father in Tokyo. At the start of the book, Italy and Japan are on the same side of the war. But when Italy changes sides, their father is taken away and these sisters struggle to survive without him. They have to find the courage to face harrowing dangers and they have to muster resourcefulness to overcome them, all while the society around them is disintegrating. They never could have succeeded without the compassion of an unlikely series of heroic strangers, from a blind woman to three misfit women to a German priest.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Inside Deaf Culture

Donna Jo Napoli Why did I love this book?

This book looks at the history of hearing people’s attitudes toward deaf people and sign languages in America over the past two centuries, and how those attitudes and the social institutions that stem from them have affected the ways deaf people see themselves. Despite the suppression of their language, deaf signers managed to keep American Sign Language alive through clubs and theater. Today, sign languages have achieved recognition of their full status as natural human languages.

By Carol Padden, Tom Humphries,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inside Deaf Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this absorbing story of the changing life of a community, the authors of Deaf in America reveal historical events and forces that have shaped the ways that Deaf people define themselves today. Inside Deaf Culture relates Deaf people's search for a voice of their own, and their proud self-discovery and self-description as a flourishing culture.

Padden and Humphries show how the nineteenth-century schools for the deaf, with their denigration of sign language and their insistence on oralist teaching, shaped the lives of Deaf people for generations to come. They describe how Deaf culture and art thrived in mid-twentieth century…


Book cover of Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood

Donna Jo Napoli Why did I love this book?

This book gives the British side of things, focusing on the division between viewing deafness as a medical condition (a deficiency) and viewing it as a cultural condition (which leads to the birth of sign languages).  This book asks what a culture is, truly, and shows how cultures grow up around deaf signing communities.

By Paddy Ladd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Understanding Deaf Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book presents a 'Traveller's Guide' to Deaf Culture, starting from the premise that Deaf cultures have an important contribution to make to other academic disciplines, and human lives in general. Within and outside Deaf communities, there is a need for an account of the new concept of Deaf culture, which enables readers to assess its place alongside work on other minority cultures and multilingual discourses. The book aims to assess the concepts of culture, on their own terms and in their many guises and to apply these to Deaf communities. The author illustrates the pitfalls which have been created…


Book cover of Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States

Donna Jo Napoli Why did I love this book?

The authors explore the complexity of deaf identities, looking at race, sexual behavior/orientation, disability, and the range of different experiences deaf people have, from being born into a family that signs to not even learning about sign languages until they are (nearly) adults.

By Irene Leigh, Jean Andrews, Raychelle Harris , Topher Gonzáles Ávila

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deaf Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A contemporary and vibrant Deaf culture is found within Deaf communities, including Deaf Persons of Color and those who are DeafDisabled and DeafBlind. Taking a more people-centered view, the second edition of Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States critically examines how Deaf culture fits into education, psychology, cultural studies, technology, and the arts. With the acknowledgment of signed languages all over the world as bona fide languages, the perception of Deaf people has evolved into the recognition and acceptance of a vibrant Deaf culture centered around the use of signed languages and the communities of Deaf peoples.…


Book cover of Fighting in the Shadows: Untold Stories of Deaf People in the Civil War

Donna Jo Napoli Why did I love this book?

Deaf people served as soldiers, nurses, cooks, even spies during the American Civil War. This book celebrates their bravery and how they applied their skills to fight for what they believed in.

By Harry G. Lang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fighting in the Shadows as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This visually rich volume presents Harry G. Lang's groundbreaking study of deaf people's experiences in the Civil War. Based on meticulous archival research, Fighting in the Shadows reveals the stories of both ordinary and extraordinary deaf soldiers and civilians who lived during this transformative period in American history. Lang documents the participation of deaf soldiers in the war, whose personal tests of fortitude and perseverance have not been previously explored. There were also many deaf people in noncombat roles whose stories have not yet been told clerks and cooks, nurses and spies, tradespeople supporting the armies, farmers supplying food to…


Book cover of The Deaf Way II Anthology: A Literary Collection by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers

Donna Jo Napoli Why did I love this book?

This has poetry, essays, short stories, and a play, all by internationally acclaimed deaf writers.  These give you a starting point. From there, you need to take a sign language course and start watching videos of deaf poems, stories, and jokes. What a grand world of wonder awaits you!

By Tonya M. Stremlau,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Deaf Way II Anthology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Deaf Way II Anthology brings together stellar contributions by 16 international writers who are deaf or hard of hearing. This remarkable collection features poetry, essays, short stories, and one play, all of which offer thought-provoking perspectives on elements from the personal universes of these gifted authors. Many are United States writers well-known for their past publications, such as Douglas Bullard, Willy Conley, Christopher Heuer, and Raymond Luczak, while the outstanding work of John Lee Clark, volume editor Tonya Stremlau, Melissa Whalen, and several others have been collected for the first time in this volume. The international contributions further distinguish…


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American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason

By Brett Dakin,

Book cover of American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason

Brett Dakin Author Of Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Lawyer Traveler Dog lover Reader Swimmer

Brett's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Meet Lev Gleason, a real-life comics superhero! Gleason was a titan among Golden Age comics publishers who fought back against the censorship campaigns and paranoia of the Red Scare. After dropping out of Harvard to fight in World War I in France, Gleason moved to New York City and eventually made it big with groundbreaking titles like Daredevil and Crime Does Not Pay.

Brett Dakin, Gleason's great-nephew, opens up the family archives—and the files of the FBI—to take you on a journey through the publisher's life and career. In American Daredevil, you'll learn the truth about Gleason's rapid rise…

American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason

By Brett Dakin,

What is this book about?

MEET LEV GLEASON, A REAL-LIFE COMICS SUPERHERO!

Gleason was a titan among Golden Age comics publishers who fought back against the censorship campaigns and paranoia of the Red Scare. After dropping out of Harvard to fight in France, Gleason moved to New York City and eventually made it big with groundbreaking titles like Daredevil and Crime Does Not Pay.

Brett Dakin, Gleason's great-nephew, opens up the family archives-and the files of the FBI-to take you on a journey through the publisher's life and career. In American Daredevil, you'll learn the truth about Gleason's rapid rise to the top of comics,…


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Interested in deaf culture, sign language, and subcultures?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about deaf culture, sign language, and subcultures.

Deaf Culture Explore 11 books about deaf culture
Sign Language Explore 21 books about sign language
Subcultures Explore 11 books about subcultures