The best books on the effect of deafness and understanding deaf people

Michael Thal Author Of The Lip Reader
By Michael Thal

Who am I?

I was a teacher when I awoke one morning to an unnatural silence. The ENT specialist said the rare virus would return and I’d become deaf one day. Six years later he was proven right, and I had to accept disability because I couldn’t understand my students. I took American Sign Language classes at a local community college, and I taught myself to write. I penned six novels; two about deafness. At the turn of the century, I met Jila, an amazing deaf woman. She told me stories about growing up deaf and Jewish in Iran. After her death from colon cancer, I put her stories together and novelized her life in The Lip Reader.


I wrote...

The Lip Reader

By Michael Thal,

Book cover of The Lip Reader

What is my book about?

Zhila recalls her struggle with deafness and refusing to allow adversity to stop her from reaching her dreams. Disgusted with the Iranian Islamic government, Zhila immigrates to the United States. It isn’t until she is forty-nine, when she meets Mickey Daniels and begins to feel her life is truly complete.

After they have fallen deeply in love, Zhila learns that she has Stage 4 colon cancer. Mickey becomes her caretaker, and the two grow ever closer as they fight the disease together. Throughout it all, Zhila shows her caring nature and willpower to overcome almost any challenge. Her courage and the beauty of her memory is certain to inspire all who follow her on their quest for a truly meaningful life.

The books I picked & why

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Dad, Jackie, and Me

By Myron Uhlberg, Colin Bootman (illustrator),

Book cover of Dad, Jackie, and Me

Why this book?

As a deaf man, I’ve run into people who refuse to talk to me because of their prejudices toward deaf people. This includes my own brother, friends, and cousins.

Prejudice in American society is ubiquitous. No one knew this better than Myron Uhlberg’s father, a deaf man. When Branch Rickie decided to break the color barrier in baseball by hiring Jackie Robinson as the starting first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Mr. Uhlberg understood immediately the difficulties the ballplayer would encounter from racist athletes and fans. Though Uhlberg knew nothing about baseball, he became one of Robinson’s adoring fans at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York during the 1947 baseball season.

Myron and his father visited Ebbets Field frequently during Robinson’s rookie year. Author Myron Uhlberg and illustrator Colin Bootman produce an emotionally packed picture book kids can understand and learn about diversity in their award-winning picture book, Dad, Jackie, and Me.


Deaf Culture, Our Way: Anecdotes from the Deaf Community

By Roy Holcomb, Samuel Holcomb, Thomas Holcomb, Frank Paul (illustrator), Valerie Nelson-Metlay (illustrator)

Book cover of Deaf Culture, Our Way: Anecdotes from the Deaf Community

Why this book?

The pandemic ended Deaf bowling and morning breakfasts with Deaf friends. Having more to learn about the culture is why I read Deaf Culture Our Way: Anecdotes from the Deaf Community. Many of the stories recalled things that happened to me since becoming deaf.

Like many deaf people, I feel the dashboard of my car to make sure it has started. At noisy family gatherings I remove my hearing aids for blessed silence. I also capitalize on my deafness when visiting my brother in Atlanta. Before boarding a plane, I let the gatekeeper know I’m deaf and she always lets me on first. (Deafness has its perks.)

If you have a deaf relative, friend, or just interested in Deaf Culture, or learning ASL, read Deaf Culture Our Way: Anecdotes from the Deaf Community. It’s an eye-opener.


Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World

By Leah Hager Cohen,

Book cover of Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World

Why this book?

Leah Hager Cohen grows up at the Lexington School for the Deaf, in Queens, New York, even though she has perfect hearing. Her hearing father is the director of childcare and resides with his family in an apartment on the third floor of the building. Leah is surrounded by Deaf Culture and has a feeling, at a young age, she is “missing the boat”—a phrase translated into ASL as “Train go sorry.”

Through Cohen’s experience growing up hearing at a school for the deaf, we get a unique perspective of Deaf Culture. Issues handled are the isolation problems deaf students have with their hearing families and how Deaf Culture is transmitted not by the family but by institutes for the deaf.

I highly recommend Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World to any Deaf person, ASL student, or individual who has a deaf friend or family member. The book is an eye-opener.


Song for a Whale

By Lynne Kelly,

Book cover of Song for a Whale

Why this book?

Twelve-year-old Iris was born deaf to hearing parents. Her mom and brother sign, but her father can’t seem to grasp his daughter’s language. And, instead of enrolling Iris in a school for the deaf, they have her mainstreamed in the public schools with a hired ASL interpreter.

One day she learns about Blue-55, a hybrid blue/fin whale unable to communicate with other whales. Iris feels this whale’s pain. She also has a talent with electronics. Unfortunately, the kids in her middle school classroom think she’s stupid because of her deafness. Little do they know she’s a tech genius.

Moved by Blue-55’s story, Iris is determined to compose a song for the whale at his frequency. Thus begins Lynne Kelly’s novel, Song for a Whale. The book is a beautifully written tale about longing for a connection and finding it in a magical and unexpected place.


Signing Everyday Phrases: More Than 3,400 Signs

By Mickey Flodin,

Book cover of Signing Everyday Phrases: More Than 3,400 Signs

Why this book?

Whenever I need an ASL translation of an English word or phrase I check Signing Everyday Phrases. It provides the Manual Alphabet and breaks the book into chapters like “Home, Family, and Friends,” “Leisure and Sports,” “Time, Weather, and Holidays,” and a lot more. If you need the sign for a word, check the Index, and you’ll find it there. The book provides pictures of the sign and below that, a printed explanation. If you are learning ASL basics, this book will be a huge help. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in New York State, deaf culture, and people with disabilities?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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