The most recommended deaf culture books

Who picked these books? Meet our 4 experts.

4 authors created a book list connected to deaf culture, and here are their favorite deaf culture books.
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Book cover of Deaf Culture, Our Way: Anecdotes from the Deaf Community

Michael Thal Author Of The Lip Reader

From my list on effect of deafness and understanding deaf people.

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.

Michael's book list on effect of deafness and understanding deaf people

Michael Thal Why did Michael love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Using humorous stories with illustrations, this classic collection brings deaf culture to life through personal experiences and practical day-to-day information. Various aspects of the deaf world are illuminated through anecdotes, updated in this edition to include new stories about the foibles of the latest communication technologies, including VRS, videophones, email, and instant messaging. Also provided is classroom material for teachers that can be used as excellent supplemental reading for deaf studies, ASL, or interpreting classes, as well as a springboard for discussions about deaf culture.


Book cover of Inside Deaf Culture

Donna Jo Napoli Author Of In a Flash

From my list on deaf culture.

Who am I?

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.

Donna's book list on deaf culture

Donna Jo Napoli Why did Donna 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 Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World

Michael Thal Author Of The Lip Reader

From my list on effect of deafness and understanding deaf people.

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.

Michael's book list on effect of deafness and understanding deaf people

Michael Thal Why did Michael love 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…

By Leah Hager Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Train Go Sorry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A “remarkable and insightful” look inside a New York City school for the deaf, blending memoir and history (The New York Times Book Review).
 
Leah Hager Cohen is part of the hearing world, but grew up among the deaf community. Her Russian-born grandfather had been deaf—a fact hidden by his parents as they took him through Ellis Island—and her father served as superintendent at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Queens. Young Leah was in the minority, surrounded by deaf culture, and sometimes felt like she was missing the boat—or in the American Sign Language term, “train go sorry.”…


Book cover of Silent Fear

John Morris Author Of The Gatekeeper and the Guardian

From my list on fiction for curious minds.

Who am I?

I love to read a good story, but I also get the greatest satisfaction from writing one, or several. I believe good fiction can say what factual books cannot, and done right, they can offer differing perspectives to any accepted norm. The trick is to let the characters speak, regardless of whether I agree with what they say, or not. The secret to good presentation is to offer the reader the choice to think about what has been said, consider and delve deeper, or not and pass by.

John's book list on fiction for curious minds

John Morris Why did John love this book?

Silent Fear is a stunning mystery novel, scary because it is set in an institute for the blind during a lockdown. There is a serial killer on the loose and no inmates have the ability to see their persecutor. Yes, this one gets right inside your mind and I felt privileged to read it.

By Lance Morcan, James Morcan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When you can't hear...death comes silently.

Scotland Yard detective Valerie Crowther is assigned to investigate the murder of a student at a university for the Deaf in London, England. The murder investigation coincides with a deadly flu virus outbreak, resulting in the university being quarantined from the outside world.

When more Deaf students are murdered, it becomes clear there is a serial killer operating within the sealed-off university. A chilling cat-and-mouse game evolves as the unknown killer targets Valerie and the virus claims more lives.

A stunning, claustrophobic, "whodunit" murder mystery, Silent Fear (A novel inspired by true crimes) is…


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

Donna Jo Napoli Author Of In a Flash

From my list on deaf culture.

Who am I?

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.

Donna's book list on deaf culture

Donna Jo Napoli Why did Donna 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…


Book cover of You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!

Rebecca Petruck Author Of Boy Bites Bug

From my list on good allyship.

Who am I?

I think most white kids would say—and genuinely believe—they’re not racist. Yet it's impossible in our society not to have absorbed racist and biased thinking. Admitting this is uncomfortable, and knowing what to do to become a better ally can be confusing. By addressing this systemic issue early in a person’s life, we set them up to be empathetic, good listeners who will speak up. A good place to start is to read Stamped (for Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi, & Sonja Cherry-Paul as well as recent novels by people from marginalized communities. There’s adventure, romance, mystery, humor, fantasy, sci-fi—something for everyone! I’ve also highlighted books that demonstrate good allyship.

Rebecca's book list on good allyship

Rebecca Petruck Why did Rebecca love this book?

When Jilly’s sister Emma is born deaf, she realizes the world is going to treat Jilly, who is white and hearing, differently from Emma, and Jilly’s new friend Derek, who is a Deaf, Black ASL user. Within a world where kids like Derek and Emma aren't assured the same freedom or safety as kids like Jilly, Jilly starts to learn all the things she doesn't know–and works to discover how to support her family and friends. Gino uses their trademark humor, heart, and humanity to show readers how being open to difference can make you a better person, and how being open to change can make you change in the best possible ways.

By Alex Gino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A new novel from Alex Gino, the award-winning author of George!

Jilly thinks she's figured out how life works. But when her sister
Emma is born Deaf, she realizes how much she still has to learn.

A big fantasy reader, Jilly connects with another fan, Derek, who
is a Deaf Black ASL user. She goes to Derek for advice but doesn't
always know the best way to ask for it and makes some mistakes
along the way. Jilly has to step back to learn to be an ally, a
sister, and a friend, understanding that life works in different
ways…


Book cover of Give Me a Sign

Kathy MacMillan Author Of Sword and Verse

From Kathy's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author American Sign Language interpreter Storyteller Reader Educator Language geek

Kathy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Kathy MacMillan Why did Kathy love this book?

I have been a counselor and director at a Deaf Camp for over 20 years. Having seen how many of our campers have discovered and embraced their Deaf identities at camp, I couldn’t wait to see how Deaf author Anna Sortino tackled this story.

Lilah’s story is both effective and affecting, touching on many hot topics in the Deaf community: cochlear implants, hearing social media influencers, interactions with law enforcement, feeling “not Deaf enough”. But the story is firmly grounded in Lilah’s singular experience.

Through Lilah’s interactions with campers and counselors, Sortino highlights the diversity of the Deaf community and the disabled community, with many different language preferences, communication styles, abilities, educational backgrounds, and perspectives coming together. And it’s got a sweet summer romance to boot!

By Anna Sortino,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Give Me a Sign as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Jenny Han meets CODA in this big-hearted YA debut about first love and Deaf pride at a summer camp.

Lilah is stuck in the middle. At least, that’s what having a hearing loss seems like sometimes—when you don’t feel “deaf enough” to identify as Deaf or hearing enough to meet the world’s expectations. But this summer, Lilah is ready for a change.

When Lilah becomes a counselor at a summer camp for the deaf and blind, her plan is to brush up on her ASL. Once there, she also finds a community. There are cute British lifeguards who break hearts…


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

Donna Jo Napoli Author Of In a Flash

From my list on deaf culture.

Who am I?

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.

Donna's book list on deaf culture

Donna Jo Napoli Why did Donna 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 Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood

Donna Jo Napoli Author Of In a Flash

From my list on deaf culture.

Who am I?

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.

Donna's book list on deaf culture

Donna Jo Napoli Why did Donna 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 Author Of In a Flash

From my list on deaf culture.

Who am I?

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.

Donna's book list on deaf culture

Donna Jo Napoli Why did Donna 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.…