Hely Goswami:Deaf Again1401: MTWR1 PMProf. AdvaniAbstractDeaf Again, an autobiography of Mark Drolsbaugh, ventures through his journey as a deaf individual finding his Deaf identity within a hearing world. Though he was born with two deaf and signing parents, and went from hearing to deaf at a young age, he was raised without sign language, so as not to let it “restrict” his education, and it took a large toll on his life. For years, as Mark was losing his hearing, he struggled to pass as a hearing person so as not to disappoint his family or himself.
Deaf Again really details the struggles Drolsbaugh faced trying to find a place in the deaf community that had always been there for him. As he grew up and began to learn ASL and interact with deaf people, he began to truly understand the value of communication and relationships, and began to embrace his path to his emotional and spiritual development. Critique Throughout this book, Drolsbaugh is able to spark a very real discussion about the reality of the strength of Deaf Culture. Deaf Again offers a meaningful window into the current deaf community. By sharing his own life experiences, Mark offers comprehensive answers regarding why it’s not enough for deaf people to be schooled in the mainstream, and what is so important about communing with other deaf people.
Anyone associating with deaf people or curious about Deaf Culture would greatly benefit from the perspective of this book. However, while I enjoyed the book, and found it very informative where the Deaf community is concerned, the author seemed to jump around a lot, and repeat himself even more. While the story was interesting, the writing style leaves much to be desired. It was truly beautiful, raw, eye-opening, and inspiring.Deaf Again, an account of Mark Drolsbaugh’s life, was written to show the world a deaf perspective, how they live and struggle on a daily basis, and its readers are drawn into this world of a deaf individual and the hardships that followed him specifically in learning and growing in a world full of very different people. As a hearing person, this book proved to be very enlightening and I found myself drawn further into Mark’s story with every turn of the page. Right off the bat, I learned that just because someone has two deaf parents doesn’t mean their life will be easier as a deaf child. All families and children face problems, and as a parent, it is hard to know what the right thing is to do when it comes to your child’s health and future.
This dilemma and confusion was very clear throughout the beginning of the book. Deaf Again is about Drolsbaugh’s journey from being born hearing, to becoming hard of hearing during the first grade, growing into a deaf teenager, and soon a deaf adult, and the difficulties of being forced into the mainstream and not knowing the joys of the deaf community and Deaf culture until he’s in his twenties. It made me realize how important it is for deaf people to have a set language to communicate with each other. Drolsbaugh’s story helps us see the simple truth that “Human interaction is a blessing,” and should be available to every person, not something only certain groups can take for granted.
In Deaf Again, Drolsbaugh asks the reader to swim a mile in his scuba gear. “Imagine that you were born …
(in a ) glass bubble underwater. You could watch all the fish swim and play, but you weren’t really a participant in that life …
With the help of technology, though, you could put on scuba gear and swim with the fish. However, the gear was heavy and uncomfortable, and as much as it helped you interact with the fish, you never were able to swim like them. You were different, and you knew it.” Tempted to see what was up above, you were warned not to swim to the surface. After all, “Everyone knows it’s a liquid world …
Air is too thin, land is too hard. It’s a liquid world.”” Through this insight, we see Mark Drolsbaugh’s struggles to survive underwater, and we eventually emerge from the sea and breathe fresh air with him as he finds the wisdom, courage, and skills necessary to treasure both land and sea, the hearing world and the deaf. Mark begins sharing his memories by talking about his mother’s natural birth. He was born in Pennsylvania to his deaf parents Don and Sherry Drolsbaugh, and the book highlights his mother’s added difficulties when giving birth to him that emerged simply because of the communication gap between her and the doctors.
Mark was able to hear from birth and learned how to talk normally and also sign a little because of his parents. However, all this changed when he was in the first grade. He began to experience significant hearing loss. His grandparents were informed and Mark was taken to different doctors, audiologists, and speech pathologists to try and fix his deafness.
And since Mark was not completely deaf, his grandparents, who were hearing, held on tightly to what hearing and speech their grandson had left and to find ways to improve it. All the constant negativity Mark dealt with towards being deaf made him too feel extremely negative about his deafness. He had started to feel, from a young age, that deafness was this horrible thing and he should try to get rid of it at all costs, it was not welcome in his life. He was even denied the right to learn to sign in his home with his deaf parents in an attempt to retain his hearing skills and not become to dependent on ASL. His grandparents believed the way to improve Mark’s hearing was for him to keep attending school with children who could hear, because if he were to go to a school that would sign and help him accept his deafness it would “ruin” Mark’s chance at being able to be “fixed”.School was difficult for Mark from the start because his classrooms contained more than twenty students and the information he needed to learn would only go over his head.
Mark would wear hearing aids, and because of this he was also ridiculed and made fun, because he was different. Mark would get into fights and have report cards saying that his behavior could be improves. Mark’s grandparents made a smart move and had Mark transfer to Plymouth Meeting Friend’s School, PMFS. It was a small school with two teachers and eight kids to each classroom and teacher’s aides.
Drolsbaugh began the third grade at PMFS with welcoming children, making him feel immediately more comfortable. Mark would later not only have a challenge with deafness, but also religion. PMFS was a Quaker school, his whole family was Jewish, most people around him were Christian/Catholic, and this launched him into confusion at times since he did not understand why something like religion or race would play such a huge part in human relationships, when all he cared about was being able to communicate, especially around times of celebrations.To relieve stress from school and his family, Mark would play baseball with the children in his neighborhood.
He became close to his neighborhood partners, and he began to notice the little disapproving looks from his family or other people when he played with them. As he further saw, the problem was not his playing baseball, but his friend Sekou. Sekou was African American; during this era, there was extreme racial discrimination. But what really fascinated Mark was how proud Sekou’s family was of their culture, and even brought him into their world, letting him learn and appreciate a different life. This made Mark wish that he and his family would have had some pride in Mark or his parents being deaf.
When it came time for Mark to shift into high school, his grandfather had him attend Germantown Friends School, GFS. GFS was one of the best schools in Philadelphia, but problems arose as it was much larger than anywhere he had ever been, and the curriculum was known to be tough. Mark persevered and began attending the high school, even being the only deaf student there.
At first, the transition was very difficult because Mark couldn’t properly understand what was going on in the classroom, and for a long time, he was unable to catch up until he finally had an interpreter come to help him, which was a big help.Despite his difficulties connecting to other students, Mark made many friends from joining the baseball team at GFS, and even held a relationship with a girl for three years. Unfortunately, throughout his high school years, Mark still felt inferior in trying to fit into the hearing world. Mark understood he needed help and depended on his friends to explain what was going on and as more people joined the conversation it became clear to Mark that it was pointless to try to follow along or ask “what did they say” etc., there were just too many people to keep up with. He knew he didn’t belong and even though he tried, he knew people would always view him as different. Soon Mark graduated, the first person to do so from GFS, and he struggled to figure out what he was going to do in the next chapter of his life.
He took a job working at a supermarket and was satisfied with just that, albeit being a little too robotic, until a woman named Linda Baine showed up one day and offered him a position at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, PSD. Working at PSD, Mark began to learn about deaf culture and the deaf community and fell in love with it, truly beginning to develop himself for the first time as a deaf individual, a true youth of the Deaf President Now generation.When the dorms at PSD shut down due to a lack of residing students, Mark found himself out of a job. Linda encouraged him to attend Gallaudet University, a university for the deaf.
Soon Mark transferred from his partying life at Temple University to and moved to Washington D.C. to attend Gallaudet. Till now, Mark had never really had many friends who were deaf or even was part of deaf culture, but at Gallaudet, all that changed when he met fellow students who were just like him, and encouraged him to stay true to himself. He learned that he no longer had to try to fit in with the hearing world; he had finally found people who he could communicate fully with, from all different backgrounds, and have meaningful conversations with people who saw him as their equal.
At Gallaudet, Mark also learned to develop leadership skills and he learned to have the courage to speak up for himself, as opposed to when he was in hearing schools, where he was unable to provide any input or offer discussion when it came to group projects because of the language barrier.Now that all his peers knew sign language, he was able to express himself and his opinions and even lead when it came to schoolwork or playing baseball. It was at Gallaudet where Mark met his future wife, Melanie McPhee. Mark and Melanie later got married and graduated, and they were both successful at obtaining jobs within their community.
They were able to bring the importance of signing to his family, who finally began to get a grasp of deaf culture. Mark and Melanie had three kids together that are all hearing. Their children learned ASL as well as spoken language and are therefore bilingual. Mark had a main argument throughout Deaf Again that he brought up a lot; to teach deaf children ASL at a very early age. Instead of trying to force deaf children to speak spoken language, to teach them ASL because it’s at these early years in a child’s life that language development should be implemented in order for the child to later not fall as behind in school.
The problem is that most parents aren’t teaching their child any type of language successfully, so when they enter school, they are far behind.Parents who do this are actually causing harm to the children, because like Mark felt, they are now believing that they are not good enough, and will live their life thinking they are less than what they are. I agree with Mark since language is so very important, communication is constantly prevalent in our society, and if a child is not able to communicate successfully in any way, they suffer greatly both mentally and emotionally. Most professionals (and hearing parents of deaf children) see deafness as a disability, something that needs to be cured or fixed.
When children see this attitude that their parents are against signing, the child picks it up and feels the same way, that it is wrong to be deaf, and that it’s wrong to sign, and their self esteem suffers. Also, a lot of the time, deaf children born into hearing families don’t become a part of deaf culture and the deaf community since they are never exposed to the society.Just as Mark never felt like he belonged in the hearing world, and then discovered the deaf community and Deaf Culture and found the place he belonged with people who understood him, it’s important for children and adolescents to have a sense of belonging, and that can only be found in the deaf community.
Drolsbaugh is a prime example of how the deaf community can help a deaf person find this belonging we all deserve, and this book is the evidence to that. As Mark Drolsbaugh puts it, the number one challenge faced was I-S-O-L-A-T-I-O-N. So as Mark put it best, “Let us enjoy what we can, and don’t worry about what we can’t. I feel that we’re better off celebrating our differences instead of imposing our values onto each other.” Reference: