Oliver Sacks

Seeing Voices

Having read other books by Sacks, I found this something of a disappointment. He seems to jump too rapidly between different areas - a bit of history, a bit of applied linguistics, a bit of politics. Coupled with the fact that many of the pages are dominated by footnotes, this results a book which is difficult to read. Sacks became aware of the poor deal the deaf have been getting in our society - essentially being denied the use of their own language - and wanted to get this message out to a wider audience. However, in his enthusiasm for the cause, I feel Sacks has not given sufficient consideration to the readability of the book. That said, if you are not put off by the way it is laid out, then you will find much of interest in the book, for example the account of the students' strike at Gallaudet University (where Sacks does stay on one topic for a decent length of time).

In principle the argument is straightforward. Children need to learn a language at the earliest possible age and in the case of deaf children this means a true sign language, rather than spending years learning to deal with spoken language or a signed version of it. However in practice the parent of a deaf child will have some difficult decisions to make. I felt that Sacks didn't give sufficient attention to this, and in particular didn't distinguish this question sufficiently from the problems of young deaf adults in our society.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 189 pages  
ISBN: 0330320904
Salesrank: 11152996
Published: 1991 Picador, published by Pan Books
Marketplace:New from $57.15:Used from $1.80
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 208 pages  
ISBN: 0330320904
Salesrank: 752804
Weight:0.22 lbs
Published: 1991 Picador
Marketplace:New from £4.95:Used from £0.01
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ISBN: 0330320904
Weight:0.22 lbs
Published: Picador
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 74.82:Used from CDN$ 2.65
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Product Description
Written by the author of "The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat", this book begins with the history of deaf people in the 18th century, the often outrageous ways in which they have been treated in the past, and their continuing struggle for acceptance in a hearing world. And it examines the visual language of the deaf - Sign - which has only in the past decade been recognized fully as a language linguistically complete, rich, and as expressive as any spoken language. Oliver Sacks has also written "Migraine", "Awakenings" and "A Leg to Stand on".