If a Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard

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Overview

Jennifer Rosner’s revelatory memoir explores family, silence, and what it means to be heard. When her daughters are born deaf, Rosner is stunned. Then she discovers a hidden history of deafness in her family, going back generations to the Jewish enclaves of Eastern Europe. Traveling back in time, she imagines her silent relatives, who showed surprising creativity in dealing with a world that preferred to ignore them.

Rosner shares her journey into the modern world of deafness, ...

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If a Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard

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Overview

Jennifer Rosner’s revelatory memoir explores family, silence, and what it means to be heard. When her daughters are born deaf, Rosner is stunned. Then she discovers a hidden history of deafness in her family, going back generations to the Jewish enclaves of Eastern Europe. Traveling back in time, she imagines her silent relatives, who showed surprising creativity in dealing with a world that preferred to ignore them.

Rosner shares her journey into the modern world of deafness, and the controversial decisions she and her husband have made about hearing aids, cochlear implants and sign language. An imaginative odyssey, punctuated by memories of being unheard, Rosner’s story of her daughters’ deafness is at heart a story of whether she—a mother with perfect hearing—will hear her children.

Jennifer Rosner’s writings have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, The Faster Times, Wondertime Magazine, and the Hastings Center Report. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University and is the editor of The Messy Self. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rosner turns what could have been a depressing story into a gentle meditation on sound and silence, love and family. She writes with honesty and empathy about her daughter Sophia's diagnosis with deafness and the adjustments she and her husband had to make. She describes the birth of her second daughter, Juliet, a few years later (who received a similar diagnosis) and shares the programs and technology available to help the hearing impaired. "Bill and I were talkers. We were constantly debating, questioning, arguing, doubting, agreeing, wondering aloud. And we were hearers, in the hearing world. A soundless, wordless world was unimaginable to us." The author can't resist looking into the hows and whys of her situation and examines her family tree only to find relatives generations ago who had been deaf. She also works to reconcile her difficult relationship with her mother and asks frequent theoretical questions: "What are the elements essential for identity, for personhood, for perception and existence?" She fills the discussion with philosophy and grace.
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From the Publisher

“Deep and moving truths fall out of this enchanting memoir, as deafness becomes a means of exploring the grave obstacles we all face in knowing what it is like to be another."—Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction

"This beautiful book is about listening—really listening—to children, history, and one's own knowing heart. It's an exquisite memoir, crossed with poetry and the unmistakable shine of truth."—Catherine Newman, author of Waiting for Birdy

"With profound honesty and endearing humility, Rosner writes about the searing emotional challenges that parents can face, and about absorbing these lessons and moving into deeper wisdom. A beautiful, deeply felt exploration of love and hard choices."—Josh Swiller, author of The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa

“This wrenching journey into deafness from the standpoint of a mother, a wife, a daughter, a philosopher, and a Jew explores the meaning of sound in a soundless world. If a Tree Falls shows the extent to which what we hear comes not only from our contemporaries but from the people who came before us and those who will succeed us.”—Ilan Stavans, author of On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language

"Jennifer Rosner's If a Tree Falls is the kind of memoir that reminds the reader how we are all part of the same long line: complicated selves finding our way in a world that challenges us to discover our deeper resilience and untold strengths."—Vicki Forman, author of This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558616622
  • Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Series: Jewish Women Writers Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 601,372
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Jennifer Rosner's work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Wondertime Magazine, and the Hastings Center Report. She holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University and is the editor of The Messy Self. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2012

    To Goldenstripe

    A red she-cat with green eyes and white mitts pads in. Confident and beaming with excitement she sits a distance away from the other females, but near to Goldenstripe. "I am Foxwillow. And I am looking for a mate as well." She purrs as she sits and curls her tail around her. Her bright green eyes sparkling.

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  • Posted December 22, 2010

    It was a very hopeful and uplifting revelation for the reader. The world of sound and the world without sound could be a choice. The deaf are comfortable in whichever world they choose.

    This book is about a family that suffers the heartbreak of bearing a deaf child without realizing the genetic potential for it lying quietly in their genetic structure. Although Jennifer was raised by a hearing impaired mother, the fact that it was a genetic defect, occurring throughout her family tree, never occurred to her. When it was discovered that she and her husband both carried the recessive gene, it was proof positive that their newborn daughter, Sophia had a severe hearing loss.
    How they deal with the loss and decide which world their child should inhabit, the hearing world with the help of technology or the deaf world where she might fit in more happily, is explored, although not as fully as I would have hoped. I did not fully understand the trauma or the turmoil involved as Sophia grows up or the reasons it was considered such an enormous problem to choose one world over the other. Why couldn't the world that encompassed "Signing" be combined with the world of "Hearing", compatibly? Why was there so much controversy about choosing one or the other? These competitive attitudes were not presented well enough for me to truly empathize with the situation, although I could empathize with the plight of a parent in such a difficult situation.
    Even when a second child is born with an even more profound hearing loss, I am not completely engaged in the process by the author, although I am drawn into their lives, superficially, and understand the fear Jennifer has for her children. She felt isolated by her partially deaf mother who never quite felt comfortable in the world because of how she was treated as a child and never knew how to make Jennifer feel as though she was a good fit in the family. With her own children's hearing loss to deal with, Jennifer also learns more about the conflicts her mother dealt with and discovers that her mother probably never meant to isolate her but rather was trying to deal with her own disconnection, as well, and hoping to prevent her from ever feeling that way. Whatever flaw she discovered in her daughter was pointed out and rectified. Jennifer is very concerned that her children do not suffer in that same way and wants to make sure that they feel loved and wanted and engaged in the family life despite their deafness.
    I commend the parents for their almost constant positive approach to the problem of deafness, in a hearing world, overcoming their fear and frustrations in order to do the best possible thing for their daughters, even uprooting themselves and moving to a new community where facilities were better for them. Their sacrifices are not to be taken lightly. They chose to try and mainstream their children rather than isolate them in a world without sound and, luckily, they are so far successful.
    Woven into the true tale of Jennifer's trials is the moving tale she creates about her deaf ancestors, whom she has not been able to learn much about but whose story she embellishes to illuminate the ostracism that the deaf faced, in years past, as they were thought mentally deficient and were often shunned by the community. She tried to embrace the very thing she fears most so that she would be able to try and offer all of life's possible gifts to her own children. Her husband was her constant support and full participant. Together they thrill with delight as their children, using marvelous devices developed by science, hear and speak as if they were hearing children and n

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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