Mean Little Deaf Queer

( 2 )

Overview

In 1959, the year Terry Galloway turned nine, the voices of everyone she loved began to disappear. No one yet knew that an experimental antibiotic given to her mother had wreaked havoc on her fetal nervous system, eventually causing her to go deaf. As a self-proclaimed "child freak," she acted out her fury with her boxy hearing aids and Coke-bottle glasses by faking her own drowning at a camp for crippled children. Ever since that first real-life performance, Galloway has used theater, whether onstage or off, to ...
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Mean Little deaf Queer: A Memoir

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Overview

In 1959, the year Terry Galloway turned nine, the voices of everyone she loved began to disappear. No one yet knew that an experimental antibiotic given to her mother had wreaked havoc on her fetal nervous system, eventually causing her to go deaf. As a self-proclaimed "child freak," she acted out her fury with her boxy hearing aids and Coke-bottle glasses by faking her own drowning at a camp for crippled children. Ever since that first real-life performance, Galloway has used theater, whether onstage or off, to defy and transcend her reality. With disarming candor, she writes about her mental breakdowns, her queer identity, and living in a silent, quirky world populated by unforgettable characters. What could have been a bitter litany of complaint is instead an unexpectedly hilarious and affecting take on life.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This is a damn fine piece of work which is unbelievably powerful.—Dorothy Allison

"This is not your mother's triumph-of-the-human-spirit memoir. Yes, Terry Galloway is resilient. But she's also caustic, depraved, utterly disinhibited, and somehow sweetly bubbly, a beguiling raconteuse who periodically leaps onto the dinner table and stabs you with her fork. Her story will fascinate, it will hurt, and you will like it."—Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

"The most uncomfortable laughter of the season."—Out

"One of the finest, most nakedly honest and humorous autobiographies out there to be read. . . . Partly David Sedaris-esque in its slice-of-life essay moments, part slapstick farce, so very real, and always laugh out loud hilarious."—Rebecca Sarwate, Edge

"[A] humorous and harrowing new memoir."—The Advocate

"Told with understandable rage, quirky humor, and extraordinary humanity, this remarkable woman's engaging account deserves a large readership."—Booklist

"A frank, bitingly humorous memoir."—Kirkus Reviews

"[Galloway] is dexterous in her use of words and devastating with a sense of black humor that brings numerous laugh-out-loud delights."—John R. Killacky, The Gay and Lesbian Review

"Galloway was born a storyteller, and her narrative gifts are in full force throughout, spinning yarns about herself and her family that mesmerize."—Robert Faires, Austin Chronicle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807073315
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 335,492
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Galloway is the founder of the Actual Lives writing and performance programs; a founding member of Esther’s Follies, Austin, Texas’s legendary cabaret; and cofounder of the Mickee Faust Club in Tallahassee, Florida. She divides her time between Austin and Tallahassee.
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Read an Excerpt

The year I turned nine, months before anyone knew I
was going deaf, the voices of everyone I loved had all but disappeared.
Their chatter had been like the nattering of birds in the trees—a cheerful if sometimes annoying reminder of how alive the world was around me. As their voices lapsed away, I no longer felt sure how any but the most common words sounded, how they ought to be pronounced, and that made me uneasy about opening my mouth. My place in the family that year was to watch, which was how I was learning to listen. I’d sit at the kitchen table—where most stories of any importance were told—and read lips, piecing together the shapes they formed until they made a kind of sense. Lip reading—whether you know you’re doing it or not—is a hard, intimate business, and during my ninth year, when the way people sucked or licked their teeth as they were talking took sneaking precedence over the look in their eyes, all that rapt staring at mouths would wring me dry. After every couple of stories, I’d turn my gaze away, give myself a breather, and recharge. It took me so much concentrated effort to make sense, much less sentences,
out of the lips as they moved, that any and every utterance had to have a payoff. If people were making idle conversation or empty yak about, say, grocery shopping or getting their nails done, I’d heave the sigh of the doomed and lean my head against the table, pressing the bridge of my nose against the metal rim hard enough to dig a furrow.
I’d glance up every now and then to see if the topic had changed to something more interesting, like who had died and what had killed them. If talk was stalled at yellow versus white onions or the rising price of a pedicure,
I’d get to pitying myself, slaving like a dung beetle over a worthless bit of nothing, and give up—put my head back down on the table, close my eyes, and deliberately lose control. The rising, falling mumble of those incomprehensible voices would wash over me until sounds would inexplicably leap from the muttering to shake themselves clear in my mind as words. A name, the time of night, the make of a car, a part of town, a tired old cliché. I’d string them together as randomly as I caught them, but they still always seemed to be telling me a story. Ruby, two a.m., Ford, east
of Hutto, dying of hunger, and I’d see the black-eyed Great-
Aunt Ruby I’d never met gunning her Mustang down the one main street of a hick Texas town en route to love or a
Burger King. It soothed my hurt and anger to imagine all those arbitrary words telling me the illicit secrets behind everything I hadn’t heard.
 
Which may be why I now find myself enamored of the memoir. The good ones thrill me every bit as much as the great novels, but it’s the crappy ones I’ve lost my heart to.
They make me feel like a rescue dog, sniffing out the dim glimmerings of feelings sincere and raw within a tangled wreckage of inchoate ramblings and obvious lies. I’ve been reading a ton of bad ones lately, most of which I’ve gotten only halfway through. They are piled up by my bedside and not in the best of shape. I’m a passionate reader and the books have suffered for it, their covers wavy from having been dropped in the tub, spines busted from being tossed on the floor, pages folded, creased, coffee-stained, and marked with ink. Red. I feel intensely fond of the whole lot of lousy writing that has found its way to print because
I smell in those stinkers a fecund democracy. Every sort of half-coherent loser getting their say. Maybe even mean little deaf queers like me.
 
As a toddler I was an ardent chatterbox, with such an adult and rapid-fire vocabulary that one of our German neighbors in Stuttgart mistook me for a dwarf. By age seven
I was becoming what passes in our family of energetic talkers as taciturn, more like my father, who would sneak away from the kitchen table in the middle of a detailed piece of family gossip my mother and my sister, Trudy, were sharing and flee to the bathroom so he could read the Sunday paper in peace. I never left the table. I just stopped talking.
My mother and Trudy never worried about my growing silence—they’d taken it as appreciative. But then they didn’t know the reasons behind it. Sounds had started disappearing all around me. I didn’t know where to, and I
didn’t think to ask—not then and not the handful of years later when I started having my “visions.” Or so I liked to call them, although they never clued me in to anything useful or remotely prophetic.
 
Whatever they were, they were first visited upon me when I was nine and our family had resettled from Berlin,
Germany, to Fort Hood, Texas. One hot spring Texas night I was sprawled on the dry grass of our new front yard, gazing up at a spiral of stars, when I suddenly found myself six feet in the air, looking down at myself lying on the grass looking up at those stars. I was a little pissed off by how perfectly cheerful my body seemed without me.
 
These odd displacements weren’t exactly a daily occurrence,
but that year, they happened often enough to make themselves familiar. Once I went zooming to the ceiling of the school gym as if sucked up by a vacuum. I dangled there looking down on a scene that was small as a dollhouse, everything normal about it. My PE teacher blew herself red on her whistle while my six classmates and I, all of us looking a bit zaftig in our blue shorts and white snap blouses,
thundered across the polished wooden floor. No one else seemed aware that while my body was stampeding along with the rest of the herd, I wasn’t there at all. I’d become a much more delicate presence adrift in the rafters, smiling down on our sweaty race as if it were a mildly amusing bit of low comedy. Decades later in London, where
I’d gone to perform one of my one-woman shows, I saw something of the same kind of life in miniature in a pennymechanical shop. A carved wooden man, not much bigger than my own thumb, was sleeping on a perfectly detailed cloth and wooden bed inside his tiny bedroom. He slept there until I dropped in a coin that clicked the switch that set it all in motion. With a ticking noise, the window of his minuscule room flew open and a dream horse, its nostrils and eyes painted to look as wild and flaring as its mane,
poked its head through the gap. Up the little man sat, his closed doll eyes snapping wide with alarm as the horse reared and the wooden chair at the foot of the bed tilted and twirled. Watching that nightmare unfold in the little man’s shoebox of a room awakened in me the same queasy prickle of enchantment I’d felt as a kid, looking down on a play-pretend world.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: Nine ix

Part I Drowning

Them and Me 3

Visions 17

Presto Change-o 25

Meaner 35

The Performance of Drowning 43

Lost Boy 59

Part II Passing

Little-d Deaf 73

On Being Told No 83

Passing Strange 93

Drag Acts 105

Shhhhhh! 123

Jobs for the Deaf 143

The Shallow End 149

Part III Emerging

Scare 167

Who Died and What Killed Them 189

Why I Should Matter 201

Epilogue: A Happy Life ... 221

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    'deaf' being the operative word here...

    As more and more memoirs are published, it becomes harder to find a unique 'hook.' Terry Galloway is both deaf and a lesbian, so it was intriguing to pick up this memoir if just to find out how those two characteristics influenced her life. It seems that being deaf was the more salient point of the memoir and her queerness was more of a secondary tale, but that doesn't take away from the narrative at all.
    The book is <i>very</i> loosely chronological; in fact, most of the chapters are more like essays on a theme, skipping forward and back to tell a whole story. I enjoyed reading about Galloway's experiences in the theater and with other people who are disabled the most. An intriguing second project for Galloway might be to collect and publish the stories she alludes to in her final chapter about her Actual Lives cohorts, a performance group for those with disabilities.
    I find her family and friends almost unbelievably liberal and accepting, more okay with her sexual identity than with her disability, and this strikes me as odd, but sort of refreshing; especially considering she spent almost all her life in the Conservative American South. However, I get the feeling that there was more discrimination she had to deal with than she relates; almost all the derogatory comments in the book are made about her deafness.
    One thing I was disappointed by was that most of the cover blurbs and other advertising about this book portray it as 'hilarious.' I found very little of it funny and only laughed out loud once. It was still a great book, but I expected something slightly different from reading the promotional material. That is more a failing of the publisher than the author, of course, and others with a different sense of humor might actually find it funnier than I did.
    Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes memoirs, especially people who, like me, are becoming increasingly bored with the genre.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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