Song Without Words: Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life

Song Without Words: Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life

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by Gerald Shea
     
 

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At age 34, Gerald Shea discovered that he had been deaf since childhood despite somehow maintaining a prestigious legal career
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Overview


At age 34, Gerald Shea discovered that he had been deaf since childhood despite somehow maintaining a prestigious legal career

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Reeve Lindbergh
Song Without Words is Gerald Shea's brilliant and thoroughly engaging, if often painful, account of his passage through childhood and youth. This journey seems an almost impossible achievement, a heroic triumph of determination over adversity…One of the most appealing things about this book is Shea's amiable, matter-of-fact tone, his lack of self-pity. Another is his lifelong love of language and communication of all kinds…To read Song Without Words is to appreciate the poetry and clarity of Shea's language, resonant with hard-won experience, wisdom and stunning courage.
From the Publisher

Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Award for Best First Book

Finalist, Nonfiction (All Authors), New England Book Festival

Antonia Fraser, author of My Life with Harold Pinter

"A brilliant window into the largely unknown world of the partially deaf: riveting to read, and illuminating at every level.”

Louis Begley, author of About Schmidt

“Fascinating, heartbreaking, heroic, and relentlessly riveting.”

Kirkus Reviews, 1/15/13
“The moving, poignant account of how a brilliant lawyer came to terms with the midlife discovery of his own partial deafness…The book is a powerful expression of loss, acceptance and the very human need to communicate. Shea's narrative derives its true power from the eloquence and intelligence with which he illuminates a world that may be unfamiliar to many readers.”

David Lodge, author of Deaf Sentence: A Novel

"Song Without Words is [an] incredible story . . . .  Gerald Shea . . . tells it with eloquence, wit, and the narrative drive of a good novel. It is a unique contribution to the growing literature about deafness, one which will illuminate the experience of fellow-sufferers, and deepen understanding in society at large.”

Boston Globe, 2/22/13

“Both a work of literary art and a manual for understanding the difficult world Shea inhabits…Readers are lucky that Shea took the time to write this masterful memoir, which brings us into a hidden world so few have ever visited. Song without Words proves that memoir, at its lyrical best, can be a truly wonderful and inspirational literary genre.”

Charleston Post and Courier, 2/10/13
“Shea’s determination allows him to manage his impairment with remarkable success, and readers will be surprised at how it escaped the attention of his parents, brothers, friends, and teachers.”

Washington Post, 3/3

“[A] brilliant and thoroughly engaging, if often painful, account…Throughout Song Without Words, the author candidly describes his dark, even catastrophic moments of perceived failure—failure to hear, failure to understand and interpret correctly, failure to connect, failure to keep up—but despite all this, the book sings a long, clear note of success. It is not a complaint but an exploration, not only of one man’s unique path to self-knowledge but also of the nature of communication itself….To read Song without Words is to appreciate the poetry and clarity of Shea’s language, resonant with hard-won experience, wisdom and stunning courage.” 

The New Statesman

“Humans communicate. It's not second nature, it's nature. Without that, what is it like to be human? Shea's Song Without Words is as eloquent an answer as we are likely to get.”

Library Journal, 3/15/13

“An inspiring and thought-provoking read.”

Booklist, 2/27/13

“Fascinating…[Shea’s] story gives one a renewed appreciation for both the ear and the human spirit.”

Philadelphia Tribune, 3/1/13

“Witty and candid…Brings fascinating new insight into the nature and significance of language, the meaning of deafness—and the fierce controversy between advocates of signing versus those who favor oral education.”

Hudson Valley News, 2/27/13

“Well told…Shea [comes] to terms with his mid-life discovery with wisdom, wit, and the uncanny ability to make his story fascinating to all of us.”

InfoDad.com, 3/7/13
“Fascinating reading.”

Grand Piano Passion, 4/16/13

“Gives a poetic window into the everyday struggles of a person with a significant hearing loss, yet also shows the way for living with a loss with acceptance, creativity, and even joy.”

American Lawyer (website), 4/19/13

“Elegantly written.”

Millbrook Independent, 5/28/14

“Shea…writes with elegance, finesse, and humor.”

Action on Hearing Loss (UK), Summer 2014

“Shea has presented us with a cogent, beautifully literate and breakthrough book of the philosophy of being a partially deaf person.”

Sante Fe New Mexican, 5/10/13
“The struggle alone would make good reading, but it’s Shea’s infusion of his experience with music and his explorations of the very nature of language that make this book cross into fascinating. And since 30 million Americans have some hearing loss, the story is probably closer to home than you realize.”

Psychology Today blog, 5/2813
“[Shea] writes beautifully, and his reflections on partial hearing loss are insightful and often very moving…Song Without Words is compelling reading.”

The Spectator (UK), 6/22/13
“Shea’s story, fascinating and unusual in some of its details, gives a valuable insight into the experience of many.”

New York Journal of Books, 6/24/13
“What makes [Song without Words] shine is the sparkling of humor throughout, the addition of glimpses into his personal life, and the easing of what might be considered arrogance by tastefully illustrating his kindness and humility. You just can’t help but like this man.”

Radio Open Source, 7/16/13
“Exquisite and affecting…Shea is a word-master in his own right.”

San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review, 7/10/13
“In an extraordinary mesh of science and personal reflection, Shea weaves [his] narrative with self-critical humor mixed with gripping sorrow.”

Hearing Health, Fall 2013
“Astonishing.”

Charleston Gazette, 11/2/13
“Moving…There were times when as I perused his words and understanding that I came close to weeping.”

Library Journal
At age 34, after graduating from Andover Academy, Yale, and Columbia Law School, and managing a successful career in international law, Shea discovered that he is one of the 30 million people in the United States who are partially deaf and has been since childhood. A bout of scarlet fever and chicken pox when he was seven left him hearing only what he calls "lyricals." He uses the term to describe the rhythm, inflection, and shape of spoken sounds (the vowels): his tools to decode what is being said to him. This detailed memoir of his lifelong struggle features his research into the causes of his deafness, the physics of sound, and explorations of new technology to aid those who are partially deaf. VERDICT An inspiring and thought-provoking read. Will appeal to readers interested in deaf studies, international law, and memoirs.—Virginia Johnson, Weymouth P.L., MA
Kirkus Reviews
The moving, poignant account of how a brilliant lawyer came to terms with the midlife discovery of his own partial deafness. Attorney Shea heard sounds through an "invisible curtain" that gradually descended upon him after a boyhood bout with scarlet fever. Because he was so young when he began to lose his hearing, the author grew up believing that the world was not only quieter than it was, but that "spoken words were a riddle...everyone had to figure out." People communicated through a colorful, strangely beautiful "language of lyricals," which Shea uses throughout the text, to which he had to give meaning. Over time, he found that he could understand what others said to him by reading both lips and contexts. Shea excelled in school and attended Yale and then Columbia Law School. But academic success came only by dint of great effort and caused the breakup of a relationship that would haunt him into middle age. It wasn't until Shea was 34 and moving into a new job that he was finally diagnosed as profoundly deaf. Despite hearing aids and other sound-amplifying devices, however, Shea continued to struggle in his professional life. A meeting with a hearing-impaired former brain surgeon, who advised him to have the courage to "break [his] own heart," finally convinced Shea that, for the good of himself and his family, he needed to put aside his profession and learn to embrace the partial soundlessness that defined his reality. The book is a powerful expression of loss, acceptance and the very human need to communicate. Shea's narrative derives its true power from the eloquence and intelligence with which he illuminates a world that may be unfamiliar to many readers.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306821936
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
02/26/2013
Series:
A Merloyd Lawrence Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,476,968
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Antonia Fraser, author of My Life with Harold Pinter
"A brilliant window into the largely unknown world of the partially deaf: riveting to read, and illuminating at every level.”

Louis Begley, author of About Schmidt
“Fascinating, heartbreaking, heroic, and relentlessly riveting.”
Kirkus Reviews,
1/15/13
“The moving, poignant account of how a brilliant lawyer came to terms with the midlife discovery of his own partial deafness…The book is a powerful expression of loss, acceptance and the very human need to communicate. Shea's narrative derives its true power from the eloquence and intelligence with which he illuminates a world that may be unfamiliar to many readers.”

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