Song Without Words: Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life [NOOK Book]

Overview


Much has been written about the profoundly deaf, but the lives of the nearly 30 million partially deaf people in the United States today remain hidden. Song without Words tells the astonishing story of a man who, at the age of thirty-four, discovered that he had been deaf since childhood, yet somehow managed to navigate his way through Andover, Yale, and Columbia Law School, and to establish a prestigious international legal career.

Gerald ...
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Song Without Words: Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life

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Overview


Much has been written about the profoundly deaf, but the lives of the nearly 30 million partially deaf people in the United States today remain hidden. Song without Words tells the astonishing story of a man who, at the age of thirty-four, discovered that he had been deaf since childhood, yet somehow managed to navigate his way through Andover, Yale, and Columbia Law School, and to establish a prestigious international legal career.

Gerald Shea’s witty and candid memoir of how he compensated for his deafness--through sheer determination and an amazing ability to translate the melody of vowels. His experience gives fascinating new insight into the nature and significance of language, the meaning of deafness, the fierce controversy between advocates of signing and of oral education, and the longing for full communication that unites us all.
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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

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.” 

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: 9780306821943
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/26/2013
  • Series: A Merloyd Lawrence Book
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,262,441
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author


Gerald Shea was born in New York City and has lived most of his life in New York and in Paris. He practiced law in both cities for many years with Debevoise & Plimpton as a member of the New York and Paris bars. He is a graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Yale University and Columbia Law School.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Gerald Shea's 1913 SONG WITHOUT WORDS: DISCOVERING MY DEAFNESS H

    Gerald Shea's 1913 SONG WITHOUT WORDS: DISCOVERING MY DEAFNESS HALFWAY THROUGH LIFE makes for pleasant, informative reading. I think of it as a "didactic memoir."  The author uses his own six plus decades of living in the USA, Saudi Arabia, France and elsewhere  to probe varieties and degrees of deafness.  ***  
    Born hearing, young Shea, without himself or anyone else noticing, at age six lost most of his middle and upper tonal hearing rage. The causes were, apparently, simultaneous attacks of chicken pox and scarlet fever. That his hearing was severely impaired was first noticed and proven during a medical examination a quarter century later!  ***  
    Astonishingly to more reader and reviewer than one, Gerald Shea, despite his severe and undiagnosed handicap, had navigated his way successfully through primary school, prep school, Yale University and Columbia Law School. The only two people even to come close to helping him discover his deafness had been two young women: girl friends in high school and in college. ***  
    Shea was in his 30s when he discovered that he was very, very deaf. He has spent the rest of his life coming to terms with that, eventually leaving his lucrative law practice for a less hectic, demanding life style.  ***  
    As he moves chronologically through his hearing-impaired decades, Gerald Shea lays out for us his self-created methods for coping with hearing sounds but not words coming at him from all directions. His hundreds of examples of "decoding" speech are perhaps the most compelling parts of his narrative.  ***  
    In addition, however, we learn much of the anatomy of the human ear, its connection to the brain, the history of deafness, the science and the education associated with deafness, hearing aids, cochlear implants, signing languages, the life of Helen Keller and much, much more.  ***  
    SONG WITHOUT WORDS is a good, instructive read. That a severely impaired but unusually intelligent and articulate person could go many years without becoming aware of his deafness is hard to believe. But there it is.  -OOO-

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