The Story of My Life: The Restored Classic

( 222 )

Overview

Everyone, young and old, should know about this compellingly human, deeply spiritual, and courageous woman. The best approach is to read her own words and those of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, in the new, restored edition of The Story of My Life. This "restored" edition has been reedited by Roger Shattuck to reflect more accurately its original composition, presenting Helen Keller's story in three successive accounts: Helen's own version; the letters of "teacher" Anne Sullivan, submerged in the original; and the ...
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The Story of My Life

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Overview

Everyone, young and old, should know about this compellingly human, deeply spiritual, and courageous woman. The best approach is to read her own words and those of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, in the new, restored edition of The Story of My Life. This "restored" edition has been reedited by Roger Shattuck to reflect more accurately its original composition, presenting Helen Keller's story in three successive accounts: Helen's own version; the letters of "teacher" Anne Sullivan, submerged in the original; and the valuable documentation furnished by their young assistant, John Macy.

The publication of The Story of My Life in 1903 revealed Helen Keller's astonishing life to the age of twenty-two. The book's honest and absorbing narrative dispelled the notoriety and scandal that had accompanied her treatment in the press. Many people simply could not believe that Anne Sullivan, an unknown young woman from Boston, had fought her way through seven-year-old Helen's deafness and blindness and had taught her to talk and to hear with her fingers. Skeptics, doubting that Helen could read and write better than most children her age, thought that she and Anne Sullivan must be charlatans and publicity seekers. With evident candor, The Story of My Life explained the "miracle" of Helen's education and the degree to which she had become a full human being, sharing and enjoying the visible and audible world. The book presented three interlocking versions of the story: Helen's own; Anne Sullivan's; and their assistant, John Macy's. For over sixty years, following the book's publication, Helen's writings and her inspiring public appearances served the causes of the deaf and the blind, the poor and the mistreated, the wounded in two wars, and the handicapped everywhere. When she died in 1968, Helen was widely compared to a saint. The New York Times referred to her as "a symbol of the indomitable human spirit."

This present edition of The Story of My Life, appearing one hundred years after its first publication, will help prevent a great loss -- the loss of one of our most admirable and appealing heroes, who has begun to recede from American consciousness in recent years. The immense obstacles that Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan overcame working alone in Alabama, all compellingly conveyed in this classic work, surpass Helen's accomplishments as an adult. Between the ages of seven and twenty, Helen enlarged the meaning of the word "heroism." The evidence is all here, in The Story of My Life, of a genuinely beautiful mind. Handicaps and celebrity never warped it. Mark Twain called Helen the most extraordinary woman since Joan of Arc. Everyone, young and old, should know about this compellingly human, deeply spiritual, and unfailingly courageous young woman. The best approach is to read her own words and those of her teacher in The Story of My Life. This new edition is called "the restored classic" for several reasons. All recent editions have been abridged. In this edition a few changes in order and layout clarify the narrative. With a Foreword and Afterword by Roger Shattuck, and with illuminating notes by Dorothy Herrmann, Helen Keller's highly praised biographer, this volume will remain the definitive edition of this classic work for years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times Book Review
This new edition helps us to consider and reconsider the phenomenal story from all its perspectives.— Merle Rubin
Merle Rubin - Los Angeles Times Book Review
“This new edition helps us to consider and reconsider the phenomenal story from all its perspectives.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review - Merle Rubin
“This new edition helps us to consider and reconsider the phenomenal story from all its perspectives.”
Children's Literature - Deborah Zink Roffino
There are several excellent books on this level about Helen Keller: Helen Keller, Nigel Hunter, Bookwright, 1986; Helen Keller A Light for the Blind, Kathleen V. Kudlinski, Viking, 1989; Helen Keller, Richard Tames, Franklin Watts, 1989). This is a classic; special because it is an autobiographical account of a young woman who overcame being deaf and blind. All the fears, trials and emotions of her struggles from childhood come through in exquisite language. 1993 (orig.
Library Journal
Keller's story has been inspiring readers for generations and was named one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century by the New York Public Library. This edition, however, has been restored with material not found in previous editions, including accounts by teacher Anne Sullivan and assistant John Macy as well as a new foreword and afterword by editor and scholar Shattuck. The text is buttressed with ten illustrations, and the volume has an index and a suggested reading list. A gem. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Helen Keller was 19 months old when disease left her deaf and blind. That she could relearn to communicate and later write a vividly visual account of her education was the ultimate overcoming-adversity story, featuring many great people of her age, e.g., Alexander Graham Bell and Mark Twain. This inspiring book has never been out of print. (LJ 3/1/03)

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393325683
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/19/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 492
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Shattuck, author of Forbidden Knowledge and Proust's Way, has won the National Book Award. He lives in Vermont.

Dorothy Hermann is the author of Helen Keller: A Life. She lives in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter I
It is with a kind of fear that I begin to write the history of my life. I have, as it were, a superstitious hesitation in lifting the veil that clings about my childhood like a golden mist. The task of writing an autobiography is a difficult one. When I try to classify my earliest impressions, I find that fact and fancy look alike across the years that link the past with the present. The woman paints the child's experiences in her own fantasy. A few impressions stand out vividly from the first years of my life; but "the shadows of the prison-house are on the rest." Besides, many of the joys and sorrows of childhood have lost their poignancy; and many incidents of vital importance in my early education have been forgotten in the excitement of great discoveries. In order, therefore, not to be tedious I shall try to present in a series of sketches only the episodes that seem to me to be the most interesting and important.
I was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, a little town of northern Alabama.
The family on my father's side is descended from Caspar Keller, a native of Switzerland, who settled in Maryland. One of my Swiss ancestors was the first teacher of the deaf in Zurich and wrote a book on the subject of their education-rather a singular coincidence; though it is true that there is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king among his.
My grandfather, Caspar Keller's son, "entered" large tracts of land in Alabama and finally settled there. I have been told that once a year he went from Tuscumbia to Philadelphia on horseback to purchase supplies for the plantation, and my aunt has in herpossession many of the letters to his family, which give charming and vivid accounts of these trips.
My Grandmother Keller was a daughter of one of Lafayette's aides, Alexander Moore, and granddaughter of Alexander Spotswood, an early Colonial Governor of Virginia. She was also second cousin to Robert E. Lee.
My father, Arthur H. Keller, was a captain in the Confederate Army, and my mother, Kate Adams, was his second wife and many years younger. Her grandfather, Benjamin Adams, married Susanna E. Goodhue, and lived in Newbury, Massachusetts, for many years. Their son, Charles Adams, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and moved to Helena, Arkansas. When the Civil War broke out, he fought on the side of the South and became a brigadier-general. He married Lucy Helen Everett, who belonged to the same family of Everetts as Edward Everett and Dr. Edward Everett Hale. After the war was over the family moved to Memphis, Tennessee.
I lived, up to the time of the illness that deprived me of my sight and hearing, in a tiny house consisting of a large square room and a small one, in which the servant slept. It is a custom in the South to build a small house near the homestead as an annex to be used on occasion. Such a house my father built after the Civil War, and when he married my mother they went to live in it. It was completely covered with vines, climbing roses and honeysuckles. From the garden it looked like an arbour. The little porch was hidden from view by a screen of yellow roses and Southern smilax. It was the favourite haunt of humming-birds and bees.
The Keller homestead, where the family lived, was a few steps from our little rose-bower. It was called "Ivy Green" because the house and the surrounding trees and fences were covered with beautiful English ivy. Its old-fashioned garden was the paradise of my childhood.
Even in the days before my teacher came, I used to feel along the square stiff boxwood hedges, and, guided by the sense of smell, would find the first violets and lilies. There, too, after a fit of temper, I went to find comfort and to hide my hot face in the cool leaves and grass. What joy it was to lose myself in that garden of flowers, to wander happily from spot to spot, until, coming suddenly upon a beautiful vine, I recognized it by its leaves and blossoms, and knew it was the vine which covered the tumble-down summer-house at the farther end of the garden! Here, also, were trailing clematis, drooping jessamine, and some rare sweet flowers called butterfly lilies, because their fragile petals resemble butterflies' wings. But the roses-they were loveliest of all. Never have I found in the greenhouses of the North such heart-satisfying roses as the climbing roses of my southern home. They used to hang in long festoons from our porch, filling the whole air with their fragrance, untainted by any earthy smell; and in the early morning, washed in the dew, they felt so soft, so pure, I could not help wondering if they did not resemble the asphodels of God's garden.
The beginning of my life was simple and much like every other little life. I came, I saw, I conquered, as the first baby in the family always does. There was the usual amount of discussion as to a name for me. The first baby in the family was not to be lightly named, every one was emphatic about that. My father suggested the name of Mildred Campbell, an ancestor whom he highly esteemed, and he declined to take any further part in the discussion. My mother solved the problem by giving it as her wish that I should be called after her mother, whose maiden name was Helen Everett. But in the excitement of carrying me to church my father lost the name on the way, very naturally, since it was one in which he had declined to have a part. When the minister asked him for it, he just remembered that it had been decided to call me after my grandmother, and he gave her name as Helen Adams.
I am told that while I was still in long dresses I showed many signs of an eager, self-asserting disposition. Everything that I saw other people do I insisted upon imitating. At six months I could pipe out "How d'ye," and one day I attracted every one's attention by saying "Tea, tea, tea" quite plainly. Even after my illness I remembered one of the words I had learned in these early months. It was the word "water," and I continued to make some sound for that word after all other speech was lost. I ceased making the sound "wah-wah" only when I learned to spell the word.
They tell me I walked the day I was a year old. My mother had just taken me out of the bath-tub and was holding me in her lap, when I was suddenly attracted by the flickering shadows of leaves that danced in the sunlight on the smooth floor. I slipped from my mother's lap and almost ran toward them. The impulse gone, I fell down and cried for her to take me up in her arms.
These happy days did not last long. One brief spring, musical with the song of robin and mockingbird, one summer rich in fruit and roses, one autumn of gold and crimson sped by and left their gifts at the feet of an eager, delighted child. Then, in the dreary month of February, came the illness which closed my eyes and ears and plunged me into the unconsciousness of a new-born baby. They called it acute congestion of the stomach and brain.1 The doctor thought I could not live. Early one morning, however, the fever left me as suddenly and mysteriously as it had come. There was great rejoicing in the family that morning, but no one, not even the doctor, knew that I should never see or hear again.
I fancy I still have confused recollections of that illness. I especially remember the tenderness with which my mother tried to soothe me in my waking hours of fret and pain, and the agony and bewilderment with which I awoke after a tossing half sleep, and turned my eyes, so dry and hot, to the wall, away from the once-loved light, which came to me dim and yet more dim each day. But, except for these fleeting memories, if, indeed, they be memories, it all seems very unreal, like a nightmare. Gradually I got used to the silence and darkness that surrounded me and forgot that it had ever been different, until she came-my teacher-who was to set my spirit free. But during the first nineteen months of my life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not wholly blot out. If we have once seen, "the day is ours, and what the day has shown."
From the Hardcover edition.

Copyright© 2003 by Helen Keller
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii
Foreword: One Book, Three Authors ix
Part 1 Helen Keller's Account
The Writing of the Book 9
The Story of My Life 12
Helen Keller's Notebooks 118
Part 2 Anne Sullivan's Account
Introduction 129
Anne Sullivan's Letters and Reports (1887-94) 137
Part 3 John Macy's Account
Helen's Personality 217
Miss Sullivan's Educational Methods 231
Helen's Speech 238
Helen's Literary Style and the "Frost King" Episode 248
Part 4 Helen Keller's Letters (1887-1901)
Introduction 283
Letters (1887-1901) 285
Appendix
John Macy's 1903 Preface to The Story of My Life 389
John Macy "Helen Keller as She Really Is," The Ladies' Home Journal, 1902 (extracts) 391
Two Further Accounts by Helen Keller of the Scene at the Water Pump
from My Religion (1927), Chapter 8 395
from Teacher (1955), Chapter 2 396
Notes 401
Afterword: A Mind of One's Own 429
Resources and Further Reading 455
Acknowledgments 459
Index 461
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 222 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(110)

4 Star

(36)

3 Star

(35)

2 Star

(18)

1 Star

(23)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 222 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2008

    Helen Keller lights a fire in your soul

    This is the best autobiography I have ever read by far. Helen Keller writes with a simplicity yet elegance that opens your eyes to the world of the deaf and blind. This book has told me that she was the lucky one. She saw things others might never notice. An excellent source of literature for all ages. This will light a fire in your soul.

    19 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 14, 2007

    Story of My Life

    Here is an individual who faced 3 huge obstacles: blindness, deafness and no ability to speak. Yet this individual wasn¿t deterred in the slightest for her yearning to learn. Reading this book you will see parts of the story of Helen Keller that you¿ve never heard before because she is telling the story. Helen Keller had a very difficult time when she was little. She couldn¿t see or hear therefore she couldn¿t talk which often made her very upset. And so she would throw tantrums quite often when she could not get people to understand her. But that was all over when Helen met her teacher who was a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope in a black world of everlasting night. Helen was determined at first but then began to believe it was impossible to ever fit in with anybody else. But her new teacher never gave up and from the moment Helen said her first word ¿water¿, she took off like a rocket, learning to talk, read and write, all the while learning little lessons on science, math and history, ever grateful to her teacher who gave her all hope, and joy in her life, to be able to talk with her mouth instead of her hands. But Helen¿s story did not stop there, she went on to college . She even loved canoeing and sailing. It will never cease to amaze me how someone with such extreme disabilities would go on to live life to it¿s fullest extent and enjoy it 100%. The story of Helen Keller is one that will inspire me to enjoy life even during times of hardship.

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 12, 2013

    I am a high school sophomore who had to do a research project, a

    I am a high school sophomore who had to do a research project, and I chose to do my project on Helen Keller. I found this book to be an
    extremely interesting as well as an insightful source of information about what was truly taking place in her life and who Helen Keller
    was. "The Story of My Life" is a tremendous, well-written novel which opens the reader's eyes to the trials and tribulations of those with
    disabilities through the personal experiences of Helen Keller, a woman who was deaf, blind, and couldn't speak. This book not only
    contains resourceful information about her life, but also provides the reader with a perceptive understanding of how Helen really felt
    in her past experiences and expands on her accomplishments. Her eloquent writing throughout this autobiography also reveals her true
    self in her own words. I found this book to be very touching and inspirational. This story of how she overcame the many challenges she
    had to face during the course of her life, with the careful help and guidance of her teacher as well as her eagerness to understand the
    strange world around her, proves to be an inspirational and worthy read. Whether you're looking for information about Helen Keller's life
    or just looking for a good story to read, I highly recommend this book. 

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 8, 2006

    An Inspiring Book for all Readers

    The Story of my Life was a fantastic book. Helen Keller really showed how hard it was being both blind and deaf. She demonstrated her stuggles, accomplishments, and fears. Helen revealed many sides of her through this book. It makes me sad to think about how she had a tough life, but it makes me happy to see how much she accomplished throughout her life. This book is a very good book, and it should be on everybody's to read list!

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Great story - BAD SCANNED COPY

    First, I have to say that the quality of the scanned copy of this book was horrendous. There were garbled words in almost every sentence and, sometimes, it was impossible to figure out what it was supposed to be. Also, paragraphs and sentences were broken in the middle with the book title in the middle of a page.

    Leaving all of that aside, the story was mesmerizing. I cannot fathom how Helen Keller managed to accomplish all that she did with her limitations. But, reading this story, if you didn't know she was blind and deaf, you would think it was written by someone who has no disabilities. Her insights were amazing. After reading it, I cannot imagine how anyone who has not disabilities could dare to complain about anything in their lives. It is worth slogging through the terrible scanned version just to be able to experience the beauty of life through the eyes of who can see more than most sighted people.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 16, 2007

    Story of My Life

    Here is an individual who faced 3 huge obstacles: blindness, deafness and no ability to speak. Yet this individual wasn¿t deterred in the slightest for her yearning to learn. Reading this book you will see parts of the story of Helen Keller that you¿ve never heard before because she is telling the story. Helen Keller had a very difficult time when she was little. She couldn¿t see or hear therefore she couldn¿t talk, which often made her very upset. And so she would throw tantrums quite often when she could not get people to understand her. But that was all over when Helen met her teacher 'Anne Sullivan' who was a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope in a black world of everlasting night. Helen was determined at first, but then began to believe it was impossible to ever fit in with anybody else. Her new teacher never gave up and from the moment Helen said her first word ¿water¿, she took off like a rocket. She learned to talk, read and write, all the while learning little lessons on science, math, and history. She was always grateful to her teacher, who gave her hope and joy, to be able to talk with her mouth instead of her hands. But Helen¿s story did not stop there. She went on to college, and learned to love canoeing and sailing. It will never cease to amaze me how someone with such extreme disabilities would go on to live life to it¿s fullest extent and enjoy it 100%. The story of Helen Keller is one that will inspire me to enjoy life even during times of hardship.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Goodish.....

    Terrible scan.... luved book, but awful scan.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 19, 2011

    Book review

    I really thought it was touching and a beautiful story. I used to love to read about helen keller and anne frank. I was almost obsessed with reading and learnig about them. My name is alicia najera nd i hope you enjoy this book as much as i did.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 11, 2011

    Bad Scan

    Bad Scan

    Like so many of the free books available for the Nook, this scan is very poor. Pagination and printing is off. It may be a good book, but the edition fails as an ebook.

    It is not worth the trouble, and I am deleting it.

    I guess you really do get what you pay for¿

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 14, 2011

    Jyotis quote

    Is this book good

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 27, 2011

    Worth the Challenge

    Very good book and enjoyed having to decypher the typos. It made the book interesting though it was annoying at times. I liked having a challenge, but if you aren't up to it, I wouldn't recommend it to you. In my opinion, I enjoyed the story and Helen's way of writing! Beautifully written!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 13, 2011

    StaroftheSky

    This was a great read. Although the typographical errors made the book more strenuous to read, the story was magnificent in general.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 28, 2011

    good

    it was a good story......but like alot of free books it dors have some errors.BE SURE TO BOOKMARK because otherwise it pops up at the beginning.still good though.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted October 23, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book tells all.Helen Keller accomplished many things she even went to collgege after being blind and death i dont understand how she did it.Although till this day it is still very hard for me to understnad this book because of the fact that she not like all.This book was very suspenseful i wnated to know how she did it when did it.I recomend this book to all ages.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted February 14, 2007

    Helen Keller

    This book was alright not the greatest but not the worst i had to read it for a book report and it took me a week ad a half to finish it

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted November 8, 2006

    An Inspiring Book for all Readers

    The Story of My Life was a fantastic novel. Helen Keller really showed how hard it was being both blind and deaf. Her teacher Anne Sullivan helped her overcome all of her disabilities. She also demonstrated her struggles, accomplishments, and fears. Helen revealed many sides of herself through this book. It makes me sad to think about how she had a tough life, but it makes me happy to see how much she accomplished throughout her life. This book is a very good novel, and it should be on everybody's to read list!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted January 27, 2012

    HELLEN KELLER

    She was a biography writer whos biography turned into a classic!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 29, 2011

    Ok

    I have to say i would like it much more if there weren't typos in every sentence and paragraphs spliting in the middle of words

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted December 24, 2011

    Great stroy

    It was so touching and sad but I have the 200 page book and I relly love this book

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 25, 2011

    Too many typos!

    While I am sure that this book is wonderful, I couldn't get past all of the typos. I am going to find a version that is easier to read! Just an example of free not working out on nook!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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