Friday, April 17, 2015

Mean Little Deaf Queer: A Memoir by Terry Galloway

15. A Memoir

Following the recommendation of a reader on FB--I picked up this memoir at the library. Here is one of the thirst things that caught my eye:

"I feel intensely fond of the whole lot of lousy writing [memoir] that has found its way to print because I smell in those stinkers a fecund democracy. Every sort of half coherent loser is having his say. Maybe even mean little deaf queers like me."

So why do we like memoir so much?  I think that Galloway spells it out quite nicely. It is democratic. We let people any people tell their stories. Perhaps, some of them, might not be well told, but let people tell anyway. It is good for us.

The title pretty much spells out the book for you. She is deaf (from age 9) , gay and has a bit of an attitude. Her chosen profession is acting and she is from Texas. She is happily married to a wonderful woman and coming out was not a huge tragedy, but rather her parents loved and accepted her for who she was.

The memoir itself was well written.  There were many places in the narrative that took my breath away and a few not so much, but I loved understanding what life was like for someone deaf in the 60s and 70s.  The bulky non-working hearing aids and the inability to use a phone.  Also, what it was like for a deaf actor to find work and respect. All of it compelling.

I never really understood what the central tension of the memoir was supposed to be.  What did our hero need to resolve? Was it acceptance of her sexuality?  disability?  Her unusual career?  Ms Galloway came to find a niche for herself in disability theater. Her big aha momnet was not so much accepting that she was disabled but that her disability could lead her to performing with others who were disabled.  That the disabled deserved a place on the stage. The best scene in the book was when she was assigned (without being asked or knowing what she was doing) to a group of disabled people and told to do a performance workshop with them. She founded VSA the Texas Arts and Disability Organization.

Her conclusion is like mine--everyone has a story and everyone deserves the right to tell it and be heard. She concludes by telling some stories of her fellow disabled actors.

The epilogue is where she speaks most profoundly about sound and hearing.  She is given some digital hearing aids which vastly  improve the quality of her hearing. She describes the sudden onslaught of every day noises poetically. It made me yearn for the sound of my lawn mower. She writes "...from the day I realized I was going deaf, sound was my lost love."

And so it is a memoir to the absence of sound, the lost love,  and to all who lost their loves.  This is a worthy memoir.  Maybe not such bad writing but definitely one that belongs in the democracy of the stories.

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