Deaf Authors Through History

In honor of the National “Love Your Bookstore” Day, let’s get to know a bit about a few Deaf Authors and the books they’ve written and published.

In the last decade or so, Deaf and hard-of-hearing authors have started to appear more frequently in fiction and non-fiction book realm, which also has included a handful of memoirs.

A Short History of Deaf Authors

The earliest well-known/famous Deaf authors in the 19th century were: Pierre Desloges, Helen Keller, and Laurent Clerc.

Pierre Desloges

Pierre Desloges may be the first if not earliest known Deaf author with a published book.

He was born in 1747 in the Touraine region of France. Once he moved to Paris he became a bookbinder and upholsterer. 

Desloges became Deaf at age seven from smallpox and did not learn to communicate through sign language until the age of 27 when he was taught by a Deaf Italian.

In 1779, he wrote his book that advocated for the use of sign language in deaf education. It was a rebuttal of the views of Abbé Claude-François Deschamps de Champloiseau, who had published a book arguing against the use of sign language in education.

“Like a Frenchman who sees his language belittled by a German who knows only a few French words, I thought I was obliged to defend my language against the false charges of this author.”

Pierre Desolges

The Abbe de l’Épée has often been credited with the invention of sign language, but this is incorrect. Desloges’ book proves that French Sign Language predates the establishment of the famous school for the Deaf in Paris and is truly the invention of deaf people.

Desloges also wrote a number of well-received political books around the time of the French Revolution. The time and place of his death are unknown, but he published a book as late as 1792. Some suggest that he died in 1799.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller may not be the first Deaf author but probably the first Deaf-Blind author. One book she wrote and published was: The Story of My Life, published in 1904. With the help of Anne Sullivan and her husband, John Macy, Helen wrote the autobiography, recounting the pre-enlightenment period as well as her education and language access. It also covered the years of her life prior to the book’s publication. She first wrote the book while she was in college.

Laurent Clerc

Even though Laurent Clerc didn’t publish a book, he contributed several articles to the American Annals of the Deaf during the 1840s. The articles were published in “Visits to Some of the Schools for the Deaf and Dumb in France and England”. A few years before his death, he witnessed the founding of the first Deaf college, the National College for the Deaf and Dumb (later renamed Gallaudet University). He gave an address at the inauguration of the college in 1864.

Deaf Authors of the 20th and 21st Centuries

The list of Deaf authors who have published novels in the 20th and 21st centuries continues to grow! Check out some of the incredible authors who have shared their talents and stories with the world in recent years:

Marlee Matlin

After winning the Oscar as the first Deaf Actress, Marlee Matlin wrote her memoir, titled, “I’ll Scream Later” based on her growing up years, experiences with theatre, and acting in the film, “Children of A Lesser God”. She also wrote about her addiction and relationship with the well-acclaimed actor, William Hurt and so on.

Check out her book here!

Nyle DiMarco

Coming from a multi-generational Deaf family, Nyle Di Marco wrote his memoir, sharing heartfelt and deep stories about his journey, growing up in NY, and winning first places in two TV shows, America’s Top Model and Dancing with the Star. The book title is “Deaf Utopia: A Memoir―and a Love Letter to a Way of Life”.

Check out his book here!

Sara Novic

This book, “True Biz” is a fictional coming-of-age story about a Deaf girl, who’s a new transfer at the Deaf School. It includes some drawing tidbits (handshapes and what-not).

Check out her book here!

Hope you’d enjoy reading those books.

‘Til next time, ta ta! 😀🤟🏻


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