by Evie Mahoney
This autobiography is written by a “child of deaf adults” (CODA) and describes the recollections of the author growing up in Auckland as part of a large New Zealand family, with loving parents who communicated to the society around them in a slightly different way.
Both the author’s parents were deaf and, as the eldest of their six children, Evie Mahoney learnt at a very early age to act as interpreter between her parents and the hearing world. This gave her a multi-dimensional approach to communicating in both the world of the hearing and the world of the deaf.
The author’s childhood was a happy one, otherwise typical of the times, the 1940s to 50s. She describes small delights like the coloured fountain at Mission Bay, her much loved pets, and simple toys that brought her much pleasure.
Living on the edge of the deaf and hearing cultures brought its problems but she learnt at an early age “empathy, patience, good learning skills, respect and courtesy.”
Examples of her interpreting skills are dotted throughout the book. For instance, when her father communicated in one small comment “Snob. Awful,” what was meant was “She thinks she is better that other people. She is awful.”
At home there was limited vocabulary but at school there was constant chatter and the author learnt the difference between direct communication at home and conversational language at school.
It is through such insights, described in a very clear and readable way, that readers learn of the challenges the deaf community faced in earlier days, and how society has grown in knowledge and understanding of such difficulties. The situation has improved since sign language was introduced in the 1970’s and then became an official language of New Zealand in 2006.
This book and its story contribute to the education of those of us who come in contact with the deaf and hard of hearing. It gives strategies of how to communicate with the deaf. It is heartening to know that children in primary schools are now taught the rudiments of signing.
I loved reading “What Does the Sea Sound Like? ”. It is informative, well written and gives us a snapshot of life in New Zealand from a slightly different perspective. The family photos included show a happy family, and the final chapter but one, “The Legacy”, lets the reader know of the successes of her siblings in their chosen careers, which rounds off the narrative perfectly.
Author: by Evie Mahoney
Publisher: Mary Egan Publishing
Available: from Greene Phoenix: firstname.lastname@example.org 021 722 210; 06 356 4470