"I spin a roll of toilet paperhard, and the paper unwinds to the floor. Does it make a noise as it unfurls? As it hits the floor? When ice cream melts and drips on my sleeve does it make a noise? Or will it only make a noise if it drips onto a hard surface, like the ground, rather than on my soft sleeve? ...They tell me that escaping air makes a sound. How? When?"
With these seemingly simple questions, Bonnie Poitras Tucker introduces us to "the feel of silence." Tucker, profoundly deaf since infancy, became an expert lipreader who never learned sign language and did not meet another deaf person until her mid-thirties. Her compelling story propels the reader through an odyssey of motionsthe tension inherent in a battle against the odds.
This intimate memoir is interlaced with moving examples of the ironies and trials of accommodating a hearing world. After spending 17 years as a full-time wife and mother, Tucker embarked on a "second life," divorced, with several children to support. Alternately angry and sad, funny and introspective, Tucker explains how she sometimes "bluffed" instead of announcing her deafness.
Unable to read lips in the dark, candle-lit restaurants, or the turn of dusk left Tucker without a means of communication, virtually paralyzed. Daily frustration resulted from the practicalities of responding to a crying child, airplane announcements, repairmen knocking at the door, a ringing telephone, and following the rapid-fire debates that take place in the classroom and the courtroom.
Opposed to the "Deaf is Dandy" movement, Tucker successfully strategized her way through college, dating, motherhood, and law school, and went on to become a corporate litigator, a law professor, and an expert in several areas of the law, including disability rights.
"The humor, anger, sadness, victory, and frustration she expresses combine to leave readers with a refreshing understanding of hearing loss."
"A successful lawyer who does not consider herself a deaf person but a person who happens to be deaf, Bonnie Tucker comes across as a highly motivated woman with a remarkable sense of conviction, self-discipline, and a determination to live completely in a world she does not hear. This talented and unique individual has to be one of the world's best lip-readers, if not the very best, as lipreading itself is indeed an art. Coming from a completely different perspective, living with deafness as I have with both American Sign Language and English, I found The Feel of Silence a fascinating and engrossing autobiography."
—Merv Garretson, deaf educator, editor, and advocate
"The Feel of Silence is a remarkable book and reading it is an emotional and enlightening experience. Bonnie Poitras Tucker bristles with honest anger at her deafness. She has also faced the classic problems of contemporary women, compounded by her deafness: divorce, single motherhood, and the need to develop a career in mid-life. But anger has not soured Bonnie Tucker; she has transformed and redeemed it by wit, intelligence, incredibly hard work, success, a lot of forgiveness, and—to some extent—acceptance. This book, and the author's insistence on making a go of living in the hearing world, may not please the deaf community. But through a multitude of stories from her life, she teaches indelible lessons to those who hear and choose to learn."
—Mary Maples Dunn, President Emeritus of Smith College