Elevate Difference

Mean Little Deaf Queer: A Memoir

If I had to choose only one genre of book to read for the rest of my life, I would choose memoirs. When I think of the books that have most changed my outlook on life and expanded my understandings of the world, I would think of classic and contemporary works like Black Boy by Richard Wright, Living My Life by Emma Goldman, and Naked by David Sedaris. Terry Galloway’s Mean Little Deaf Queer was such an enjoyable and enlightening read I found difficult to put down.

Galloway reflects on her life and the two of the defining characteristics of her identity that she has struggled with: growing up queer and losing most of her hearing at the age of twelve. Her mother was given a drug during pregnancy that was later revealed to cause neurological damage in fetuses, including loss of hearing.

Describing her childhood, which begins in Western Germany where her family lived while her father worked as a spy for the CIA, Galloway remembers when she was “normal,” like everybody else. But she slowly slipped into a different reality without her family even realizing it. Galloway goes to great lengths to hide her hearing loss from everyone around her, until it is discovered by a teacher at school one day. She describes her feelings of frustration and anger, and how she managed to become an accomplished figure in the world of theater acting, in spite of the many people who tried to stand in her way (including a high school advisor who told her factory work is a good choice for the deaf).

At times hilarious and others heartbreaking, Mean Little Deaf Queer manages to educate the reader about what it feels like to grow up always feeling like an outsider. In the tradition of writers like Sedaris, Galloway manages to find humor and absurdity in even the saddest moments. Whether faking her own drowning at a summer camp for disabled children,or taking an acting job in the role of an “alternative Santa Claus” at an “alternative mall,” Galloway’s stories are intriguing. If anything, I wish the book had been longer.

Written by: Liz Simmons, August 31st 2009

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