Signs of Hope


Signs of Hope: Deafhearing Family LIfe tells the story of a narrative inquiry with three deafhearing families. For many of us, deafness represents loss and silence. For others, being deaf is a genetic quirk; an opportunity for learning, spiritual adventure and reward. For yet others, it is the most natural thing in the world; a connection to a genealogical layer of signing ancestors and the continuation of a culture.

Amid the noise of mainstream, medical and educational discourses of deafness, here are family voices demanding to be heard—whether spoken or signed—that challenge audiological and surgical intervention, that call for scrutiny and critique of ‘inclusive’ deaf-related pedagogical practices, that rail against marginalisation of members of minority cultures.

Over four years, I recorded the stories of three families who wish to counter and resist what they see as damaging misconceptions and discriminatory constructions of deafness and deafhearing family life. Here, spaces are created that respect and acknowledge human beings—adults, children, deaf, hearing—as storytellers.

The poetic and performative narratives at the heart of this book reveal not only the ways in which hurtful definitions of, and discrimination towards, deaf people and signing deafhearing families can be destabilised, but also the ways in which celebration of deaf culture and sign language are affirming and vital for healthy family life.

Signs of Hope is recommended for anyone with an interest in sign language, family life, disability, deaf education and deaf wellness. It will also be of interest to professionals and practitioners working with deaf children, deaf parents and deafhearing families and to students and scholars within social sciences, humanities, arts, social medicine, audiology, paediatrics, psychology, childhood studies, social policy, social work and education.

“This is a joyful book which takes the reader on an unexpected ride through seemingly familiar territory (families with deaf children) but which is totally transformed by Donna West’s creative approach. Her ever-reflexive eye entices us to examine the assumptions we bring to the text and makes space for us to think in different ways about the experiences we find recorded there. The book blends critical thought and poetry, history and contemporary life, identity and performance with infinite subtlety and radical scholarship. Anyone with an interest in ‘deaf lives’ will be refreshed by this book.”

Alys Young, Professor of Social Work Education and Research, University of Manchester.

“This is a beautifully written, powerful and extraordinary book which will appeal to a wide range of readers within the Deaf community and beyond. It should be read by families, professionals, practitioners, academics and policy makers and those working in organisations concerned with deafness. It should also be read by researchers who are interested in feminist and narrative inquiry—because this book is an exemplar of those approaches. Donna West has created a text based upon her own experience of working in the field of Deaf Studies over many years: her in-depth exploration of the history of deafness; theories; practices; and methodologies, all woven together with intimate, moving stories that vividly bring alive the experience of individuals and families who live with deafness.”

Kim Etherington, Emeritus Professor University of Bristol.




Signs of Hope: Deafhearing Family Life is published by

Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s