Qualitative Book Award 2013


I recently received the news that Signs of Hope has won the International Congress for Qualitative Inquiry Book Award for 2013.

This award is conferred annually to a member of the qualitative and ethnographic community who has published the English-language book that best represents an important contribution to qualitative inquiry. This year ICQI is dedicating the 2013 qualitative book award to the memory of H. L. (Bud) Goodall, a charter member of the awards committee judges.

I was not able to fly to the US to accept the award, but luckily, Jonathan Wyatt and Ken Gale were there to do it for me.  They read out my short speech, the video of which can be viewed here:

I am very sorry not to be at QI this year to receive this award. Please somebody buy Ken and Jonathan a couple of beers for pretending to be me for a few minutes. I trust they are dressed appropriately for the occasion.

This small book, Signs of Hope, is based on my PhD at the Narrative Inquiry Centre, Bristol, and tells a story of an intimate inquiry with three amazing deafhearing families. I promised them that if they told me their stories, I would write them down  for others to read. People who know me know I tend to get quite shouty and soapboxy when it comes to the discrimination and ignorance deaf people and their families have to face and deal with on a daily basis. The stories recorded here in this book are but a drop in the ocean. The UK government finally ‘recognised’ British Sign Language as an indigenous language 10 years ago, but since then, more and more deaf schools have closed, mental illness and unemployment within the deaf community are on the increase, and deaf people are being denied access to basic and vital services. Deaf people’s voices are being catastrophically lost in the noise of the normalising rhetoric of wealthy right-wing, public-school-educated politicians.

Can books like this make a difference? I don’t know. But I got in touch with Bella last month: she is a young deaf woman who told me her family story when she was ten years old. She said you all should read this book so you can learn to see people in a different way; “deaf’s way”. Her faith in the ability of stories to change the world for the better pretty much sums up how I feel about this work being recognised by the QI community. I’m secretly a little relieved that Ken and Jonathan are there doing this for me as I’d be in floods of tears by now.

Thank you to the nominees and judges. I’m still in shock writing this. But the recognition of this book makes me want to march to 10 Downing Street waving a copy and shouting at the top of my voice, “SEE!!”

Donna West


Donna West is a sometimes researcher/lecturer, based in Bristol/London. This is a first attempt at wordpressing about her most recent project. She would like to stress that none of this would be possible without the generosity and trust of three fantastic families who invited her into their homes and lives for four years. Honorary doctorates all round.

Book Launch in Bristol

There will be a joint book launch on 25th April at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol.  Two books, both published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing will be launched.  The first, Visible Women: Tales of Age, Gender and In/Visibility is by Christine Bell.  The second is Signs of Hope: Deafhearing Family Life by Donna West.

The event is taking place in Room 410 of the Graduate School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Bristol, BS8 1JA, from 5pm-7pm.

All welcome.  BSL interpreters are provided.

Book Launch