Monday, May 5, 2008
Laura Bridgman -- Nonfiction Monday
She Touched the World, Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer. Written by co-authors, Sally Hobart Alexander and Robert Alexander. Clarion Books, 2008.
This book couldn't have been better timed. I had hung on to the last copy of the previous Lara Bridgman biography long after it should have been withdrawn, simply because there was no other title to replace it. Last month I finally gave in and withdrew Child of the Silent Night. I hated to do it, but it was time.
Imagine my astonishment, surprise, joy when this book appeared in the bag of new books delivered to my library branch. Hurrah! Some brave soul has also realized that we needed a new biography of the very FIRST deaf/blind child to learn to communicate.
Why should we care? Laura Bridgman was the most famous child in the English-speaking world in the 1840s. As an adult, she taught Anne Sullivan -- who then taught Helen Keller, who became the most famous deaf/blind person in the 20th century. (Although, this book points out that since Laura was not a full teacher at the school for the blind, she may have simply taught fingerspelling to Anne simply so that she could have another person to talk to.)
This biography clearly explains how scarlet fever robbed Laura of almost all of her senses except for touch. What a lonely and empty world she found herself. By the time she learned to fingerspell, she was full of questions and became a demanding chatterbox. She bubbled with energy and loved jokes.
The author is herself a deaf/blind writer, but her life in the 21st century is easier than Laura's. The book's last chapter points out the new laws, improvements in medicine and changes in attitude toward the disabled. She and her husband co-wrote this book.
I'm very glad to see this new Laura Bridgman biography. Available now.
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