An ambitious undertaking, this comprehensive report on deafness in America touches all bases and closely examines the ideological conflict that splits the deaf community. Benderly probes deeply into the oral vs. manual controversy, tracing the history of each theoretical stance, exposing liabilities, and gauging strengths. Unlike many of those involved, she does not stubbornly favor one or the other--the research evidence is too inconclusive--but insists that communication-style decisions must be individual, based on age, extent of impairment, and other variables. Although these core issues have been raised before (Spradley's Deaf Like Me is an incomparable personal account), no one has explored the subject in such detail: deficiencies of the hearing-aid industry, what ""home signs"" are, why meetings of lip readers and signers require two interpreters, how friendships tend to follow communication-style lines. Moreover, Benderly provides a sufficiently suggestive view of how hearing impairment affects people--the emotional, intellectual, and social consequences. Unfortunately, in these areas documentation is sometimes inadequate and the prose, never gray, turns purple (""In all the ponderous and opinionated literature on the psychology of the deaf one astonishing fact stands out beyond dispute: deaf people, on the whole, pass through radically abnormal childhoods and emerge stunningly normal adults""). Some uncomfortable truths are thus avoided or go unemphasized, but they are few; for the most part, realities, even unpleasant ones, are confronted honestly. Benderly is a persuasive champion of the deaf, and her exhaustive introduction illuminates a nearly invisible minority sensitively and carefully.