Slim, scholarly, crusading work by two deaf scholars arguing that the Deaf (the capital ""D"" denoting a community apart) possess their own distinctive culture. Padden was born deaf in a Deaf family, Humphries became deaf in childhood--both authors know whereof they speak. Their main contention is that the Deaf usually don't think of themselves as disabled, but as members of a different culture with its own history, folk tales, art, literature, and language. Language (in the case of these American authors, American Sign Language) is the key; ASL is ""the essence of how Deaf people live and how they understand their lives."" Much space is devoted to advancing the controversial theory with ASL is an independent language rather than an artificial system of signs. In their efforts to prove the worthiness of Deaf culture, the authors sometimes strain credulity--e.g., when they read rich symbolic meaning into the simplest of stories about the AbbÃ‰ de l'EpÃ‰e, who first systematized sign language. The authors also examine Deaf plays, poems, films, songs, and a number of humorous and revealing folk tales about the Deaf; the problem of where hearing children of deaf parents fit into Deaf culture; and what it's like for a child to discover his or her own deafness. A pioneering work. The wagon wheels may spin a bit recklessly at times, but some new and compelling territory is covered along the way.