Picture-book author Uhlberg (A Storm Called Katrina, illus. by Colin Bootman, 2015, etc.) tells his story of growing up with Deaf parents in Depression-era Brooklyn.
Evoking a pleasant nostalgia with its strong sense of place, the episodic narrative follows Myron Uhlberg, a young, white Jewish boy, and his family from Myron’s birth to the day he leaves for college. Through anecdotes both funny and poignant, the author explores his complex relationship with his father. Forced to act as an interpreter by the age of 5, Myron feels trapped between the worlds of child and adult as well as Deaf and hearing. This dilemma leads to both humor and pain as Myron navigates the considerable responsibility. The author presents a nuanced portrayal of Deaf life. Myron’s main link to the Deaf world is his parents, but other Deaf adults make appearances, hinting at a spectrum of Deaf experiences. The author’s decision to write his Deaf parents’ speech phonetically could be prejudicial for readers who lack further context, and there is the occasional biased cliché of disability and culture (due to their deafness, he claims his parents’ sole source of entertainment is books; seeing a friend in an iron lung causes him to reassess his self-pity). Additionally, in contrast to the author’s first memoir, Hands of My Father (2009), published for adults, the title of this adaptation feels like a trite appeal to hearing readers. However, the warmth, love, and playfulness of the narrative prevail.
A sweet, satisfying memoir about family bonds and finding one’s place in the world. (Memoir. 9-14)