Deaf Culture Literature: Education for Growth

The hearing community can do a great deal of good by learning about Deaf culture. Read on for education and resources on the Deaf community.

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Quick but important facts… Approximately 2-3 of every 1000 children born have a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both of their ears. Only about 10% of children are born to Deaf or hard-of-hearing parents. 15% of American adults over the age of 18 are hard of hearing or Deaf. These numbers might seem inconsequential as the vast majority of people have full use of their auditory faculties. Still, in real terms, we’re talking about 37.5 million Americans that are unable to hear within normal ranges. A communication wall separates the Deaf community from the rest of the population, a wall that the Deaf mostly hurdles alone. Those who are hearing can alleviate their frustration by learning about Deaf culture.

The Deaf community is a culture unto its own, with unique identifiers, defined as any culture by 5 basic principles: language, values, traditions, norms, and identity. Sign language varies worldwide; there are approximately 300 forms of communication. The Deaf culture highly values clear communication through signs and expressions for comprehension.

Recording Deaf achievements and history, cultural event gatherings, and the passing down of deaf stories are all traditions preserved by the Deaf culture. Cultural norms include appropriate ways to garner someone’s attention, a situation that calls for eye contact, and the correct use of shoulder tapping. As with the individual, identity is just as important to the many as to the one. Deaf cultural identity begins with accepting being Deaf, followed by the pride inherent in that culture.

Understanding and acceptance unite people from various backgrounds and communities around the world. It’s important to take a more proactive role in learning about our Deaf and hard-of-hearing neighbors. Here are a few recommendations on literature that can help you successfully understand Deaf culture and how to communicate with one another clearly.

Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture by Carol A. Padden and Tom L. Humphries

This book is written by two Deaf adults who want to express the everyday lives of Deaf people. This text is an excellent source for those who are deaf and those who would like to learn more.


“Through the use of folklore, apocryphal stories, poetry, jokes, and discussion of split factions and advocacy organizations, Padden and Humphries gracefully explain how deaf culture works, what it means to its members, how they define themselves within it, and how they interact with the world outside. Providing rare insight into this universe of silence, this volume conveys the joy and satisfaction that many deaf people have in their lives and shows that being deaf is not a handicap that most hearing people think.”


Deaf Culture: Exploring Deaf Communities in the United States by Irene W. Leigh, Jean F. Andrews, and Raychelle Harris

A comprehensive history of Deaf culture, language, and perception eloquently put together in an easy-to-read format that is well suited for the classroom and home alike. This is an amazing resource meant to educate in a way that unifies and brings understanding to Deaf culture. 


Deaf Culture: Exploring Communities in the United States is a comprehensive book that discusses the challenges and successes of persons who are Deaf in the United States. This review of the history of the language and culture of Deaf persons as well as contemporary use of technology that benefits both persons who are Deaf and others in society focuses on individuals and innovations that have supported success of individuals within Deaf culture.

―Martha J. Cook, PhD, CCC-SLP,Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Disorders, Southeast Missouri State University

Deaf Utopia: A Memoir―and a Love Letter to a Way of Life by Nyle DiMarco and Robert Siebert

Born to a multi-generational Deaf family, Nyle shares stories, anecdotes, and the truth about growing up Deaf and navigating the hearing world around him. He discusses not only his own successes and ideals but that of his family and the culture he was born into. 


“DiMarco’s pride in his Deaf community radiates from every page of Deaf Utopia. . . . [This book] is generous to its hearing readers . . . and it takes the unique step of conveying ASL conversations that employ the grammar and rhythms of ASL as far as possible. . . . This joyful memoir celebrates DiMarco’s ambition and adaptability, his journey to understand his queerness, and the vibrant Deaf community that made him who he is.” 


The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais

This YA fiction novel depicts a deaf student, Maya, who moves across the country and is thrust into a hearing school for the first time. She must navigate not only the typical high school culture but also the barriers raised within the hearing culture on top of it. 


“Gervais deftly renders both the nuanced, everyday realities of life with disability and Maya’s fierce pride in her Deafness, delivering a vibrant story that will resonate with Deaf and hearing audiences alike.” 


True Biz by Sara Novic

Set at the River Valley School of the Deaf, this novel introduces the social and political issues facing high school students and faculty in an eye-opening and compelling prose. The tone is far more somber, in tune with the hardships facing those in the Deaf community, while still imbuing the right amount of love, levity, and learning. 


“[A] touching and witty celebration of Deaf culture . . . moving and revelatory.”


To learn more about Deaf Culture in the United States, visit

Youtube is an excellent resource for learning American Sign Language (ASL); the basics of Hello, Thank You, and Sorry is a great place to start.

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