A new book about Alexander Graham Bell

Next week (April 6) Simon & Schuster will release a book that explores the relationship between Alexander Graham Bell and the deaf—including his wife and mother.

Katie Booth tells the story in “The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness.” She grew up in a mixed hearing/Deaf family; her grandparents and great-aunt were deaf. Booth now teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Her book explores Bell's promotion of deaf education that prioritized the spoken word and lip reading. His oralist approach included a paper he wrote in 1884 titled “Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race.” In it, he warned that if deaf people began socializing and inevitably intermarrying, they would create “a defective race of human beings [that] would be a great calamity to the world.”

Booth explores how Bell's hatred of sign language left scars on the deaf in the U.S. for decades. She writes:

“In the deaf world . . . he’s remembered with rage. He’s the man who launched a war in which the deaf would have to fight for their lives.”

While Bell's disturbing story is not new to those who are a part of Deaf Culture, Booth's book is expected to reach a number of people in the hearing world who were not aware of this part of American history.