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The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa…
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The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa

by Josh Swiller

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Zambia. A problematic but potentially useful memoir. Swiller recounts his time in Zambia, where as a Peace Corps volunteer he appears to have violated ethical principles, flouted standards of cultural sensitivity and appropriateness, and generally been a cowboy. That Swiller is deaf raises interesting questions about intersections of disability, identity, and behavior issues. I say that the book is "useful" because I may teach with it in a service-related ethics class. ( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
An amazing book ( )
  abbie47 | Aug 12, 2011 |
In the 1990s, Josh Swiller joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Africa to build a well. Born with significant hearing loss, Josh was mainstreamed (that is, sent to public school with hearing kids rather than to a Deaf school where he would have learned ASL). He can speak and read lips, but has always felt on the margins in a hearing world; he learned ASL at Gallaudet, but was not a part of the Deaf culture there, either. In Mununga, a practically forgotten village in Zambia, Josh finds that his hearing loss doesn't matter as much. There is less background noise to contend with, people face him to speak, and don't mind when he asks them to repeat themselves. But this small village is fearful and violent, and Josh soon finds out that building a well is the least of his worries.

I had a love/hate relationship with this memoir. The stories Josh tells are absolutely heartbreaking and maddening. I generally felt depressed about the state of Africa while reading - in the face of childhood diseases, AIDS, and fear as he describes, what hope is there? Also, I didn't particularly like Josh. His bullheaded way of trying to move projects forward grated on me, and I was annoyed rather than amused by his anecdote of "cultural exchange" via showing some of the locals the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. But he does know how to craft an exciting narrative, keeping me reading despite my misgivings and pacing his stories in such a way that I was hard put to find a good stopping point. ( )
1 vote bell7 | Jul 27, 2011 |
Like "White Man's Grave", this is the story of a Peace Corps worker's experience with Africa. There are many parallels between the two books. Swiller's story is of unrealized expectations as his projects disintegrate into chaos and ruin. He was assigned to a rural, unruly, remote section of Zambia. After gradually acquiring the feeling that he belonged in this place more than any other in his past experience, he ran afoul of petty local politics and came face-to-face with the reality of modern Africa. The outcome was harrowing, to the extent that he he high-tailed it out of the village in fear for his life. Despite that, his overall takeaway was personal fulfillment and a love for the country and its people (with some notable exceptions). Swiller's off-beat sense of humor and flair for the dramatic make this book an enjoyable read. ( )
  mwhel | May 20, 2009 |
I found this book very interesting. Swiller's subtitle is: "A Memoir of Deafness and Africa". I think, though, it should have been the other way around ("A Memoir of Africa and Deafness"). Yes, he is deaf, but he doesn't overly emphasize that part of himself in this book; which is fine. He relates in (sometimes hair-raising) detail his experiences in Africa--he was truly in danger sometimes and not being able to hear, to boot. If you are interested in different cultures, you will like this book. If you are solely interested in the deaf experience, you will still get that from this book but perhaps not as much as other deafness-related books. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Dec 5, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805082107, Paperback)

A young man's quest to reconcile his deafness in an unforgiving world leads to a remarkable sojourn in a remote African village that pulsates with beauty and violence
 
These are hearing aids. They take the sounds of the world and amplify them." Josh Swiller recited this speech to himself on the day he arrived in Mununga, a dusty village on the shores of Lake Mweru. Deaf since a young age, Swiller spent his formative years in frustrated limbo on the sidelines of the hearing world, encouraged by his family to use lipreading and the strident approximations of hearing aids to blend in. It didn't work. So he decided to ditch the well-trodden path after college, setting out to find a place so far removed that his deafness would become irrelevant.

That place turned out to be Zambia, where Swiller worked as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. There he would encounter a world where violence, disease, and poverty were the mundane facts of life. But despite the culture shock, Swiller finally commanded attention--everyone always listened carefully to the white man, even if they didn't always follow his instruction. Spending his days working in the health clinic with Augustine Jere, a chubby, world-weary chess aficionado and a steadfast friend, Swiller had finally found, he believed, a place where his deafness didn't interfere, a place he could call home. Until, that is, a nightmarish incident blasted away his newfound convictions.

At once a poignant account of friendship through adversity, a hilarious comedy of errors, and a gripping narrative of escalating violence, The Unheard is an unforgettable story from a noteworthy new talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:39 -0400)

Describes one young man's efforts to reconcile his deafness in an unforgiving, hearing world by undertaking a two-year sojourn in a remote village in Zambia as a Peace Corps volunteer, where he finds a remarkable world marked by both beauty and violence.… (more)

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