A Quiet Foghorn: more notes from a deaf gay life by Raymond Luczak

Reviewer: Sharon Brunner

Raymond Luczak, in this collection of essays called A Quiet Foghorn: more notes from a deaf gay life, renders an insightful and powerful message about his life as a Deaf gay man. At the age of 8 months, he began his journey as a hearing-challenged individual. As a young boy, he realized he did not feel like he was a part of his family of eight siblings and two parents, all hearing individuals. They talked around the dinner table while he sat quietly. Some of the major themes in the essays involved isolation, loneliness, creative inspiration, anger, frustration, and desperation to the point in which he attempted suicide at the age of 14. The word Deaf has been capitalized like it was in essays. Luczak’s book offers readers enlightenment concerning the trials and tribulations of Deaf people.

I had a cousin who was Deaf and he had to be sent away to a center below the Mackinac bridge. The teaching staff in St. Ignace could not meet my cousin’s needs. Luczak’s rendition of being an orphan made me think of my cousin and how it must have felt to be sent away from his family because he was hearing challenged. “Being orphaned heightens doubts about one’s place in the universe.” Luczak made some dynamite statements throughout his book. Luczak could only visit his family over the weekends at his home in Ironwood. He probably became even more of a stranger to his family. He claimed to not have any friends when he attended the public school in Ironwood. Luczak had to wear a heavy device with cords that snaked up to his ears. He felt he was the center of ridicule of his peers and the feelings of loneliness and isolation probably felt overwhelming at times. The movie “The Blind Side” with Sandra Bullock came to mind when one of the main characters did not fit in at the high school he was attending.

The frustration he probably felt when he was not permitted to learn sign language because his parents and many others wanted him to be as normal as possible by speaking and reading lips. When he finally was able to learn to sign, it was life-changing for him. “…speech therapists and audiologists are often perceived as evil perpetuators of the hearing world’s oppression.” He was forced to attend speech therapy for many years. “…true deafness is not about being unable to hear, but about being able to communicate in a comfortable mode.” He mentions American Sign Language (ASL) a lot throughout the book. Deaf people like to talk, their hands cannot shut up.

Part of Luczak’s coping skills involved being a voracious reader. He cherished the book his brother gave to him, the first book he owned. As a result, he has been an editor and author for over 20 books. He asked to be transferred back to Houghton to have some Deaf friends. Luczak remarked that they did not learn the language of being happy. Becoming a student at a Deaf university changed his life dramatically. He decided to never be ashamed of who he was and to make friends with people who would accept him for who he was. Luczak’s ambitions also included the theater business. Being gay proved to be a challenge at times but he managed to have some meaningful relationships.

Lots of food for thought throughout the book along ah-ha moments. I did not realize Noah Webster’s goal when preparing the first dictionary and the importance of Steve Job’s work for the majority of people who live in this country. It was not a consideration about how much Deaf people have to rely on deciphering our intention through examining our facial expressions and body movements. I did not know about the movie “Children of a Lesser God” and I will try to watch that movie. His other books such as “Chlorophyll,” “Michigan: The Ironwood Stories” and “Once Upon a Twin” have sparked my interest.

I highly recommend this book of essays. It was enlightening and very informative. My life has been enriched by reading the book and learning so much about a topic I have known little about. Luczak’s ambition in the face of adversity is inspiring. Luczak’s interview for the Upper Peninsula Publishers and Authors’ Association consisted of much of what he considers important. I enjoyed watching him happily sign for the audience, learning about his family and listening to one of his poems. His speculation of what the Deaf community may look like a hundred years from now and the way he views his relationship with his dog sets a precedence for how we all need to view life.’

Author: Raymond Luczak
Title: A Quiet Foghorn: more notes form a deaf gay life

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