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Evie Mahoney is a CODA, a child of Deaf Adults, born in 1945 the oldest in a family of six children, and one day her father asked her “What does the sea sound like?”
Although he had swum regularly in the sea he had never heard any sound as he was born without hearing , so Evie used her lips and hand movements to explain the small sound of “Swish ,swish, swish on the sand”.
This book is her story of growing up in Auckland in a mainly deaf environment as her mother also had limited hearing. Evie took on a lot of responsibility at a young age, making phone calls on a public coin-operated phone to the doctor, insurance company, dentist and other businesses. “Once the call was over she often had more questioLesley McIntosns than I could answer. Negotiating with strangers about something a child doesn’t fully understand was overwhelming and did not generate self –assurance in me”.
Sensitive to how hearing people outside that environment reacted to her family, Mahoney lived on the edge between two cultures and slipped naturally into the role of interpreter from a young age. Her way of communicating with the deaf was by lip-reading and improvised signs as she did not know formal sign language. The book is divided into three parts, the middle section is just seven pages outlining Mahoney’s early married life in Australia with two young children.
An autobiography is not complete without the family photos and the author has a included a wonderful selection from early black and white to a modern coloured photo of her family in 2014.
Having worked with people with disabilities for many years, I found this an interesting read. It is not a large book, just 150 pages and many of the chapters read almost as stand alone stories. It is somewhat repetitive at times, but that is not a bad thing, as it re-enforces the many issues the family had to face in a largely hearing world.
The inclusion of the italicized positives throughout the book serve as “a reminder that when feeling vulnerable, lacking confidence or feeling inadequate in some way, there is always an opportunity to make it better”. What does the sea sound like? will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys an autobiography or who works in the disability fields.
Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh
What does the sea sound like?
by Evie Mahoney
Mary Egan Publishing