Hearing Maud: A Journey for a Voice
About the book
'Hearing Maud' is a work of creative non-fiction that details experiences of deafness after losing her hearing at age four. It charts how she was estranged from people and turned to reading and writing for solace.
Central to her narrative is the story of Maud, the deaf daughter of 19th century novelist Rosa Praed. Although Maud was deaf from infancy, she was educated at a school which taught her to speak rather than sign, a mode difficult for someone with little hearing. Through Maud's story, Jessica began to understand her own experiences of deafness and their contribution to her life.
About the author
Jessica White was raised in north-west NSW and, at age four, lost most of her hearing from meningitis. An avid reader and writer, she journeyed from her country school of 100 pupils to publishing her first novel at age 29, before graduating with a PhD from the University of London. Her short fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in Australian and international literary journals including Review of Australian Fiction, Overland, Island, Griffith Review, Westerly and Southerly. She is currently an academic at The University of Queensland. 'Hearing Maud' is her third book.
In this memoir Jessica White begins with the story of how she lost her hearing from contracting meningitis as a child. Receiving little support that would allow her to communicate with other people her life became an odyssey in search of her own voice, an odyssey that was assisted by her reading of the novels of Rosa Praed and learning how Rosa's deaf daughter Maud coped and communicated by writing voluminous letters.
The strength of this book lies not only in the telling of this unusual odyssey, but also in the evocative way White describes some of her specific experiences relating to her deafness and sense of alienation. Her description of the home-sickness she experienced in London will resonate with many readers. But this is also an intriguing and original memoir that speaks of the relevance of the past, in the form of Rosa and Maud, not only to White but also to many contemporary Australians.