Mean Little Deaf Queer

Mean Little Deaf Queer

by Terry Galloway

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Overview

In 1959, the year Terry Galloway turned nine, the voices of everyone she loved began to disappear. No one yet knew that an experimental antibiotic given to her mother had wreaked havoc on her fetal nervous system, eventually causing her to go deaf. As a self-proclaimed "child freak," she acted out her fury with her boxy hearing aids and Coke-bottle glasses by faking her own drowning at a camp for crippled children. Ever since that first real-life performance, Galloway has used theater, whether onstage or off, to defy and transcend her reality. With disarming candor, she writes about her mental breakdowns, her queer identity, and living in a silent, quirky world populated by unforgettable characters. What could have been a bitter litany of complaint is instead an unexpectedly hilarious and affecting take on life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807073315
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 06/01/2010
Pages: 248
Sales rank: 763,796
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Terry Galloway is the founder of the Actual Lives writing and performance programs; a founding member of Esther’s Follies, Austin, Texas’s legendary cabaret; and cofounder of the Mickee Faust Club in Tallahassee, Florida. She divides her time between Austin and Tallahassee.

Read an Excerpt

The year I turned nine, months before anyone knew I
was going deaf, the voices of everyone I loved had all but disappeared.
Their chatter had been like the nattering of birds in the trees—a cheerful if sometimes annoying reminder of how alive the world was around me. As their voices lapsed away, I no longer felt sure how any but the most common words sounded, how they ought to be pronounced, and that made me uneasy about opening my mouth. My place in the family that year was to watch, which was how I was learning to listen. I’d sit at the kitchen table—where most stories of any importance were told—and read lips, piecing together the shapes they formed until they made a kind of sense. Lip reading—whether you know you’re doing it or not—is a hard, intimate business, and during my ninth year, when the way people sucked or licked their teeth as they were talking took sneaking precedence over the look in their eyes, all that rapt staring at mouths would wring me dry. After every couple of stories, I’d turn my gaze away, give myself a breather, and recharge. It took me so much concentrated effort to make sense, much less sentences,
out of the lips as they moved, that any and every utterance had to have a payoff. If people were making idle conversation or empty yak about, say, grocery shopping or getting their nails done, I’d heave the sigh of the doomed and lean my head against the table, pressing the bridge of my nose against the metal rim hard enough to dig a furrow.
I’d glance up every now and then to see if the topic had changed to something more interesting, like who had died and what had killed them. If talk was stalled at yellow versus white onions or the rising price of a pedicure,
I’d get to pitying myself, slaving like a dung beetle over a worthless bit of nothing, and give up—put my head back down on the table, close my eyes, and deliberately lose control. The rising, falling mumble of those incomprehensible voices would wash over me until sounds would inexplicably leap from the muttering to shake themselves clear in my mind as words. A name, the time of night, the make of a car, a part of town, a tired old cliché. I’d string them together as randomly as I caught them, but they still always seemed to be telling me a story. Ruby, two a.m., Ford, east
of Hutto, dying of hunger, and I’d see the black-eyed Great-
Aunt Ruby I’d never met gunning her Mustang down the one main street of a hick Texas town en route to love or a
Burger King. It soothed my hurt and anger to imagine all those arbitrary words telling me the illicit secrets behind everything I hadn’t heard.
 
Which may be why I now find myself enamored of the memoir. The good ones thrill me every bit as much as the great novels, but it’s the crappy ones I’ve lost my heart to.
They make me feel like a rescue dog, sniffing out the dim glimmerings of feelings sincere and raw within a tangled wreckage of inchoate ramblings and obvious lies. I’ve been reading a ton of bad ones lately, most of which I’ve gotten only halfway through. They are piled up by my bedside and not in the best of shape. I’m a passionate reader and the books have suffered for it, their covers wavy from having been dropped in the tub, spines busted from being tossed on the floor, pages folded, creased, coffee-stained, and marked with ink. Red. I feel intensely fond of the whole lot of lousy writing that has found its way to print because
I smell in those stinkers a fecund democracy. Every sort of half-coherent loser getting their say. Maybe even mean little deaf queers like me.
 
As a toddler I was an ardent chatterbox, with such an adult and rapid-fire vocabulary that one of our German neighbors in Stuttgart mistook me for a dwarf. By age seven
I was becoming what passes in our family of energetic talkers as taciturn, more like my father, who would sneak away from the kitchen table in the middle of a detailed piece of family gossip my mother and my sister, Trudy, were sharing and flee to the bathroom so he could read the Sunday paper in peace. I never left the table. I just stopped talking.
My mother and Trudy never worried about my growing silence—they’d taken it as appreciative. But then they didn’t know the reasons behind it. Sounds had started disappearing all around me. I didn’t know where to, and I
didn’t think to ask—not then and not the handful of years later when I started having my “visions.” Or so I liked to call them, although they never clued me in to anything useful or remotely prophetic.
 
Whatever they were, they were first visited upon me when I was nine and our family had resettled from Berlin,
Germany, to Fort Hood, Texas. One hot spring Texas night I was sprawled on the dry grass of our new front yard, gazing up at a spiral of stars, when I suddenly found myself six feet in the air, looking down at myself lying on the grass looking up at those stars. I was a little pissed off by how perfectly cheerful my body seemed without me.
 
These odd displacements weren’t exactly a daily occurrence,
but that year, they happened often enough to make themselves familiar. Once I went zooming to the ceiling of the school gym as if sucked up by a vacuum. I dangled there looking down on a scene that was small as a dollhouse, everything normal about it. My PE teacher blew herself red on her whistle while my six classmates and I, all of us looking a bit zaftig in our blue shorts and white snap blouses,
thundered across the polished wooden floor. No one else seemed aware that while my body was stampeding along with the rest of the herd, I wasn’t there at all. I’d become a much more delicate presence adrift in the rafters, smiling down on our sweaty race as if it were a mildly amusing bit of low comedy. Decades later in London, where
I’d gone to perform one of my one-woman shows, I saw something of the same kind of life in miniature in a pennymechanical shop. A carved wooden man, not much bigger than my own thumb, was sleeping on a perfectly detailed cloth and wooden bed inside his tiny bedroom. He slept there until I dropped in a coin that clicked the switch that set it all in motion. With a ticking noise, the window of his minuscule room flew open and a dream horse, its nostrils and eyes painted to look as wild and flaring as its mane,
poked its head through the gap. Up the little man sat, his closed doll eyes snapping wide with alarm as the horse reared and the wooden chair at the foot of the bed tilted and twirled. Watching that nightmare unfold in the little man’s shoebox of a room awakened in me the same queasy prickle of enchantment I’d felt as a kid, looking down on a play-pretend world.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Nine ix

Part I Drowning

Them and Me 3

Visions 17

Presto Change-o 25

Meaner 35

The Performance of Drowning 43

Lost Boy 59

Part II Passing

Little-d Deaf 73

On Being Told No 83

Passing Strange 93

Drag Acts 105

Shhhhhh! 123

Jobs for the Deaf 143

The Shallow End 149

Part III Emerging

Scare 167

Who Died and What Killed Them 189

Why I Should Matter 201

Epilogue: A Happy Life ... 221

Customer Reviews

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Mean Little Deaf Queer: A Memoir 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
lilyfyrestorm More than 1 year ago
As more and more memoirs are published, it becomes harder to find a unique 'hook.' Terry Galloway is both deaf and a lesbian, so it was intriguing to pick up this memoir if just to find out how those two characteristics influenced her life. It seems that being deaf was the more salient point of the memoir and her queerness was more of a secondary tale, but that doesn't take away from the narrative at all. The book is <i>very</i> loosely chronological; in fact, most of the chapters are more like essays on a theme, skipping forward and back to tell a whole story. I enjoyed reading about Galloway's experiences in the theater and with other people who are disabled the most. An intriguing second project for Galloway might be to collect and publish the stories she alludes to in her final chapter about her Actual Lives cohorts, a performance group for those with disabilities. I find her family and friends almost unbelievably liberal and accepting, more okay with her sexual identity than with her disability, and this strikes me as odd, but sort of refreshing; especially considering she spent almost all her life in the Conservative American South. However, I get the feeling that there was more discrimination she had to deal with than she relates; almost all the derogatory comments in the book are made about her deafness. One thing I was disappointed by was that most of the cover blurbs and other advertising about this book portray it as 'hilarious.' I found very little of it funny and only laughed out loud once. It was still a great book, but I expected something slightly different from reading the promotional material. That is more a failing of the publisher than the author, of course, and others with a different sense of humor might actually find it funnier than I did. Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes memoirs, especially people who, like me, are becoming increasingly bored with the genre.
echo2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a funny, electrical, no-bullshit tale by a wry and talented author. Terry Galloway navigates the waters that have drowned many a wannabe memoirist -- disability, sexual identity, and mental health among them -- with ease, evoking compassion but never pity. Whether she's describing the politics and hierarchies of Deaf culture (not to be confused with the world of the "little-d" deaf) or the challenges of appearing imperfect in the theater world, Galloway's observations are always spot-on and perfectly timed. If you like memoirs at all, read this one.
ninarucker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The subject matter of Galloway's book was interesting but I did not like the way she told her story. It was too pieced together feeling. I found myself skimming over parts of this book because it was far too drawn out.
ijustgetbored on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Galloway's book is, as you may have guessed by the title, no sentimental tear-jerker about being deaf in a hearing world. Rather, it is an all-out, no-holds-barred testimony to living live to the fullest in your own way and taking advantage of whatever life may happen to throw at you. Galloway's spunky attitude is refreshing and often hilarious, and her personality shines through in her memoir. She wastes no space on meandering by-the-ways, and she's always hitting the mark directly. Her family and friends provide constant support to the memoir, as she tenderly and sharply characterizes them; the cast is unbeatable. Highly recommended.
kepitcher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Becoming a theatre professional is hard enough, but Terry Galloway's memoir of her life as a performer with disabilities showcased how difficult it truly is for someone to break into the theatre world with challenges. However, she uses too much space in her book to highlight her bad love life decisions and too little talking about the hurdles and problems those with disabilities face. The book felt like a series of vignettes strung together, rather than a cohesive whole. Her stories were full of spark and life, she's a good writer, but the book needed to be pulled together. In the last section, Galloway's description of her father's last few days was mesmerizing and heartbreaking and I finished the book wishing she had written more like that throughout the book. Still, Galloway does have something to say and is a funny and sharp storyteller. I'm going to look out for a short story collection, which I know must be on the horizon. Recommended.
jmzarate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked the first half of Terry Galloway's Mean Little deaf Queer, but I found the 2nd half of the book fairly rambling and tedious to get through. I think Ms. Galloway has a ton of great stories to tell, and those that she does tell in full description are funny (not so much laugh out loud funny, perhaps more bemusing) and interesting and really catch the reader's attention. When she goes on her tangents after starting a story and bounces around, it can be somewhat hard to figure out if she's remembering the past or switching her main story or what the heck is going on. I almost felt like the bulk of this memoir was an outline for her to go back and expand upon. I would love to read more stories about her youth and her family as well as her theatre days and all her relationships (tortured and not). I never felt this was a "pity me" memoir but more, this is how it was, this is my life, this happened, so deal with it. Her honesty with the lowest points in her life and very refreshing insomuch that she didn't wallow in the low points as much as state that they happened. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading about someone's life that is definitely "alternative" (a term she uses a lot). It's not for the faint of heart or the prissy, so if those who get their sensibilities all bent out sort because of the smallest thing probably should pass this book by.I hope Ms. Galloway writes more and centers her writing on specifics of her life instead of trying to encompass so much in so little space.
EmScape on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As more and more memoirs are published, it becomes harder to find a unique 'hook.' Terry Galloway is both deaf and a lesbian, so it was intriguing to pick up this memoir if just to find out how those two characteristics influenced her life. It seems that being deaf was the more salient point of the memoir and her queerness was more of a secondary tale, but that doesn't take away from the narrative at all. The book is very loosely chronological; in fact, most of the chapters are more like essays on a theme, skipping forward and back to tell a whole story. I enjoyed reading about Galloway's experiences in the theater and with other people who are disabled the most. An intriguing second project for Galloway might be to collect and publish the stories she alludes to in her final chapter about her Actual Lives cohorts, a performance group for those with disabilities. I find her family and friends almost unbelievably liberal and accepting, more okay with her sexual identity than with her disability, and this strikes me as odd, but sort of refreshing; especially considering she spent almost all her life in the Conservative American South. However, I get the feeling that there was more discrimination she had to deal with than she relates; almost all the derogatory comments in the book are made about her deafness. One thing I was disappointed by was that most of the cover blurbs and other advertising about this book portray it as 'hilarious.' I found very little of it funny and only laughed out loud once. It was still a great book, but I expected something slightly different from reading the promotional material. That is more a failing of the publisher than the author, of course, and others with a different sense of humor might actually find it funnier than I did.Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes memoirs, especially people who, like me, are becoming increasingly bored with the genre.
leaseylease on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Definately not "hilarious," as others have pointed out. I found it hard to follow and on the boring side. I'm sure the theater work the author did and does is much better in real life, but reading about it was quite yawn-inducing.
lorimarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿m always drawn to memoirs because I can¿t remember what I did last week, let alone 20 or 30 years ago. All the drama surrounding Terry with her disability and her sexuality made for lots of interesting stories. I found the book to be a very good read. I sometimes felt a little like I was searching the web, what I mean is that one story would turn into a completely different story all together. But it worked. I don¿t have the need to read a story in chronological order. I most enjoyed the different family stories, especially when she was growing up in Germany and later in Texas. My only complaint would be that all the things I read about the book before I read it said how hilarious it was. I was expecting something along the lines of David Sedaris. True there were some funny moments, but mostly it seemed to me an honest and heartfelt story about growing up different. I enjoyed it quite a bit and would recommend it to anyone who likes to read about other people¿s lives.
texichan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an entertaining book, though it dragged quite a bit more than I would have liked. I ended up forcing myself to press on quite a bit. Terry creates mixed feelings in me - certainly riding a line between sympathy, disdain, empathy, etc. She often seems to be that one child that is immensely agitating, but at least she throws in reasoning and background as to why it was such a way, which is nice. I appreciate the insight. I find it difficult much of the time to connect with her character type. It certainly isn't laugh-out-loud hilarity, but more of a blunt survey of an interesting and peculiar life. Worth a read, but not at the top of my list.
madhatter22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Terry Galloway has lived an interesting life, and is a talented storyteller. In "Mean Little deaf Queer" she relates with humor and honesty her struggles with hearing loss and finding her sexual identity, and with determining what the labels "disabled" and "queer" have meant in her life. She conveys her depression and despair without ever sounding whiny, and her triumphs without sounding overly sentimental.Her memoir is not totally devoted to her struggles however. My favorite parts of the book were the family stories - the kind that get told over and over when families get together about the eccentric aunt or the cousin you only whisper about or the strange thing that happened to grandpa that one time. My one criticism is that because her story is not told chronologically, I was a little thrown off at first about the sequence of events. Even after I realized what she was doing, the style made the whole thing feel a bit disjointed.Overall though, I enjoyed "Mean Little deaf Queer", and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs.
ldellinger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Terry Galloway wasn't born deaf. She lost her hearing slowly when she was nine, around the same age that she began realizing that she is a lesbian.Her memoir was funny at times, but mostly it was a well-written story of her life, her family and their lore. Galloway's peeks back to her childhood were often heartbreaking, as were her stories of adulthood depression and suicide attempts. Her discovery and sexual experimentation with women recall Sedaris and Burroughs; they're real and honest but never exploited, never overplayed to shock her reader. Overall, her story of self-discovery was interesting, funny, and well-worth the read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago