Life After Deaf
By Noel Holston. (Skyhorse Press, 210 pages, $24.99.)
At first they thought the problem might be blocked sinuses, but when Noel Holston’s hearing evaporated overnight and did not return, he and his wife, Marty, headed to the doctor. The news was sobering: The microscopic hairs in his inner ear that catch sound had collapsed, and with them Holston’s hearing. A battery of tests ruled out a multitude of causes and, in the end, the cause was not that important. “There were only so many options available” for treatment, his doctor said.
“Life After Deaf,” Holston’s memoir of losing his hearing at age 62, is a graceful and compelling read. As the title hints, and as Holston himself admits, he has never met a pun he didn’t like, so consider yourself forewarned — there are plenty. (He originally planned to call the book “Deaf Be Not Proud,” and one chapter is titled “Ear We Go Again.”)
But puns aside, the story moves quickly, with anger, frustration and humor, as Holston navigates this new, silent world that, he said, “was making me invisible.” Holston — a former TV critic for the Star Tribune now living in Georgia — writes about the isolation he felt, unable to participate in conversations, reduced to communicating with co-workers through texting or written notes even when in the same room. And living without his beloved music — he is a songwriter, and his wife a singer — was excruciating.
There are unexpected inconveniences — one day he accidentally left his car running, unable to hear the engine or the warning beeps that sounded when he locked the door and walked away. And one night he locked his wife out of their hotel room, unable to hear her knocks.
The technical and medical details, the frustrating fights with the insurance company, the failed first operation, the better second one — all are folded seamlessly into the narrative. Cherish your ears, Holston tells the reader. Cherish your senses. “I wanted sound, musical sound, back in my life,” he writes. “A chorus, a chorus, my kingdom for a chorus!”
Highway of Tears
By Jessica McDiarmid. (Atria Books, 352 pages, $28.)
Highway 16 transects British Columbia and takes travelers from the Haida Gwai archipelago to the B.C.-Alberta border, where it continues east. A 450-mile corridor that connects Prince George and Prince Rupert is better known as the “Highway of Tears,” after dozens of First Nations women went missing or were murdered between the two cities. As journalist Jessica McDiarmid documents, the lack of attention paid by authorities and the Canadian public to the losses suffered by the small communities that dot the highway is, in fact, a reflection of a fraught history of neglect and oppression of Native Canadians. McDiarmid profiles several of the murdered women and gives voice to their grieving families. She also reveals how the lack of infrastructure and services along the highway meant that many women had to rely on hitchhiking in order to travel to work and home, which made them vulnerable to unpublicized dangers.