The Story of My Life

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9780451528254: The Story of My Life

The Story of My Life is Helen Keller's own account of how she miraculously triumphed over blindness and deafness-and became one of the most inspiring and intriguing figures of our time.

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Helen Keller would not be bound by conditions. Rendered deaf and blind at 19 months by scarlet fever, she learned to read (in several languages) and even speak, eventually graduating with honors from Radcliffe College in 1904, where as a student she wrote The Story of My Life. That she accomplished all of this in an age when few women attended college and the disabled were often relegated to the background, spoken of only in hushed tones, is remarkable. But Keller's many other achievements are impressive by any standard: she authored 13 books, wrote countless articles, and devoted her life to social reform. An active and effective suffragist, pacifist, and socialist (the latter association earned her an FBI file), she lectured on behalf of disabled people everywhere. She also helped start several foundations that continue to improve the lives of the deaf and blind around the world.

As a young girl Keller was obstinate, prone to fits of violence, and seething with rage at her inability to express herself. But at the age of 7 this wild child was transformed when, at the urging of Alexander Graham Bell, Anne Sullivan became her teacher, an event she declares "the most important day I remember in all my life." (Sullivan herself had once been blind, but partially recovered her sight after a series of operations.) In a memorable passage, Keller writes of the day "Teacher" led her to a stream and repeatedly spelled out the letters w-a-t-e-r on one of her hands while pouring water over the other. This method proved a revelation: "That living world awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away." And, indeed, most of them were.

In her lovingly crafted and deeply perceptive autobiography, Keller's joyous spirit is most vividly expressed in her connection to nature:

Indeed, everything that could hum, or buzz, or sing, or bloom, had a part in my education.... Few know what joy it is to feel the roses pressing softly into the hand, or the beautiful motion of the lilies as they sway in the morning breeze. Sometimes I caught an insect in the flower I was plucking, and I felt the faint noise of a pair of wings rubbed together in a sudden terror....

The idea of feeling rather than hearing a sound, or of admiring a flower's motion rather than its color, evokes a strong visceral sensation in the reader, giving The Story of My Life a subtle power and beauty. Keller's celebration of discovery becomes our own. In the end, this blind and deaf woman succeeds in sharpening our eyes and ears to the beauty of the world. --Shawn Carkonen

From the Back Cover:

When she was 19 months old, Helen Keller (1880–1968) suffered a severe illness that left her blind and deaf. Not long after, she also became mute. Her tenacious struggle to overcome these handicaps-with the help of her inspired teacher, Anne Sullivan-is one of the great stories of human courage and dedication. In this classic autobiography, first published in 1903, Miss Keller recounts the first 22 years of her life, including the magical moment at the water pump when, recognizing the connection between the word "water" and the cold liquid flowing over her hand, she realized that objects had names. Subsequent experiences were equally noteworthy: her joy at eventually learning to speak, her friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edward Everett Hale and other notables, her education at Radcliffe (from which she graduated cum laude), and-underlying all-her extraordinary relationship with Miss Sullivan, who showed a remarkable genius for communicating with her eager and quick-to-learn pupil. These and many other aspects of Helen Keller's life are presented here in clear, straightforward prose full of wonderful descriptions and imagery that would do credit to a sighted writer. Completely devoid of self-pity, yet full of love and compassion for others, this deeply moving memoir offers an unforgettable portrait of one of the outstanding women of the twentieth century.

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