Shall I Say A Kiss?: The Courtship Letters of a Deaf Couple, 1936-1938

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9781563680762: Shall I Say A Kiss?: The Courtship Letters of a Deaf Couple, 1936-1938
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Upon the death of his father Morris at age 82, Lennard Davis found among his effects a trove of letters, kept in careful chronological order, that dated from 1936. The letters ended in 1938, when Eva Weintrobe came to America to marry Morris, and they provide the core of Shall I Say A Kiss?, their courtship by correspondence.

Shall I Say A Kiss? opens a window into the lives of two working-class, Jewish, British, Deaf people in the 1930s, by offering an account of their "lived" experience during the tumultuous times just prior to World War II. Mostly written by Eva, the letters focus further as a record of the opinions of a young, working-class, Deaf woman about to embark upon marriage and life in a new country. The challenges she faced, including de facto barriers for both deaf and Jewish immigrants, and the prospect of uniting with a man she knew mostly through his letters alone, make for a compelling and emotional trip through her life. Shall I Say A Kiss? serves as a singular social document and also as an engaging and often moving narrative that will win audiences among academics and romantics alike.

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From the Back Cover:

Like couples since the beginning of time, Morris Davis and Eva Weintrobe began in 1936 the tenuous process of pursuing a romance together. Historically, their courtship by correspondence offers a rare and remarkable record of the "lived lives" of two Deaf, Jewish, British individuals in a portentous era that included the Great Depression and the antecedents of World War II. However, except for the keen, contextual observations offered by their editor (and son) Lennard J. Davis, Morris and Eva referred to these matters only when they became impediments to their shared goal of marriage. That this couple was deaf only arises in passing remarks about social events sponsored by a Deaf club. That they had to overcome bias because they were deaf and Jewish became a more insidious difficulty, as shown in the letters they exchanged with United States Immigration officials who worked to prevent Eva's move to America. Because most of the letters presented in Shall I Say a Kiss? are Eva's, the heart of this book lies in the expression of her changing emotions as a young woman asked to leave her family and country for an ardent suitor whom she sometimes found too forward. The course of her feelings can be seen to change subtly by noting the formality of her courteous salutations contrasted by evermore affectionate closings - "With best love & shall I say a kiss." Throughout, Eva never loses sight of the realities of their time. She frequently mentions as fact, not complaint, her constant workload as a seamstress. Ultimately, Eva's vision wins out, as her final letters in 1938 disclose her preparations to join Morris in America.

About the Author:

Lennard J. Davis is head of the English Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he is also Professor of Disability and Human Development. His books include "Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness and the Body" and "The Disability Studies Reader".

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