All Eyes: A Memoir of Deafness
Bainy B. Cyrus
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (11/10)
“All Eyes” by Bainy B. Cyrus is a brave, eye-opening and enlightening book on growing up deaf in both hearing and deaf worlds. Born in 1961, she was a happy and seemingly healthy baby, until her family realized that she was not reacting to even the loudest of voices. The subsequent tests determined that she had severe hearing loss and her parents decided to enroll her in a very highly-thought-of school of oralism, Clarke. The only problem with Clarke was that it was some 700 miles away, and Bainy was only 5-years-old. It is hard to imagine the challenges she faced at such an early age, being separated from her parents and three brothers, but luckily she loved the school and the teachers there, and she also developed a life-long friendship with two girls, Cheryl and Diane, whom she met at Clarke and whose families all but adopted her and offered her love and support.
Reading “All Eyes” brought back a lot of memories. I grew up playing with my next door neighbor, Anita, who was deaf, as well as her brother Jani, who was not. I never felt that we played any differently as the other kids, and I clearly remember going to a neighborhood dance and seeing Anita dance to the beat, and looking really good doing it. But reading “All Eyes” I finally realized how many challenges Anita faced, and how well she overcame them if I never felt her to be any different from the rest of us. Bainy’s explanations of how tough it is for a deaf child to learn how to talk, and to react appropriately in society without being able to hear all of the auditory clues, as well as her explanations about oralism (lip reading/speaking) versus signing, were truly eye-opening. Her quotes about the extremely low success rate of marriage between a deaf and a hearing partner (according to some sources as low as three percent) made me think about how wide the gap (or rather a chasm) between the hearing and the deaf worlds was, and how little we tend to do to bridge it. As Bainy says several times in her book, deaf people are not stupid. They just learn differently and they need others to understand that and be patient with them.
What could have been a rather heartbreaking or distressing story ended up to be an uplifting and optimistic reading. A lot of factual information mixed with a healthy dose of humor and a ton of honesty turned “All Eyes” into a rare gem – a book about a real challenge that made me both smile and think. I wish everybody would read it and think about it. As author Bainy B. Cyrus says at the very end of the book, “Finally, this memoir has another goal: to encourage the majority to learn and appreciate a disability of any kind in general. It’s time to break ground and get to work. We need to build a bridge and cross it soon. It has been too long.”