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The Invention of Miracles

language, power, and Alexander Graham Bell's quest to end deafness

Katie Booth



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Scribe Publications
06 April 2021
A revelatory revisionist biography of Alexander Graham Bell - renowned inventor of the telephone and hated enemy of the Deaf community.

When Alexander Graham Bell first unveiled his telephone to the world, it was considered miraculous. But few people know that it was inspired by another supposed miracle- his work teaching the deaf to speak. The son of one deaf woman and husband to another, he was motivated by a desire to empower deaf people by integrating them into the hearing world, but he ended up becoming their most powerful enemy, waging a war against sign language and deaf culture that still rages today.

The Invention of Miracles tells the dual stories of Bell's remarkable, world-changing invention and his dangerous ethnocide of deaf culture and language. It also charts the rise of deaf activism and tells the triumphant tale of a community reclaiming a once-forbidden language.

Katie Booth has researched this story for over a decade, poring over Bell's papers, Library of Congress archives, and the records of deaf schools around America. Witnessing the damaging impact of Bell's legacy on her deaf family set her on a path that upturned everything she thought she knew about language, power, deafness, and technology.

'Engagingly written ... Booth's descriptions of Bell's passionate courtship of his student Mabel Hubbard, who belonged to a much higher social class, are as stirring as a romance novel, and her narrative of his work on the telephone reads like a thriller ... Her meticulous research and rigour are evident on every page ... Booth's anger reflects a current trend of holding people from the past to standards of the present.' -Andrew Solomon, The New York Times 'Booth paints a textured portrait of a man driven not by an entrepreneurial desire to invent a product that changed the world but by a passion to improve the lives of deaf people. Booth interweaves these two themes into a revealing biography that will enlighten readers ... Much of Booth's biography carefully details Bell's personal life and his marriage, she does not spare a careful assessment of his theories and politics ... Booth has exhaustively researched Bell's long life in preparation for her biography and provides many invaluable insights and information ... an informative and revealing biography.' -David Rosen, The New York Journal of Books 'As schoolchildren we learn that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. We don't learn that this is among the least interesting things about him. It takes a book like Katie Booth's The Invention of Miracles to teach us that. Provocative, personal, and exhaustively researched, Booth's book is the rare biography that completely alters a famous person's popular image ... Booth has the courage and perspective to portray her subject's deeply flawed humanity, giving the book its poetry and tragic resonance.' -The Boston Globe
Imprint:   Scribe Publications
Country of Publication:   Australia
Dimensions:   Height: 233mm,  Width: 154mm,  Spine: 35mm
Weight:   538g
ISBN:   9781922310323
ISBN 10:   1922310328
Series:   Invention of Miracles: Language Power and Alexander Graham Bells Quest to En
Pages:   368
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Katie Booth teaches writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has appeared in The Believer, Aeon, Catapult, and Harper's Magazine, and has been highlighted on Longreads and Longform; 'The Sign for This' was a notable essay in the 2016 edition of Best American Essays. Booth received a number of prestigious fellowships to support the writing of The Invention of Miracles, including from the Library of Congress and the Massachusetts Historical Society. She was raised bilingually and biculturally in a mixed hearing/Deaf family.

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