Tuesday, September 28, 2010
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (100th Anniversary Edition)
Modern Library (Random House)
Hardcover, 400 pages
Winston Churchill has called her, “the greatest woman of our age”, and Mark Twain has said she is one of the most interesting characters of the nineteenth century. Who is she? you may ask. Helen Keller, “the only well-educated deaf and blind person in the world”, as stated by John Albert Macy, her editor.
Ever since I read The Story of Helen Keller by Lorena A. Hickok when I was a child, I have been fascinated by her. Now many years later, reading the restored 100th anniversary edition of her autobiography, The Story of My Life, with additional letters and supplementary accounts of her education, my perspectives of this courageous and determined woman and also her teacher, Anne Sullivan, have been enhanced. This book is the story of two women, because one would not be the same without the other.
Two things really stood out for me after reading this book: the extend one can achieve when faced with insurmountable obstacles and supercedes them; and the powerful work of dedicated teachers when they use their skills to open up the world of knowledge to their students. Helen Keller was such an accomplished woman, and her writings prove it. She is eloquent and some of her descriptions of her love of nature truly touched me. At some points the reading is slow as she goes into detail about her education, but I suppose this was something expected in her biography since her education was unlike any other.
I was totally flabbergasted at how Sullivan finger spelled everything into her hand, whole books and speeches at such a rapid pace that Keller says she no longer felt each manual letter of the alphabet but whole sentences instead, just like when we read, we do not see individual letters on the page but our minds group the words into sentences. Helen Keller was able to place her hand lightly on someone’s face and lip-read. She mastered oral speech, was the first deaf-blind graduate of Radcliffe College, and became a high-profile socialist and advocate for the blind and deaf communities. She had an amazing mind and would not let physical disability stop her.
The best part of the book for me was reading Sullivan’s account through her letters of how she educated Helen Keller. The movie, The Miracle Worker, is based on these accounts and we see the triumphant transformation from a wild child who lived in darkness to the accomplished woman who lived her life fully and used it to assist others to do the same.
Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.