Jennifer Rosner's revelatory memoir explores family, silence, and what it means to be heard. When her daughters are born deaf, Rosner is stunned. Then, she discovers a hidden history of deafness in her family, going back generations to the Jewish enclaves of Eastern Europe. Traveling back in time, she imagines her silent relatives, who showed surprising creativity in dealing with a world that preferred to ignore them.
Rosner shares her journey into the modern world of deafness, and the controversial decisions she and her husband have made about hearing aids, cochlear implants and sign language. An imaginative odyssey, punctuated by memories of going unheard, Rosner's story of her daughters' deafness is at heart a story of whether she – a mother with perfect hearing – will hear her children.
If a Tree Falls is a poignant meditation on life’s most unpredictable moments, as well as the delights and triumphs hidden within them.
“I read If A Tree Falls in one enchanted sitting, impressed by the delicacy and beauty of the two stories that Jennifer Rosner wraps around each other. Rosner's memoir of raising two deaf children is studded with insights gleaned from tested parenthood. But then, in addition, she offers us the joys of fine fiction as she imagines what life might have been like for the unknown deaf ancestors she discovers in the quest to understand her own daughters. Deep and moving truths fall out of the interweaving, as deafness becomes a means of exploring the grave obstacles we all face in knowing what it is like to be another, and the loving attentiveness with which we strive to overcome the barriers.”
–Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction
“This beautiful book about hearing makes you realize what a small role ears might turn out to play. It's about listening--really listening--to children, history, and one's own, knowing heart; it's about how damage might turn inside out to become the most sublime kind of luck. Read it because you have deaf kids or hearing kids, or because you have ever loved anybody in your life. Or read it just because it's an exquisite memoir--like a can't-put-it-down novel, but crossed with poetry and glossed with the unmistakable shine of truth.”
–Catherine Newman, author of Waiting for Birdy
“With profound honesty and endearing humility, Rosner writes about the searing emotional challenges that parents can face, and about absorbing these lessons and moving into deeper wisdom. A beautiful, deeply felt exploration of love and hard choices.”
–Josh Swiller, author of The Unheard: A Memoir of Deafness and Africa
“This wrenching journey into deafness from the standpoint of a mother, a wife, a daughter, a philosopher, and a Jew. If a Tree Falls explores the meaning of sound in a soundless world. It shows the extent to which what we hear comes not only from our contemporaries but from the people who came before us and those who will succeed us. Jennifer Rosner writes with enviable courage.”
–Ilan Stavans, author of On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language
“Jennifer Rosner's If a Tree Falls is the kind of memoir that reminds the reader on every page how we are all part of the same long line: complicated selves finding our way in a world that challenges us to discover our deepest resilience and untold strengths. The first marvel of this book is the love and wonder Rosner brings to her journey. The second is the lyrical prose she uses to describe that journey. A haunting, moving and lovely book.”
–Vicki Forman, author of This Lovely Life: A Memoir of Premature Motherhood
Rosner turns what could have been a depressing story into a gentle meditation on sound and silence, love and family. She writes with honesty and empathy about her daughter Sophia's diagnosis with deafness and the adjustments she and her husband had to make. She describes the birth of her second daughter, Juliet, a few years later (who received a similar diagnosis) and shares the programs and technology available to help the hearing impaired. "Bill and I were talkers. We were constantly debating, questioning, arguing, doubting, agreeing, wondering aloud. And we were hearers, in the hearing world. A soundless, wordless world was unimaginable to us." The author can't resist looking into the hows and whys of her situation and examines her family tree only to find relatives generations ago who had been deaf. She also works to reconcile her difficult relationship with her mother and asks frequent theoretical questions: "What are the elements essential for identity, for personhood, for perception and existence?" She fills the discussion with philosophy and grace. (May)
Deafness In the Family Tree: You Must Hear This Story
August 31, 2010 : An interview by Cammie McGovern of Faster Times