At age four, Jessica White lost most of her hearing through bacterial meningitis. Growing up in an isolated rural community among hearing people, she was raised as a hearing person. She wasn’t taught to sign.
As an adult researcher, White discovered the story of Maud Praed, the deaf daughter of 19th-century Queensland novelist Rosa Praed, who was taught to speak rather than sign despite having no hearing at all. White realised how difficult her and Maud's lives had been because of the expectation that deaf people should be like hearing people – rather than learning their own language and culture.
In Hearing Maud – a highly unusual and original work of creative nonfiction – White unpicks the connections and intersections between Maud Praed’s life and her own. She delves, too, into the history of deafness in Australian literature, both by and about deaf people. White's eloquent and affecting account of her own daily frustrations with hearing tells us both how much and how little things have changed since Maud lived. Have we really evolved in our understanding of speech and deafness?
Part memoir and part biography, Hearing Maud is about finding kindred spirits in history. Join this singular voice in Australian literature for a discussion with Fiona Wright about writing, disability, and how we try, and fail, and try again to understand each other.
Readings will be our bookseller for this event.
This event will be Auslan interpeted.
Jessica White is the author of A Curious Intimacy (Viking, 2007), for which she was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist, and Entitlement (Viking, 2012). Jessica’s work has appeared widely in literary journals, including Meanjin, Southerly, Review of Australian Fiction, Overland, Island and Griffith Review, as well as numerous academic publications. She has also been shortlisted or longlisted for prizes such as the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, the Calibre Prize, the Elizabeth Jolley Prize and the Peter Blazey Award for life writing. She currently researches and lectures at the University of Queensland.
Fiona Wright is a writer, editor and critic from Sydney. Her book of essays Small Acts of Disappearance won the 2016 Kibble Award and the Queensland Literary Award for non-fiction, and her new collection, The World Was Whole was longlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize. Her poetry collections are Knuckled (2011) and Domestic Interior (2017).