Rachel Zemach became Deaf at age ten, and has lived with one foot in both the Deaf and hearing worlds since then. After teaching Deaf students for ten years in a hearing, public school she became more solidified in her Deaf-with-a-capital-D identity. She loved thee job passionately but found it a shockingly, un-necessarily obstacle-laden environment for Deaf students and felt compelled to write a memoir describing it, with the goal of educating hearing people and enacting change. The Butterfly Cage came out April 26, 2023 and has gotten strong reviews.
As a Deaf person, she doesn’t listen to radio, and had never heard of this show. But when talking with Mark Alyn of Late Night Health she was struck by two things: the passion HE has, when it comes to health issues, and the quick understanding of a person with little knowledge of the Deaf perspective, once they are exposed to it. As an added bonus, Mark wears hearing aids. Reaching hard of hearing people, or “Inbetweeners,” as she calls them, is important to Zemach, because many are less connected to the Deaf community. They are struggling with similar issues to more fully Deaf people, but without access to the support, camaraderie or coping mechanisms Deaf people have and share with each other. Thus, they experience the problems of hearing “loss,” while missing out on its benefits.
This is the essence of her book, and of the conversation that transpired here; the beauty and gifts of Deaf culture, even for “hard of hearing” people. It also touched on language deprivation, the innocent but harmful mind-set that leads hearing people (including administrators) to assume that speaking, listening devices, and “fitting in” are good goals for Deaf children in public schools, and how that mind-set causes major and often irreparable, life-time problems