Genres: Classic, Memoir
The Short, Sweet, and Spoiler-Free Blurb:
An American classic rediscovered by each generation, The Story of My Life is Helen Keller’s account of her triumph over deafness and blindness. Popularized by the stage play and movie The Miracle Worker, Keller’s story has become a symbol of hope for people all over the world.
This book–published when Keller was only twenty-two–portrays the wild child who is locked in the dark and silent prison of her own body. With an extraordinary immediacy, Keller reveals her frustrations and rage, and takes the reader on the unforgettable journey of her education and breakthroughs into the world of communication. From the moment Keller recognizes the word “water” when her teacher finger-spells the letters, we share her triumph as “that living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!” An unparalleled chronicle of courage, The Story of My Life remains startlingly fresh and vital more than a century after its first publication, a timeless testament to an indomitable will.
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller is a beautiful memoir about the power of love, language, and learning. It was sad and humbling to hear Helen describe how desperate she was to communicate with people. Since Helen was deaf and blind, she would go into a rage after being so frustrated that no one could understand her. That really struck home with me. In college, I babysat a 5 year old boy who couldn’t talk because he had cerebral palsy. He could answer yes or no to my questions by shaking or nodding his head. There were times when I asked every question I could think of and he would break down in tears of frustration – just like Helen Keller described. It was heartbreaking to see. When the boy I babysat went to school and learned more complex sign language, he lit up. I still remember the first time he was able to tell me a story. He was absolutely glowing with joy. Helen Keller’s story of learning was very touching to me since it similar to the experience that the boy I knew had.
How she was able to learn language was very interesting to read about since she was old to enough to remember the experience of understanding words for the first time. Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, used a method of teaching with Helen that had never been done before. The pedagogy behind how Annie taught language to someone who couldn’t hear or see was fascinating. She had to break down and really think about how kids normally learn language and translate it into the senses that Helen had access to. She realized that kids acquire language through imitation and through hearing it all day long every day. So Annie would spell words into Helen’s hand all day long about everything they were doing even though Helen didn’t know what the words meant yet. Helen learned that words represented the things that she could touch. It was a bittersweet moment when Annie tries to teach Helen what love is and Helen can’t understand why her teacher won’t show it to her.
…how happy your little Helen was when her teacher explained to her that the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched, but just felt in the heart.
-Helen Keller, in a letter written to Rev. Phillips Brooks, June 8, 1891.
Before reading this, I had never realized how important books would be to Helen Keller. They were a huge part of how she experienced a world that she couldn’t see or hear. She talked about books as if they were her friends.
I have not shown how much I have depended on books not only for pleasure and for the wisdom they bring to all who read, but also for that knowledge which comes to others through their eyes and their ears. Indeed, books have meant so much more in my education than in that of others …
– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 21
There was a huge list of books that she read. You know me. Of course I wrote them all down.
Books Helen Keller Read
- As You Like It By William Shakespeare
- Speech on Conciliation with America by Edmund Burke
- Life of Samuel Johnson by Thomas Macaulay
- Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens
- The Arabian Nights
- The Swiss Family Robinson
- The Pilgrim’s Progress
- Robinson Crusoe
- Little Women
- Treasure Island
- Robinson Crusoe
- Jungle Book
Because reading had such an influence on her, she often described things the way that someone could see would. She would describe trees as green even though she had never seen the color green because that’s what books described them as. That being said, I noticed that a lot of her descriptions – especially of nature – centered on their scent and feel. Also, I want to write book reviews the way that Helen Keller does.
The “Iliad” is beautiful with all the truth, and grace and simplicity of a wonderfully childlike people while the “Aeneid” is more stately and reserved. It is like a beautiful maiden, who always lived in a palace, surrounded by a magnificent court; while the “Iliad” is like a splendid youth, who has had the earth for his playground.
– Helen Keller, in a letter to Mrs. Laurence Hutton, October 23, 1898
Helen desperately wanted to go to college but practical things made it extremely difficult. She struggled with being able to even take tests since they had to be dictated to her. Books weren’t available in braille quickly enough and she would fall behind in classes. Lectures had to be written down in advance for her to follow along. It makes me appreciate not only my education but the technology today that allows equal access to books for people with disabilities. I just wanted to travel back in time and make her books because they were so hard to get in braille! As much as Helen loved books, she hated tests. Like really, really hated them. She describes the feeling of forgetting an answer on a test perfectly.
You are sure it is somewhere in your mind near the top—you saw it there the other day when you were looking up the beginnings of the Reformation. But where is it now? You fish out all manner of odds and ends of knowledge—revolutions, schisms, massacres, systems of government; but Huss—where is he? You are amazed at all the things you know which are not on the examination paper.
– Helen Keller, The Story of My Life, Chapter 20
She talks about the administration of the school and how they sometimes unintentionally made things even more difficult for her. But instead of letting it frustrate her, she felt accomplished that not only had she gotten an education but she had overcome the challenges in getting one as well.
Overall, it’s an amazing story of overcoming difficult trials and making the best of what is given to us.
Content Rating: None. Clean read.
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