Monday, March 22, 2010

Promoting 'Pig"

In these economically worrisome times, an author just cannot be shy and diffident about Boosting the Product. The alternative is publishing oblivion. Here, therefore, is the University of Illinois' Press's promotional copy -- it'll also appear on the cover -- for the second edition of my first book, What's That Pig Outdoors?, coming in August. The U of I folks just finished touching it up.

What's That Pig Outdoors:
A Memoir of Deafness

Henry Kisor
with a new epilogue by the author
Foreword by Walker Percy

An updated version of the memoir that changed perceptions of the deaf

"A liberating document--and a heck of a good read."

"May well become an American classic."
--New York Times

"Genial and moving, sharp and witty."
--Publishers Weekly

"I love this book. It is witty, profound, and unself-pitying. It is the best account of growing up deaf since David Wright's Deafness."
--Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat

Henry Kisor lost his hearing at age three to meningitis and encephalitis but went on to excel in the most verbal of professions as a literary journalist. This new and expanded edition of Kisor's engrossing memoir recounts his life as a deaf person in a hearing world and addresses heartening changes over the last two decades due to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and advancements in cochlear implants and modes of communication.

Kisor tells of his parents' drive to raise him as a member of the hearing and speaking world by teaching him effective lip-reading skills at a young age and encouraging him to communicate with his hearing peers. With humor and much candor, he narrates his time as the only deaf student at Trinity College in Connecticut and then as a graduate student at Northwestern University, as well as his successful career as the book review editor at the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News. Life without hearing, Kisor says, has been fine and fulfilling.

Widely praised in popular media and academic journals when it was first published in 1990, What's That Pig Outdoors? opened new conversations about the deaf. Bringing those conversations into the twenty-first century, Kisor updates the continuing disagreements between those who advocate sign language and those who practice speech and lip-reading, discusses the increased acceptance of deaf people's abilities and idiosyncrasies, and considers technological advancements such as blogging, instant messaging, and hand-held mobile devices that have enabled deaf people to communicate with the hearing world on its own terms.

Henry Kisor is a retired book review editor and literary columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He is the author of Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America and Flight of the Gin Fizz: Midlife at 4,500 Feet, as well as three mystery novels, Season's Revenge, A Venture into Murder, and Cache of Corpses.
So it goes, even though it feels immodest.


  1. What about cochlear implants? Aren't they the most important recent development for deaf people?

  2. Indeed yes, for many deaf people. The new edition does continue the discussion. But I don't have a cochlear implant and therefore it shouldn't be mentioned in a list of the devices and developments that have benefited me personally.

  3. Why haven't you got a cochlear implant? Don't they turn deaf people into hearing ones?

  4. Cochlear implants work for many, but not for all. Two factors mitigated against one for me:

    1. I have been deaf since age 3, and by the time the first CIs rolled around in the mid-1980s I had lost all memory of hearing.

    2. My inner ear has become completely ossified, hence the likelihood of getting a sufficient number of electrodes into the cochlea for effective hearing is poor.

    There is some chance that the CI would give me an awareness of environmental sound, but there is very little chance of being able to understand speech without lipreading as well. Some people in my situation are willing to give it a try, hoping for the best, but more often than not give up trying to make the thing work.

    But this is not to denigrate the CI for many, many deaf people -- it works for them. I'm keeping an eye on advances in the state of the art just in case . . .

  5. I remember reading your comments about the state of CI technology and candidacy with your first version (and I am so excited that you have an updated version out and look forward to reading it!) and if it weren't for your inner ear ossification I would make the case for giving it the old college try. As a progressively deafened person, I had different factors to consider in making the decision to become a cochlear implant recipient. I have little doubt that one day they will be able to reconstruct the inner ear in such a way as to make that factor not as much of an impediment. In fact, as I'm sure you know, they can do that to some extent today. My nine year old niece, who lives in Israel with my sister (also a CI recipient) got her implant late last year following structural repair needed as a result of ear drum perforation and scarring from failed surgeries on that end. So things are happening every day that we didn't think possible even just a few years ago.