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Helen Keller: A Life [Paperback]

By Dorothy Herrmann (Author)
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Item description for Helen Keller: A Life by Dorothy Herrmann...

Keller has been venerated a saint or damned as a fraud, but Herrmann shows her to have been a beautiful, intelligent, high-strung, and passionate woman whose life was transformed not only by her disabilities but by remarkable friendships she forged.

Publishers Description
Dorothy Herrmann's powerful biography of Helen Keller tells the whole story of the controversial and turbulent relationship between Helen and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Herrmann also chronicles Helen's doomed love affair, her struggles to earn a living, her triumphs at Radcliffe College, and her work as an advocate for the disabled. Helen Keller has been venerated as a saint or damned as a fraud, but Herrmann shows her to have been a beautiful, intelligent, high-strung, and passionate woman whose life was transformed not only by her disabilities but also by the remarkable people on whose help and friendship she relied.
"Fascinating. . . . Stripping away decades of well-meaning sentimentality, Herrmann presents a pair of strong-willed women, who struggled to build their own lives while never forgetting their dependence on each other."--Ron Charles, "Christian Science Monitor"
"We meet an entirely unexpected Helen Keller--a woman with deep if concealed ambivalence toward her self-sacrificing teacher; a political radical; and a woman longing for romantic love and the fulfilled sexual life of a woman."--Joan Mellen, "Philadelphia Inquirer"
"Herrmann's portrait of Keller is both fully embodied and unflinchingly candid."--Mary Loeffelholz, "Boston Sunday Globe"
"This well-proportioned biography of the deaf and blind girl who became a great American crusader rescues its subject from the shackles of sainthood without destroying her as an American hero."--Dennis Drabelle, "Cleveland Plain Dealer"
"Herrmann's engrossing biography helps us see beyond the public's fascination with how Keller dealt with her disabilities to discover the woman Keller strived to be."--Nancy Seidman, "Atlanta Journal-Constitution"
"Perhaps the most intimate biography of Helen Keller]. Herrmann] gives her back her sexuality and] imbues her with a true humanity. . . . "Helen Keller: A Life" has some of the texture and the dramatic arc of a good novel."--Dinitia Smith, "New York Times"

Citations And Professional Reviews
Helen Keller: A Life by Dorothy Herrmann has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 1017
  • Wilson Senior High Core Col - 01/01/2002 page 464
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 802

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Item Specifications...

Studio: University Of Chicago Press
Pages   394
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.14" Width: 6.11" Height: 1.05"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 15, 1999
Publisher   University Of Chicago Press
Edition  Univ of Chicago  
ISBN  0226327639  
ISBN13  9780226327631  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 23, 2017 01:03.
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More About Dorothy Herrmann

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Dorothy Hermann is the author of "Helen Keller: A Life". She lives in New Hope, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

Dorothy Herrmann currently resides in New Hope, in the state of Pennsylvania.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Entertainers
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > United States > General
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > United States
5Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Special Needs
6Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Specific Groups > Women
7Books > Subjects > Entertainment
8Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Special Groups > Disabled

Reviews - What do customers think about Helen Keller: A Life?

Crisp and clean, offering new insights  Apr 23, 2008
My grandfather saw Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan on one of their vaudeville tours in the early 1920s in St. Louis, and never forgot the experience. Helen never achieved her lifelong goal of speaking in a way that was pleasing or comprehensible to the average person. One intimate called her voice "the loneliest sound in the world," but that night she did recite some of the Lord's Prayer, perhaps as a way of demonstrating that truly, all things are possible, if sometimes imperfect.

Herrmann's book is well organized, accessible and a nice companion to the superior "Helen and Teacher" by Joseph P. Lash. She includes anecdotes I had never read before, some of which are fascinating.

Everyone knows the dining room scene from "The Miracle Worker," in which Annie and Helen fight to the death to teach the child table manners. In adulthood, Ms. Herrmann notes, when Helen was the guest at an elegant luncheon or dinner party, when she was shown to her seat Helen would pass her hand once lightly over her table setting, memorize its layout, and proceed to eat with manners equal to those of her sighted companions. But she would occasionally interrupt the conversation she could not hear to ask a question, with sometimes awkward results.

All her long life, the manual alphabet was Helen's continual link to the outside world; it named objects, gave her directions, and described occurring events or those about to happen. The manual alphabet itself is rudimentary and maddeningly limited. So it was through books that Helen's spirit took flight. Her comprehension of Braille came quickly, and it was through her reading that Helen learned abstract and intangible concepts. Teacher gave her nothing to read but the classics, which captivated Helen, but after Teacher's death she occasionally enjoyed the guilty pleasure of a silly romance novel. Helen learned to do what sighted people do -- which is to read whole words, not individual letters. Teacher insisted that she gain a lot of her knowledge through context, just as a sighted person does. Annie set for Helen a demanding course load, even prior to Helen's entering college, (she graduated with honors from Radcliffe in 1904) which insured that Helen was far more well-rounded academically than the average sighted and hearing woman of her day. (I've long felt that Annie should have received a diploma alongside Helen. After all, she had to learn and understand the same subject matter she translated and interpreted for her pupil. What a feather in her cap that would have been.)

Helen acknowledged that exclusive reliance on the manual alphabet for direct communication with others made her a poor conversationalist. She also said late in life that she was still childish in many ways. But these things can be said of many people without her physical limitations.

There is an extraordinary section devoted to restoring eyesight to the blind, particularly those who lost their sight in infancy and early childhood. Such operations have been performed only about 20 times, and the end results have not been the gift many patients hoped for but more often a curse. The world they have imagined for years, even though they had tantalizing glimpses of it as small children, bears little or no resemblance to what they are at last able to see. Herrmann notes that had Helen been a candidate for restoration of her sight, she might not have even been able to recognize Teacher. Some patients have no concept of spatial relationships, no understanding of relative sizes of objects; they cannot attach the names of the nouns they have learned to the physical objects they see before them. The process has been so frightening some have attempted suicide.

Almost all people with physical disabilities become defined in terms of their limitations, both by others and sometimes themselves. The fascination that Helen Keller held and still holds for people all over the world is rooted in the fact that she refused to accept being deafblind as the sole measure of her identity.

Helen Keller was not a genius nor was she a "plaster saint." There was something enigmatic and haunting about her. She was also seemingly without artifice, and possessed of an unquenchable interest in philosophy, other cultures, even music. The reasons she will continue to be studied by schoolchildren and admired by practically everyone are as numerous as the obstacles this remarkable woman overcame.
A great biography; a disturbing life  Jul 10, 2007
Many or most nondisabled peoples' only knowledge of Helen Keller's life is the events of William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker". If you only know of the events from this play you would think Helen, Annie Sullivan, and Helen's family lived happily ever after. This is far from the case. Helen's disablities took quite a toll on how much she and her family loved each other. Annie became quite possessive and controlling of Helen during her childhood. Annie had a troubled personality as a result of the horrors of her childhood. Apparently she was never as psychologically stable as she might've been had she had a far better childhood. Throughout Helen's life, both when Annie was alive and after her death in 1936, she was surrounded by people and groups who sought to use her for their own purposes or goals. John Macy, after several years of marriage to Annie, saw the mistake of falling in love with her. It's easy to see why John eventually became an alcoholic, given that his second significant other passed away after only 5 years of living with each other. In the mid 1950's when Helen and Polly Thomson were living together Polly's behavior toward Helen became obsessive enough that Helen was cut off from virtually all human contact except Polly herself. In 1959/1960 Helen terminated a friendship with editor Nella Henney, perhaps as a result of being surrounded since childhood by people and groups who sought to use her for their own purposes or goals.

An irony about "The Miracle Worker" is that while it's a happy tale, the true story of Helen Keller is quite a sad tale. "The Miracle Worker"
is not Helen's "real life" at all.

However, given the time Helen lived in, I can see why her life story went the way it did. I wish she'd never become disabled during childhood and wished she'd been able to live a normal life. But this biography is more believeable than previous biographies of Helen Keller.
Fascinating, but too disturbing  Apr 21, 2004
The Helen Keller most of us are familiar with is the beligerent and frustrated little girl who in that fateful Spring of 1887, became docile, loving, and all of a sudden able to understand things when she put her hand under the water pump. But little was always written about her adult life. I always thought she had perfect features for a woman who was 100% blind and deaf. I recall Annie Sullivan's description of Helen when she first met her was that she was "noticeably blind with one protruding eye" and I thought her eyes looked perfect and beautiful, if not unfocused, for a blind woman, but then again I looked at photographs of her from her twenties on down and they were always right profile pics, with the exception of her photo on the front cover revealing her protruding left eye. It gives me the heebeejeebees that she had them removed and replaced with prosthetics. Anyway, they should make a movie about this detailing her life from Radcliffe college to her death.
Helen Keller Loves Martinis  Jan 29, 2004
This is a wonderful addition to all the bios on these two remarkable women. While the definitive is "Helen and Teacher," by Joseph Lash, this book adds lots of interesting details. I had no idea that Helen had her eyes replaced with plastic ones (hence the full face photos in adulthood) or that she enjoyed martinis, high heels and fur coats. What a woman! This is a very enjoyable book with plenty of great photographs. I wonder how much of Helen and Annie's fame was based on their youthful beauty?
Anne Sullivan Given Special Attention  Dec 11, 2001
Anne Sullivan (Helen Kellers teacher) is probably my biggest hero.
She endured a life of harsh physical pain from various ailments. Any direct exposer to sunlight caused her eyes agonizing pain. She was also plagued with intense emotional trauma, Orphaned, Anne and her younger brother both were shipped to an asylum where they played with rats as toys and frequently were housed in the room where they kept the dead bodies. The year Anne stayed there 70 babies were admitted, 60 died, as did Anne's brother. Anne had seen more death and pain by age 7 then many hardened solders. It was difficult for most people to understand her cantankerous personality and tendency to fly off the handle. It was said at the school she attended she would have been expelled many times, if they had someplace to expell her to. Despite these setbacks she saw Helen Keller, another girl people gave up on and showed her the world of language and communication. This new biography strips away all the well meaning sentimentality and shows us two souls, bruised and scared, but beautiful

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