Disability Studies Quarterly
Summer 2004, Volume 24, No. 3
Copyright 2004 by the Society
for Disability Studies


Kelley, Walter Paul. Deaf Culture: A to Z. Austin: BuTo, Ltd. Co, 2003. 52 pgs. 26 photographs. Hard Cover 0-9729569-0-5.

Reviewed by Miriam Guttman, Mount Mary College.

Walter Paul Kelley's Deaf Culture A to Z is an extremely valuable book. It focuses on Deaf culture while giving the reader the opportunity to learn the American Sign Language alphabet. The book includes beautifully illustrated pictures of people from different cultures signing. Inset in each illustration, there is also a hand correctly forming the finger spelled letter for that page.

Each page of the book concentrates on a letter of the alphabet and a topic in Deaf culture. "F", for example, introduces the concept of finger spelling. Kelley explains that Deaf people spell words by using their fingers to form letters of the alphabet. He further explains that finger spelling is used for names, places, and food labels. However, the book does not stop at this basic level; the reader also learns that finger spelling is used along with American Sign Language. In one picture, the children spell out the letters l-o-v-e. One of the many qualities that attracted this reader to the book is that in this specific picture one child is Jewish and wearing a yarmulke (head covering), one child is Arabic and wearing a kaffiyah, one child is Native American and wearing a beaded necklace, and the last child is African American.

Even readers familiar with Deaf culture may encounter topics new to them. One such example is found on the page describing the letter "d". There is a picture of Dr. Betty Miller, who invented DeVia, known as Deaf art. Literally it means Deaf View/Image Art. Kelley explains who Dr. Miller was along with the idea of Deaf art and why it is needed.

Many timely Deaf issues are explained in this book. In addition to each letter of the alphabet being finger spelled, there are numerous samples of American Sign Language being used in the pictures. The "I love you" sign is on the "z" page that discusses Dr. Elizabeth Zinser, who was president of Gallaudet University for a short time. Gallaudet was the first established university for Deaf people and is located in Washington D.C. The "p" page shows the "pah" sign which means finally or at last.

Deaf Culture A to Z is a valuable book for anyone interested in learning about Deaf Culture or American Sign Language. Kelley wrote a book that could be used for varying reading levels. The pictures alone make this a valuable picture book and can be used as a resource for early childhood; however, the reading level of this book is later elementary/early middle school. It would be appropriate for early childhood through adult because of the versatility it offers. This reviewer believes that Kelley composed a creative, much needed book about Deafness as a culture, not a disability as it is commonly perceived. Throughout all of this, Kelley brings in a tremendous amount of diversity. It is a book that should be found in every classroom.

Copyright (c) 2004 Miriam Guttman

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