For readers new to Deaf Studies or those interested in the direction of the discipline, or even just scholarly folks who appreciate really clear signposting in academic prose, Deaf Identities: Exploring New Frontiers is an excellent opportunity to learn and engage with the rich and complex questions of d/Deaf identity and culture. Students interested in how disability studies intersects with other fields should check out this collection. Instructors whose course content addresses issues of identity, disability, or marginalization should find space for it on their reading lists. Read it front to back or bounce around, because each chapter stands well on its own, while collectively contributing to the sense of the vastness of the question: How can we better understand d/Deaf identity? – though I do recommend reading the introduction first, if you want a basic layout of the land.

Editors Irene W. Leigh and Catherine A. O'Brien shape their introductory chapter around a sketch of the major movements in Psychology's study of identity. "Deaf Identities: A Maturing Framework" moves the reader briskly through millennia of deaf scholarship – seriously, they begin in ancient Egypt – and efficiently builds a case for the book's importance while providing a ten-thousand-foot view of the shifts in historical, political, and scholarly views of deafness. Start here if you are new to Deaf Studies. You will be reminded (or informed) of the debates between essentialist/primordialist and nonessentialist/constructivist perspectives on identity (1). The introduction provides valuable context for the collection's remaining approaches.

In congruence with the collection's multidisciplinary aim, Deaf Identities contains scholarship from inside and beyond the walls of the academy. While Leigh and O'Brien approach the topic from social psychology, the collection includes work by developmental psychologists, cultural anthropologists, counselors, educators, literary critics, religious leaders, philosophers, sociologists, social workers, and Deaf Studies specialists. There is no clean, easy way to group the chapters; for while readers will see the contributors exploring Deaf identity through a handful of repeat lenses – community, educational systems, the body, intersectionality –the grounding of each chapter in lived experiences keeps the work from becoming theoretical enough to be successfully placed in siloes. If Leigh and O'Brien's introduction is the ten-thousand-foot view, then the chapters are something like seeing the town from the top of the Ferris Wheel: perspective exceeds the individual, but there is no denying that those are real people down there moving, communicating, interacting; being the complicated things that make the town a real place to live.

As Leigh and O'Brien indicate, many of the contributing authors in the collection are Deaf or hard of hearing (16). Alongside literature reviews, contributors consistently include author testimony as supporting evidence. It is this careful tailoring of expertise that includes the academic, the professional, the personal, the physical, and the spiritual that puts the book in its perspectival sweet spot. For a little dive into the collected chapters, I will briefly sketch out a duo as examples of the way the collection relies on bodies of literature and personal experience to strike a balance between depth and breadth, theory and praxis.

In Chapter 11, "Stories in the Building of Deaf Identity: The Potential of Life Storytelling to Enhance Deaf Flourishing and Well-Being," cultural anthropologist Goedele A. M. De Clerck argues for story as an instrument for fostering "deaf flourishing" (254) as a result of ethnographic research. Grounded in the work that produced De Clerck's 2016 book, Deaf Epistemologies, Identity, and Learning, this chapter expands on the concept of deaf flourishing by telling stories about a tool for fostering it: the life story book. The life story book is a visual project that combines pencil and other crafting supplies, digital art, video, and other modes to map and represent the experiences of one's life. Goedele's recounting of Deaf clients and their experiences making story books highlights the multimodal practice of composition and reflection as simultaneously narrative inquiry and narrative therapy. "Stories in the Building of Deaf Identity" – perhaps more than any other chapter – demonstrates the intricacies of language, memory, and identity and explores the matrix of those relationships in particular relation to the languages of Deaf people.

In Chapter 12, "Examining the Intersectionality of Deaf Identity, Race/Ethnicity, and Diversity Through a Black Deaf Lens," Lindsay Moeletsi Dunn, higher education administrator, and Glenn B. Anderson, rehabilitation counselor, emphasize that now, more than ever, the nuances of intersectional identity should be studied. In this chapter, Dunn and Anderson argue that previous notions of deafness superseding racial and ethnic identity as a connective force among groups are "inadequate and [do] not sufficiently take into consideration the myriad of intersecting factors that comprise the experiences of Black Deaf people" (300). Situating the Black Deaf experience, at various points at their own institution, Gallaudet University, within the "historical antecedents of Black Deaf identity" (283), the authors also point to the likelihood of undocumented or erased histories of Black Deaf language. When so many of the stories of Black Deaf people are told by white and/or hearing observers, Dunn and Anderson's argument for continued research into the cultural, communicative experiences that have shaped and continue to shape the lives of Black Deaf people is certainly persuasive.

The collection may not be "an inclusive book of all perspectives on Deaf identity" (401) and Leigh and O'Brien are clear to assert that in "Concluding Thoughts: Expanding the Frontier", but it is a great starting point for anyone interested in getting a sense of the landscape. In sum, Deaf Identities: Exploring New Frontiers is a well-organized and conscientious presentation of the multiple in-roads to the study of d/Deaf identity, with its complex topography. It is engaging and user-friendly for readers approaching the lived experiences of Deaf individuals from a number of disciplinary and experiential lenses and serves in itself as a call to action for further study.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Leah Sink Haynes

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