Editorial Review: Love for a Deaf Rebel by Derrick King
Love for a Deaf Rebel is an intimate and raw memoir of Derrick King’s deep but doomed love for Pearl, a woman who spent a lifetime fighting the known disability of deafness and unacknowledged devil of schizophrenia.
King is an intelligent, high achiever who never settled for an easy path in the pursuit of his goals. He is initially intrigued by the difference of Pearl, a pretty woman who was deaf from birth and usually orally mute by choice. Pearl has strong (and occasionally violent) opinions about both the deafies who share her difference and the hearies who discriminate consciously or unconsciously against those who must live in a world of silence.
Pearl is the survivor of one divorce and a second long-term failed relationship. King is separated from his vibrant but unfaithful wife. It takes time for the couple to build trust and acceptance, especially for Pearl who expects the worst of life based on terrible experiences, such as being raped at seventeen.
The human ability to choose what we see or believe is repeatedly evident. From King choosing to accept and trust an unregistered building contractor to save money; to Pearl’s family who chooses to pretend Pearl’s mental health issues are anything more than the difference of deafness.
Pearl’s family has refused to learn sign language as they followed popular but ultimately misguided precepts that the deaf must become oral to integrate into society. Yet King chooses to focus on this as the cause of strained family relationships and ignore or minimize his misgivings about Pearl’s occasional erratic behavior and inability to remain connected to old friends. They embark on the life-changing experience of buying a half-finished house on Bowen Island to create a country lifestyle for the children Pearl is desperate to have.
The story of Pearl demonstrates the depth of commitment she inspired in King as the memoir provides an unvarnished and honest unraveling of a relationship under the pressure of long days, hard work, and fundamental mistrust. While Pearl is dogged by the paranoia of deepening schizophrenia; the consequential impact of mistrust on normal brain biology is also clear. As Pearl’s suspicion grows, King lives up to some of that mistrust by taking evasive steps to avoid bringing a child into a troubled relationship. Steps that he rationalizes in a manner that is easily relatable but is also an uncomfortable reminder of typical human behavior to justify difficult decisions.
Ultimately, Pearl is not an entirely reliable witness into the current world of the deaf as an unknown element of her rebellion and anger is colored by mental ill-health. Plus, a modern medical profession disparages the historic approach to institutionalizing deaf children as a failed and adverse experiment that hindered the ability of the deaf to accept and be accepted in mainstream life and develop barriers which color Pearl’s interactions.
But her story is a fascinating tribute to a woman who battled the odds and brought joy and love to a man who chose to celebrate Pearl’s strengths and fought to understand and help a woman who could not accept that her twisted world perspective was self-destructive.
Read Love for a Deaf Rebel for its authenticity and honesty and you can expect to gain a deeper appreciation of the struggles of those who battle to play the cards fate has dealt them. More importantly, you will celebrate the joy of hard work and a loving relationship where anything seems possible.