The Silent Book: A Deaf Family and the Disappearing Australian Irish Sign Language, Bernadette T. Wallis, Missionary Sister Of Service, is the engrossing story, both deeply personal and historical, of the disappearing Australian-Irish sign language told through the experience of Bernadette’s own Deaf family. The story is embedded in the Australian landscape and its Aboriginal past. In writing this multi-layered story, Bernadette invites the reader into the vibrantly alert and alive silent world of her Deaf parents.
After many book launches in various parts of Australia during 2016, in June 2017 Bernadette will launch her book to Ireland and the UK. The book in its many launches has become a wonderful celebratory journey of Deaf language, culture and Australian history. Bernadette’s research for the book uncovered the roots of the Australian-Irish Sign language, firstly in Ireland and beyond that in other countries such as Spain and France.
Reviewing the book, Margaret Coffey, broadcaster and journalist writes:
The Silent Book will be revelatory for most of us, as we learn of the history of a ‘threatened’ language once so vital in Australia. It is a fascinating tale in diverse ways: in its closeness to the colonial and rural context of its protagonists, its respect for indigenous naming and knowledge of that same landscape, its careful induction of the reader in to a chronology of thinking about deafness and ways of educating deaf children. It adds another rich element to the extraordinary story of those 19th century lay and religious builders of Catholic community in Victoria and NSW. With all this, at its heart The Silent Book is a moving account of family life and love and hopefulness.
The proceeds from sale of the book are donated the to John Wallis Foundation.
Photos: above right: Bernadette signing The Silent Book for her cousin Celeste and baby Etienne at the John Pierce Centre for the Deaf; below: signing for Therese Healy mss.