What's That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness

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University of Illinois Press, Oct 1, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 224 pages
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Henry Kisor lost his hearing at age three to meningitis and encephalitis but went on to excel in the most verbal of professions as a literary journalist. This new and expanded edition of Kisor's engrossing memoir recounts his life as a deaf person in a hearing world and addresses heartening changes over the last two decades due to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and advancements in cochlear implants and modes of communication. Kisor tells of his parents' drive to raise him as a member of the hearing and speaking world by teaching him effective lip-reading skills at a young age and encouraging him to communicate with his hearing peers. With humor and much candor, he narrates his time as the only deaf student at Trinity College in Connecticut and then as a graduate student at Northwestern University, as well as his successful career as the book review editor at the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily News. Life without hearing, Kisor says, has been fine and fulfilling. Widely praised in popular media and academic journals when it was first published in 1990, What's That Pig Outdoors? opened new conversations about the deaf. Bringing those conversations into the twenty-first century, Kisor updates the continuing disagreements between those who advocate sign language and those who practice speech and lip-reading, discusses the increased acceptance of deaf people's abilities and idiosyncrasies, and considers technological advancements such as blogging, instant messaging, and hand-held mobile devices that have enabled deaf people to communicate with the hearing world on its own terms.

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What’s That Pig Outdoors is not a book that everyone will read or just pick up. It is a book that you will only pick up if you have to read something about the Deaf Community. Many people have different experiences of living in the hearing world, and this is one of them.
This book is a memoir of deafness. It focuses on the life of Henry Kisor and what life was like for him as he grew up in the hearing world. Kisor became deaf at the age of 3 because of purulent meningitis. He was sick for 6 days before a doctor realized that he had an “acuteness of hearing” or that he was deaf (Kisor 14). When writing Kisor focuses on where both his parents were from and also were his maternal grandparents were from (Kisor 17-20). He believes that is parents were capable of raising him because they were smart, willing and wanted to try all possibilities.
What’s That Pig Outdoors focuses on how Kisor’s parents allow him to do anything that a hearing person could do, which leads to his purpose; “My experience may help some parents decide on the best course of action for their hearing-impaired children” (Kisor 10). Being deaf shouldn’t stop one from following their dreams and becoming something in life. Being deaf doesn’t make one less than a human, it just makes them live a different lifestyle and experience different things. Kisor would probably agree because his parents wanted him have a life like a “normal” child, basically a hearing child.
This book represents the true picture of the Deaf World, through deaf eyes. It shows that deaf people are discriminated against by children their age and by parents of their peers. There are 2 key times where Kisor was discriminated against. One being, when one of his playmate’s mother no longer wanted her daughter to play with Kisor because he was deaf and the other being when his peers would laugh at him because of the way he spoke in class. This caused Kisor to put up a wall towards hearing people other than his family and good friends. Many people hearing or deaf tend to put up a wall towards those not like them.
“Only connect … Live in fragments in longer. Only connect, and the beast, and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die”, this quotation explains the unity that needs to occur in both the Hearing World and the Deaf World (Kisor 3). This way I believe that this should be taught in school because it teaches students about different cultures and lifestyles. It also shows them how they may act towards people, even though they don’t know their story or lifestyle. I also believe this should be taught in school because it shows how one can overcome different obstacles placed in front of them and how and why they shouldn’t give up. Personally, this book has changed by perspective on life because I have learned more about the Deaf World and how one is able to overcome all possible problems. I have also learned about the Deaf World through Kisor’s own personal experience, which is the best way to learn.
I advise you to read Henry Kisor’s What’s That Pig Outdoor: a Memoir of Deafness because it gives one a different perspective of life. It allows you to learn about both the deaf world and society towards deaf people. This book will change your perspective on life and the way you treat people.

Selected pages


Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11

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About the author (2010)

Henry Kisor is a retired book review editor and literary columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He is the author of Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America and Flight of the Gin Fizz: Midlife at 4,500 Feet, as well as three mystery novels, Season's Revenge, A Venture into Murder, and Cache of Corpses.

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