Book Reviewed by Lily Andrews
“The Butterfly Cage” is a brilliant and thoughtful memoir written by Rachel Zemach, a deaf educator, writer, and activist. Here, Author Zemach recounts her remarkable navigation through the intricacies of teaching while Deaf in a California public school. It is a crucial and sometimes disquieting panorama of the patchiness of deaf education in public schools offering necessary advice for educators and families alike. Purchase Here.
She fuses these experiences with her own heartfelt story of sudden deafness at the age of ten, and her ensuing and rather challenging journey toward a deaf identity and taking up a teaching role. With a striking foreword, the text does not tally in its progress but carefully details what it is like as a deaf teacher to strive for her pupils in a system that does not understand their needs and identities and which may end up damaging their potential and psychological well-being.
Her inspiring role in a deaf public school offers a role model that parents wish for their children in a school setting but whom deaf students rarely get in their classrooms. Zemach further details her struggles with the administration, staff, and aides who try to cripple teachers’ efforts at every turn, a scene all too frequent in mainstream schools.
“The Butterfly Cage” is one of those indelible memoirs that you finish reading and feel a little like you have lost an old friend. Readers will learn from the true stories of individual students told in an artful and affecting manner, what the deepest struggles of deaf and hard-of-hearing students are, and why the majority of these students in the country may end up losing their birthright due to a broken system that urgently needs restructuring. Zemach is unflinchingly honest and accomplishes much in this appealing and intelligent tapestry by rallying the society behind her to help these vulnerable group attain their budding capabilities.
That’s what places the book squarely among the best memoirs written out there. Her writing passion has adroitly amplified a thousandfold in the quiet world of the deaf. Her generosity of spirit is bound to encompass every reader who puts their hands on this hard-to-put-down memoir.
Indeed, “The Butterfly Cage” by Rachel Zemach makes a major contribution to our understanding of deafness, the challenges deaf students meet, and a call to legislators and educators alike in creating a conducive environment for them to learn in public schools. It is an oeuvre from a quintessential voice in America.