The Unheard by Josh Swiller
A Memoir of Deafness and Africa

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A young man's quest to reconcile his deafness in an unforgiving world leads to a remarkable sojourn in a remote African village that pulsates with beauty and violence

These are hearing aids. They take the sounds of the world and amplify them." Josh Swiller recited this speech to himself on the day he arrived in Mununga, a dusty village on the shores of Lake Mweru. Deaf since a young age, Swiller spent his formative years in frustrated limbo on the sidelines of the hearing world, encouraged by his family to use lipreading and the strident approximations of hearing aids to blend in. It didn't work. So he decided to ditch the well-trodden path after college, setting out to find a place so far removed that his deafness would become irrelevant.

That place turned out to be Zambia, where Swiller worked as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. There he would encounter a world where violence, disease, and poverty were the mundane facts of life. But despite the culture shock, Swiller finally commanded attention--everyone always listened carefully to the white man, even if they didn't always follow his instruction. Spending his days working in the health clinic with Augustine Jere, a chubby, world-weary chess aficionado and a steadfast friend, Swiller had finally found, he believed, a place where his deafness didn't interfere, a place he could call home. Until, that is, a nightmarish incident blasted away his newfound convictions.

At once a poignant account of friendship through adversity, a hilarious comedy of errors, and a gripping narrative of escalating violence, The Unheard is an unforgettable story from a noteworthy new talent.


About Josh Swiller

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A graduate of Yale University, Josh Swiller has had a wide variety of careers: forest ranger, carpenter, slipper salesman, raw food chef, Zen monk, journalist, and teacher, among other things. In August 2005, he had successful surgery for a cochlear implant and partially recovered his hearing. Swiller now speaks often on issues facing mainstreamed deaf individuals, and works at a hospice in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives.
Published September 30, 1994 by Holt Paperbacks. 282 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Travel. Non-fiction

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A former Peace Corps volunteer recalls his battles with deafness, bureaucracy, sex, violence and hopelessness during his mid-1990s tour in Zambia.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Unheard: A Memoir of Deaf...


His writing is comfortably hip, with the right amount of brio, and his vivid prose brings his new home to life: “Evening came and filled the sky with such reds and oranges it was like the valley had been slipped inside a sliced papaya.” He never misses an opportunity to laugh—sourness could have ...

| Read Full Review of The Unheard: A Memoir of Deaf...

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