For most of us, listening to the kettle boil, the voices of our families or the sound of a bird is something that we take for granted. These are just sounds of everyday life, right? Not for Jo Milne and thousands of others like her who are registered deaf. Jo was born deaf and after it being picked up in her early childhood in the 1970s, Jo was simply known as ‘the deaf girl to those around her who knew and loved her. With the support of a loving family Jo managed to live a relatively normal life and was happy.
All goes well for Jo who doesn’t let her disability stop her, instead spending her life to help others with disabilities. That is, until she is diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, meaning that as well as being deaf, she is also going blind. Her fear of being plunged into darkness and silence is always present (as it would be for any of us!). After battling for years with these feelings a lifeline was offered to her, the ability to hear via a cochlear implant to the brain. A video that went viral on Youtube, prompting interest around the world.
This is a story of determination, courage and love. I read this within 24 hours and was glued to it the whole time. I loved Jo’s spirit and that of her family who merely adapted their lives so that she was always a part of their life. Although it is clear Jo struggles, and some of the tales from school will make your heart fill with anger and sadness, she keeps bouncing back, never letting life drag her down.
I’ve always been fascinated by the deaf community, sign language and lip reading are both beautiful forms of communication. Jo has handled all of this and then has to learn again, this time to cope without her sight, which understandably she struggles with but she is so honest. I think the reason I loved Jo’s memoir so much is that she’s honest, nothing is sugar coated but she’s not bitter either. She constantly fights through and believes in herself with the wisdom her late grandfather gave to her. I think that struck a chord personally too, the connection she has with her grandfather reminded me very much of the connection with mine.
While you would expect this story to make you a little low, I can tell you with certainty it doesn’t. What Jo does is make you realise that each day is different, that even in truly dark times where you feel like your body is betraying you there is a way around it. She has a kind heart and the steely determination of the Geordie roots she is so proud of (and so she should be!).
I’m giving this book 5 stars *****, because if anything it’s one of the most inspirational memoirs I’ve ever read. I remember watching Joanne on TV when the video first came out and I could have listened to her all day, reading her book has made it possible to understand her world. I feel like EVERYONE should read this, if anything just to understand what life is like for someone with disabilities. This is a truly amazing book and I hope you all have the pleasure to read it.
Also, here is the viral video of Jo being able to hear for the first time, prepare to have tears in your eyes! 🙂
Review by Chloe Metzger