Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pg. 69: "Train Go Sorry"

Leah Hager Cohen is the author of two novels and four non-fiction books, including Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World, which the New York Times Book Review called "reporting that feels like a love story -- as intimate, tender, and any you're likely to find."

(In American Sign Language, "train go sorry" means "missing the boat.")

I asked Leah to apply the "page 69 test" to Train Go Sorry. Here is what she reported:
Train Go Sorry is a patchwork of genres, combining journalism, historical research, and first-person memoir, so I wondered, even before turning to page 69, whether anything could be called representative of the book as a whole. It made me smile to discover what was on that page: a snippet of the very root of the book -- a glimpse of my dead grandfather.

My grandfather, born deaf, came to this country from Russia as a child, and attended Lexington School for the Deaf in Manhattan. Years later, his son, my father, became director of the school. As a child, I lived in the school with my family. As an adult, I became an ASL interpreter, and eventually returned to Lexington to write a book about it, and about deaf culture.

During the year that I was doing the research and reporting, my father and I went to the school's basement one day, to the locked archives that went back more than a hundred years in the school's history. A fire had long ago destroyed many of the old records and documents, so we were not very hopeful that we would find anything of note, but after only a few minutes of searching, there it was in a cabinet drawer: my grandfather's old student file, complete with photographs, letters, medical records -- all kinds of slim artifacts that added up to a fresh glimpse of the man. My father was deeply moved, almost shaken. We brought the folder up to his office and examined its contents slowly, marvelling.

Even though my grandfather is the subject of only one chapter in my book, in a sense he is the reason I wrote the book, the reason deafness and Lexington School factor so importantly in my life. On page 69, just before the part where my father I and go to the school's basement to search for my grandfather's file, I wrote:

"He died before I was really able to converse in sign. I have never seen his handwriting. I once saw his teeth, in a glass, on the bathroom windowsill. Now everything seems like a clue."
Many thanks to Leah for taking part in the "page 69 series."

Train Go Sorry was an ALA Notable Book and New York Times Notable Book and enjoyed very positive reviews in major newspapers, including:
Eloquent...a stunningly empathetic examination of [deaf people's] stories and a brilliant narrative of Deaf culture.
--The New York Times Magazine

With skillful storytelling [and] understated passion...Leah Hager Cohen presents readers with an intimate look at the new politics of deafness.... Deaf culture, her book suggests, is a culture of closeness that is worth saving.
--Washington Post
Click here to read an excerpt from Train Go Sorry.

Leah has a new blog: check it out here.

Her last novel, Heart, You Bully, You Punk, was praised here and elsewhere. Leah's new novel House Lights will be released in July 2007.

Her latest nonfiction book is Without Apology: Girls, Women, and the Desire to Fight.

Click here for links to articles and audio by Leah Hager Cohen about Deaf culture, women and boxing, and other subjects.

Previous "page 69 tests":
Chris Grabenstein, Slay Ride
David Helvarg, Blue Frontier
Marina Warner, Phantasmagoria
Bill Crider, A Mammoth Murder
Robert W. Bennett, Taming the Electoral College
Nicholas Stern et al, Stern Review Report
Kerry Emanuel, Divine Wind
Adam Langer, The Washington Story
Michael Scott Moore, Too Much of Nothing
Frank Schaeffer, Baby Jack
Wyn Cooper, Postcards from the Interior
Ivan Goncharov, Oblomov
Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew
Cass Sunstein, Infotopia
Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden
Paul Lewis, Cracking Up
Pagan Kennedy, Confessions of a Memory Eater
David Greenberg, Nixon's Shadow
Duane Swierczynski, The Wheelman
George Levine, Darwin Loves You
John Barlow, Intoxicated
Alicia Steimberg, The Rainforest
Alan Wolfe, Does American Democracy Still Work?
John Dickerson, On Her Trail
Marcus Sakey, The Blade Itself
Randy Boyagoda, Governor of the Northern Province
John Gittings, The Changing Face of China
Rachel Kadish, Tolstoy Lied
Eric Rauchway, Blessed Among Nations
Tim Brookes, Guitar and other books
Ruth Padel, Tigers in Red Weather
William Haywood Henderson, Augusta Locke
Jed Horne, Breach of Faith
Robert Greer, The Fourth Perspective
David Plotz, The Genius Factory
Michael Allen Dymmoch, White Tiger
Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy
Tom Lutz, Doing Nothing
Libby Fischer Hellmann, A Shot To Die For
Nelson Algren, The Man With the Golden Arm
Bob Harris, Prisoner of Trebekistan
Elaine Flinn, Deadly Collection
Louise Welsh, The Bullet Trick
Gregg Hurwitz, Last Shot
Martha Powers, Death Angel
N.M. Kelby, Whale Season
Mario Acevedo, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Dominic Smith, The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre
Simon Blackburn, Lust
Linda L. Richards, Calculated Loss
Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows
Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air
Shari Caudron, Who Are You People?
Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
John Sutherland, How to Read a Novel
Steven Miles, Oath Betrayed
Alan Brown, Audrey Hepburn's Neck
Richard Dawkins, The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue