After the Miracle
The Political Crusades of Helen Keller
by Max Wallace
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Pub Date 11 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 11 May 2023
Raised in Alabama, she sent shockwaves through the South when she launched a public broadside against Jim Crow and donated to the NAACP. She used her fame to oppose American intervention in WWI. She spoke out against Hitler the month he took power in 1933 and embraced the anti-fascist cause during the Spanish Civil War. She was one of the first public figures to alert the world to the evils of Apartheid, raising money to defend Nelson Mandela when he faced the death penalty for High Treason, and she lambasted Joseph McCarthy at the height of the Cold War, even as her contemporaries shied away from his notorious witch hunt. But who was this revolutionary figure?
She was Helen Keller.
From books to movies to Barbie dolls, most mainstream portrayals of Keller focus heavily on her struggles as a deafblind child—portraying her Teacher, Annie Sullivan, as a miracle worker. This narrative—which has often made Keller a secondary character in her own story—has resulted in few people knowing that her greatest accomplishment was not learning to speak, but what she did with her voice when she found it.
After the Miracle is a much-needed corrective to this antiquated narrative. In this first major biography of Keller in decades, Max Wallace reveals that the lionization of Sullivan at the expense of her famous pupil was no accident, and calls attention to Keller’s efforts as a card-carrying socialist, fierce anti-racist, and progressive disability advocate. Despite being raised in an era when eugenics and discrimination were commonplace, Keller consistently challenged the media for its ableist coverage and was one of the first activists to highlight the links between disability and capitalism, even as she struggled against the expectations and prejudices of those closest to her.
Peeling back the curtain that obscured Keller’s political crusades in favor of her “inspirational” childhood, After the Miracle chronicles the complete legacy of one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary figures.
“Wallace strips away the sentimental image of Helen Keller and reveals an astonishing woman who lectured, traveled, wrote books, and loved movies. A friend of Charlie Chaplin and of Martin Luther King, she was a radical and passionate political activist taking stands against war, racism, and inequality that brought her to the attention of Hoover and his FBI. Following Keller’s life, Wallace offers a bonus: a stunning overview of the brutal politics of the 20th century. I enjoyed the book very much.” —Rosemary Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation
“A penetrating vision into the life and times of Helen Keller . . . adds the needed dimensions, insights, and details to elevate this famous woman to the true historic pivot she created; and [Wallace] does so with exceptional clarity, immense grasp of subject, and compelling detail.” —Edwin Black, New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation
“A riveting series of adventures with Helen Keller, from befriending Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood to calling out apartheid in South Africa. Helen’s delightful wit and fierce dedication to advocating for underrepresented people makes her a timeless role model.” —Haben Girma, disability justice advocate and author of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
“Max Wallace’s impeccably researched book lays out a fascinating epilogue to the familiar story of a blind-deaf girl at a water pump. After the Miracle paints a compelling portrait of a complicated, revolutionary woman who spent a lifetime advocating for peace and equal rights despite powerful forces pressuring her to adhere to the simplistic persona they had created.” —Liz Heinecke, author of Radiant: The Dancer, The Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light
“Deeply researched and gracefully written, Wallace's After the Miracle offers a compelling, nuanced portrait of Helen Keller as a passionate political activist and socialist crusader whose radical convictions were often at odds with her angelic public image. The lively pace and original approach make for an enjoyable read.” —Elisabeth Gitter, author of The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl
“In this highly readable, deeply researched, and illuminating work, Max Wallace brings the full range of Helen Keller’s lifetime accomplishments to a new and contemporary level of clarity. After the Miracle dispels myths, carefully investigates and untangles erroneous narratives, and adds immeasurably to our knowledge of the multi-dimensional woman who became a fearless political activist, anti-racist, and radical socialist in her day.” —Elizabeth Emerson, author of Letters From Red Farm: The Untold Story of the Friendship between Helen Keller and Journalist Joseph Edgar Chamberlin
“An amazing insight into the life and mission of a genius.” —Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi