Cover Image: The Shape of Sound

The Shape of Sound

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Member Reviews

This beautiful memoir by Fiona Murphy is a must read for anyone interested in disability rights. I loved The Shape of Sound and the important discussions about perceptions of disabilities and deafness, as well as the very personal and vulnerable insights Murphy shared. 

Fiona's memoir covers her lifespan, first, describing the challenges she faced in primary school learning to read and struggling to hear her teachers or friends. Next, covering her decision to hide her deafness in job interviews, higher education, and even with her roommates for fear of discrimination. Finally, she shared her feelings and experiences around learning sign language (Auslan) and her acceptance of the increasing hearing loss and painful descriptions of the tinnitus she felt as she became more and more Deaf. 

As a teacher who values the universal design framework and as someone who sees herself as an ally of people with disabilities, it was hard to read about the challenges the author faced, even recently, at work, school and even in close personal relationships. I want to believe that we have made progress, and I'm sure in some ways we have, but there is definitely room for more disability awareness and disability advocacy and more learning and teaching to be done. And if you're looking for a way to start, go read this book!

While primarily a memoir, The Shape of Sound also stands as an educational text with information about disability rights, Deaf culture, medical and educational challenges related to hearing loss, discrimination and a variety of other statistical and factual information. It is extremely well written with detailed and personal information while also being a text which can be used to teach about many elements of disability advocacy. I would highly recommend this book for anyone working with people who have disabilities, especially those who are deaf. I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning about different people and their experiences through memoir. It is definitely one of my new favourite memoirs and I'm really glad I got the change to read it! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the chance (and having the patience to wait for me) to read this beautiful book. It has been published so go grab your copy today!
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What a gorgeous, heartfelt memoir. The voice is unique and literary and yet so simple and direct at the same time. Even though I'm not a member of the Deaf community, and have no close relationships with deaf people, I felt I knew exactly what Fiona Murphy was trying to say to me at all times. Honestly, half the time I felt slapped in the face by the realities Murphy was describing about her life among abled/ableist people, and the other half of the time my spirit soared, to be reminded of how glorious we humans can be. Easily the best memoir I've read since Alan Cummings's 2014 book, Not My Father's Son.
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This book was very interesting and engrossing.  I learned new things and gained an understanding of the struggles that hearing people don't see.  I have a sister who has hearing issues and we have had very interesting discussions about her experience growing up with partial deafness.  I found the book easy to read and would suggest anyone who has someone with hearing issues read this book.  It could also help those with hearing issues not feel so alone.
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“Until there is an understanding that communication is a collective responsibility, it seems unlikely, even impossible that the stigmatization of deaf people will dissipate.”

This was a really interesting read, although it took a while for it to get good. This book informally has two parts - the first part follows the authors life as a deaf individual from childhood into adulthood and the second part is more research based, describing and discussing the science behind and sociocultural attitudes around deafness. 

For me the first half of the book was disappointing.  It often felt like the author was finally going to follow through with something, was on the verge of accepting her deafness and maybe shedding some of the shame she felt about it but it just never came - it lacked passion. It was also confusing at times -  how was “I think therefore I am” used to suppress deaf lives? The author talks about concealing her deafness but her class mates already know she’s deaf and have teased her about it? She is only deaf in one ear but she’s never heard her own voice? I found the most interesting bit of the first part of the book was the authors experience trying a hearing aid for the first time. As someone with no experience with deafness it was fascinating to read about the initial elation at being able to hear her doctor and then the eventual frustration and overwhelming feeling of hearing all the background noise once she was outside. The author finds safety and comfort in silence and there is something beautiful about that. 

The book comes alive in the second part. The passion that was lacking in the first part shines through when the author discusses the misperceptions hearing people have about deafness and how society has failed deaf people. My mom has recently started to lose her hearing and this part of the book made me think about how I can better support her and hopefully help her avoid the feelings of loneliness and isolation that often accompany hearing loss. 

If you’re into memoirs you may enjoy the first part. However the second part is where it’s at. For anyone who knows as little about deafness as I do, and I’m guessing that’s a lot of people, this book is a great place to start.
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This is a fascinating memoir about deafness, the author was born deaf in her left ear and spends most of her childhood and early adult life keeping it a secret even from friends and colleagues. It’s a stressful effort concentrating all day to make sure she can follow conversations. The information about how hearing works, hearing aids, disability policy, history of sign language and how deaf people are treated by society and much more is presented amongst Murphy’s own experiences as she negotiates work pans life with deteriorating hearing in her right ear. It’s beautifully written and I found it an enjoyable and moving read.
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This was an interesting book1 She kept her Deafness a secret for 25 years and then decided to explore the world of hearing  aids and ASL. I liked how she wrote about Deaf pride and other  aspects of the Deaf community. She had a great flow to her writing too.
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I absolutely adored this book. It was an immersive read that I found extremely easy reading because of the strength of the prose. It's so important to read about the experiences of people who have different lives than us and Murphy's exploration of how she navigates this world that's built for hearing people is illuminating. Murphy moves through her experience and examines ableism deftly and with masterful writing. As someone with my own chronic illnesses who is disabled by them, a lot of this resonated with me personally.
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The Shape of Sound is a fascinating memoir about the author’s experience of growing up with hearing in one ear and almost complete deafness in the other ear. She references studies and other publications throughout, which are interesting and thought-provoking. 

It was moving to see Fiona’s journey and grappling with her various identifies and how she chooses to define and present herself.

I recommend it to anyone, especially readers who enjoy learning about other people’s experiences and increasing their empathy.

Thank you to NetGalley and Text Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC.
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Fiona Murphy focuses her lyrical memoir, The Shape of Sound, on her experience with hearing and deafness. We follow her memories of childhood up until the present. So, we learn about her ongoing denial of being deaf in one ear. She analyzes how and why she hid her partial deafness through her teens and most of her twenties. And ultimately, Murphy discusses how she reached acceptance and what it meant to her. Through it all, she explores insights about music, silence, and sound.

Murphy discusses what influences our perception of hearing, whether science, medicine, or society. Societal influences biased the scientific study of hearing loss over time. And generally, the public doesn’t understand either how common hearing loss is or how best to support those with hearing loss. And in Murphy’s experience, medical professionals including audiologists, aren’t much better.

While Murphy spends most of the book sorting out multiple frustrations regarding her hearing, her perspectives are engaging and generally positive. This could be a collection of whining essays, but they aren’t. They are introspective, emotional, and investigative. She approaches every essay with her heart wide open, yet still uses analytical skills to expose her deepest feelings on the page.

My conclusions
The Shape of Sound is delightful, even as Murphy struggles to find her sense of self. Our twenties are a typical time for this, but she’s got the added complications of hearing versus deafness. And it’s the whole package of these things that makes this memoir an engaging book.

Murphy is also trained as a physiotherapist, a professional not dissimilar from my own massage therapy background. She uses her applies her professional skills of physical and scientific analysis to her own situation. This combination also further endeared her to me.

I learned many new things about sign language, including why it varies from country to country. Murphy explores Auslan, the Australian version of sign language, and also explains her learning process. She takes classes, hires a tutor, joins a meet-up group, and watches online videos. Each of those serves a different purpose, and I appreciated understanding more about the process.

As a hard-of-hearing person, this book also touched me emotionally. It gave me hope for the future, as my own hearing continues to decline. Murphy continually advocates for herself, which is a skill every patient with chronic illness and/or disability does. It’s encouraging to see someone moving through a process even a little bit similar to my own.

I recommend The Shape of Sound if you live with hearing loss or deafness, or if someone you know does. It’s a memoir that melds together various journeys, from medical to emotional to practical aspects of being partially deaf.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Text Publishing, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. Available April 12, 2022, in the United States.
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I really enjoyed getting to follow along as Murphy reflected on her experience growing up deaf in one ear and how that shaped her personality, relationships, and perception of the world. I feel like I learned so much while reading this book, not only about what it's like to grow up deaf but also about the language surrounding d/Deaf culture, history, and the medical terminology typically used around hearing loss. Also, since the author lives in Australia, I learned a bit about the medical system in that country.

Overall, I'm really glad that this book exists and that I got to take this journey with the author as she became more comfortable in her deaf body and learned about the history and culture.

Having an invisible illness myself, there were so many different experiences that I could relate to, especially when it came to her grappling with terminology and trying to figure out how much to share with family, friends, and colleagues.
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The Shape of Sound is a blend of memoir and essay collection about the author's life experiences being Deaf, and the wider Deaf community. This was a very personal read for me because of my in laws being deaf and being hard of hearing as a child (three surgeries later my hearing was "fixed") Reading how Murphy was made to feel so much shame around her deafness and is slowly unlearning that is such an honest and raw portrayal of the differently abled communities. This book made me want to read so much more about the Deaf community, and get back into learning ASL.
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This is such a culturally important and groundbreaking debut novel! I am so ecstatic that Fiona Murphy decided to document and share her experience as a deaf woman navigating an often inaccessible hearing world. The Shape of Sound describes the tenderness and intricacies of American Sign Language. Through Murphy's memoir, we see language become visual and even though this document is written in English and in English words, the spirit and soul and striking visual sense of ASL shines through. Fiona Murphy plays with words and sounds in her writing in a way that only a Deaf writer could. This fact is only part of what makes this story so incredibly valuable and important.

There is nothing like this memoir. I promise you have never read anything like it. The style in which this memoir unfolds is completely unique and anyone familiar with Deaf culture will find special aspects of this novel that seem to appeal and attract and speak to only and specifically you! This is a novel written in English that is also true to American Sign Language. You will become a more understanding, open minded and aware person just by living this experience with the author. I am so grateful to have had a chance to read The Shape of Sound. Thank you so much for this opportunity that I will continue to value and cherish. What a fantastic insight into a valuable culture and community that is too often excluded from mainstream American culture.
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I really enjoyed this memoir/essay compilation of living deaf in a hearing society! Well written and interesting..
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Really really interesting and I ended up enjoying this more then I expected, it was great fun and I’ll surely be keeping an eye out for more of this authors work In the future absolutely!
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