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Review: "The Story of My Life" by Helen Keller

The Story of My Life ebook may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

Helen KellerHelen Keller probably needs no introduction, but if perchance you have not heard of her, here is a brief introduction.

Helen was born in June of 1880 in a tiny town in northern Alabama. She was nineteen months old and had just begun to talk when she contracted an unnamed disease, described by her doctor only as "acute congestion of the stomach and brain." The doctor's prognosis was that Helen would not live. She pulled through, but not before the disease had robbed her of her sight and hearing.

Helen was fortunate to have been born to loving and patient (and apparently well-to-do) parents who made every effort to stimulate the senses left to Helen and to seek help when it was time to educate her. At the suggestion of a family friend, Alexander Graham Bell, the family contacted Boston's Perkins Institute for the Blind, which sent Anne Sullivan to tutor Helen. Anne Sullivan would later be called "The Miracle Worker," and a movie by the same name would reflect the story in this book (and win an Oscar for a very young Patty Duke.)

Blossoming under Anne's insightful instruction, Helen went on not only to pass the entrance exams for Radcliffe college but to graduate from this prestigious educational institution in 1904. Finishing Radcliffe alone was quite an accomplishment for a woman of that time, but for a deaf and blind woman, the accomplishment was nothing less than super human. Modestly, in her life story, she gives all the credit to her family, Alexander Graham Bell and Anne Sullivan.

The most surprising thing about Helen Keller's autobiography is how literate she is. The most enjoyable aspect of The Story of My Life is her passion for books. She discusses her favorite classics which she read in English, Greek, Latin, French and German. She mentioned that it was difficult to get books in Braille, and when she was required by a course to read a certain work that was not yet published in Braille, Anne Sullivan would have to spell out the book in the palm of Helen's hand so that she could keep up with her class. When Helen did get hold of a Braille book, she devoured it. What a joy it must have been to read to herself, possibly 50 times faster than Anne could communicate the words to her through finger signing. Helen also mentions her other "best friend," the typewriter, which allowed her to write her school papers and later her book.

Another enjoyable aspect of The Story of My Life is that if you ever feel sorry for yourself for what you don't have or what you are currently struggling with, your deficiencies and struggles may suddenly seem minor in comparison to Helen's.

The version of The Story of My Life offered by Girlebooks includes selected letters and reports that demonstrate Helen's gradual mastery of the English language, including punctuation. If you do not have time to read all of them, I recommend that you scan them to see her journey from minimally literate to accomplished writer. A third section includes the reports given by Anne Sullivan, which will give further insight into Helen's progress as a student.

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