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In This Sign

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  265 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
The highly acclaimed novel of a family whose love and courage enable them to survive in the silent world of the deaf.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 15th 1984 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1970)
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Train Go Sorry by Leah Hager CohenDeafening by Frances ItaniThe Story of My Life by Helen KellerBurn Down the Ground by Kambri CrewsHands of My Father by Myron Uhlberg
9th out of 62 books — 17 voters
Archer's Voice by Mia SheridanMaybe Someday by Colleen HooverSong of Summer by Laura Lee AndersonFlying to the Light by Elyse SalpeterDeaf Child Crossing by Marlee Matlin
Characters using American Sign Language
5th out of 21 books — 24 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 552)
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Lisa Vegan
Sep 05, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: if interested in good novel about family dynamics, or any interest in the deaf
Shelves: fiction, reviewed, novel
Torn about this book. I Never Promised You A Rose Garden is one of my all time favorite books and was the first book I read by Joanne Greenberg (under the pseudo name of Hannah Green), and I couldn’t help but make comparisons. But this is a great novel. Very interesting and moving. A terrific job is done showing the palpable isolation and loneliness of the deaf couple and also the struggle of their hearing daughter. A wonderful family story. Read it years ago but remember so many details. One pa ...more
Book Concierge
Jun 23, 2015 Book Concierge rated it really liked it
The novel follows a deaf couple – Abel and Janice – through their lives from shortly after WWI to the mid 1960s. They start out confident and sure, having gone to a “Deaf school” to learn trades which will assure them of work, Abel in a print shop, Janice as a seamstress in a cap factory. But they soon discover that despite learning to read lips they are woefully ignorant of the World of the Hearing.

I read this novel back in the mid 1970s, shortly after it was originally released. I had read Gre
Rachel Mazique
Nov 25, 2013 Rachel Mazique rated it really liked it
This is a powerful book that I would love to talk about with others. Right now, I'm contemplating the possible meanings of the last page; how is the one thing that Abel and Janice can do to end poverty "right now, for everyone" (286) something "very much like Sign"? (287)

I'm looking forward to seeing how this book goes over in a class I'll be teaching next Spring. As a third-generation Deaf person from a Deaf family, the plot definitely evokes a lot of emotions and can be difficult to read at ti
Mar 24, 2009 Jeanann rated it it was amazing
Working with the Deaf community, it is hard to know how they experience the world. This book truly makes its way inside the lives of a Deaf couple and their family. It can be heartbreaking at times and yet their ability to persevere in the face of the discrimination they encounter daily is inspirational.
Jul 13, 2014 Debbi rated it it was amazing
I know that this book is not well-liked by some deaf people because the deaf parents at the heart of the story are portrayed as "inexperienced, ignorant, and bewildered" in a hearing world. What I absolutely love about this book, though, is how it captures the complicated relationship with their hearing daughter who must become their voice and their representative. She both loves them and is burdened by them. I can't think of many books that have made my heart pound with such deep emotion while ...more
I was assigned this book as part of a class on sign language, and am so thankful. I think of it often these many years later, as it gives a poignant and realistic view into the world of the deaf.
Oct 24, 2008 Sunni rated it it was amazing
Really loved this in my early twice. Not sure how I'd feel now, but probably the same way.
Jenny January
May 10, 2014 Jenny January rated it it was ok


I first read this about 8 years ago when I was taking an ASL class at university. I decided to re-read it and I really failed to see how negative Janice was the first time I read it. She is a constant toxic cloud of negativity that hangs over Abel and their children. Abel tried to remain positive in a world that discriminated against the deaf by suggesting to Janice that they go out and mingle with other deaf people that might have been going through the same thing, and all Janice c
Mar 17, 2011 Lizzie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2011
This is a very interesting and moving novel about a Deaf couple and their Hearing daughter, Margaret. It starts in the 20s, when Abel and Janet are newly married, out in the world, and have finally escaped the school for the Deaf where they met. They buy a luxury car, then sell it when it's too expensive to run, not understanding that they papers they signed were for a loan. The car dealer sues them and wins, dooming them to 20 years of poverty while they repay the loan.

The book does a fascinati
Oct 18, 2009 Jill rated it really liked it
I read this book at the same time as Of Sound Mind published in 2004, which is also about a deaf family with one hearing child who does the majority of the communication for the family. It was interesting to me how much and also how little things have changed between the time when the two were written.

Greenberg offers insight into how the deaf navigated through society, including work, socializing, and the details of day-to-day life. I loved how the perspectives of all the family members were in
Mar 03, 2015 Mary rated it liked it
Well, written, but it had a weak traditional plot-line (no main conflict, build-up, solution, resolution. It was more like a bunch of semi-interesting mini stories.

A good book to explore/represent Deaf cultural. However, it is important to remember that it shows a certain economic class, at a certain time period. It shouldn't be taken as a reflection of modern deaf cultural, instead as exploration of part of the rich history.
May 08, 2015 Colleen rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction

Good story but it was hard to concentrate on it. Janice and Abel are able to buy a nice house after paying of the car loan. Margaret their daughter marries and has 3 children. Her oldest, Marshal quits college and goes south to help with civil rights issues.
Oct 25, 2014 Asha rated it liked it
Shelves: school-reading
I'm very confused, actually. It was intriguing, one of my first experiences with Deaf Literature, but after spending the majority of the book mildly frustrated (on behalf of the main characters), I'm not exactly sure what the ending was trying to get across... I don't know. It was very interesting, though.
Jul 26, 2011 Kerith rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I started this not knowing if I would like it or continue it, but then it got intriguing. The two deaf characters, Janice and Abel, are hard to like. Their stupidity upset me, and the upsetting upset me because their ignorance was not really their fault. I imagine their school did not do much to prepare them for living "Outside".
Janice was the really hateful one. Abel had his moments but he was so concerned with appearances and being important. Janice could never forgive him for incurring the d
Jul 29, 2014 Melissa rated it did not like it
I had to read this book for sign language class. It is the worst book I have read. It's boring, HIGHLY predictable, confusing changes in point of view, unlikable characters, and an unclear ending. Now I have to go write a paper on it.
Spider the Doof Warrior
I can't really decide if I liked this book.
Mainly because Janice frustrated me with her snapping a lot.
Then there was how they seemed to be ridiculing Marshall who in my opinion was the coolest character because he was out there doing what he believed in and everyone scoffed at him.
Still, it's interesting in the sense that you get the perspective of the deaf and what folks had to go through back then just too allowed their own language. It was awful how folks looked down on people just for bei
Oct 02, 2009 Tiffany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tiffany by: my mum
Shelves: fiction
Read this book as a younger teenager, and I learned a lot about how deaf people were treated back during the depression. I don't know if a lot has changed in the way a deaf couple with hearing children are treated in the hearing world, having their children be their ears and their words, but this was heartbreaking and also passionate in many ways. I still have my old copy which has seen better days, as its binding has come loose and the pages are split into two halves... If it makes it, I may r ...more
Aug 24, 2010 Sarah rated it it was ok
This book is about a deaf couple who tries to make there way in a big city. It was one of those stories where you want to shake every single character. I wasn't sure if the author was trying to say that the couple was naive because they were poor country folk or naive because they were deaf, but their ignorance was astounding. Even in their old age, after many decades in the city, they still didn't seem to get it.
I'm not sure why I kept reading it - idle fascination with how many more mistakes t
Jan 22, 2008 Bobbi rated it really liked it
This book describes in great detail the hardships in the life of a deaf couple. Sign language used to be a shameful thing and the couple relied heavily on their children to communicate for them, even so there were many times that they paid the price for not being able to understand. I learned through reading this book how closely memories and language are connected.

A secondary theme of this book was the way the poor lived and were made to work in sweatshops to earn a living.
Feb 02, 2016 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this years ago--way before I started writing reviews.
Jun 24, 2012 Lynne rated it did not like it
for some reason, I could not find a character in this book that I liked which made it difficult to finish. Of all the characters, I think I liked the father best - but still I found it difficult find any joy in his character. I know the book was written with "a message" -- but even so, I found that at the end, I was feeling very frustrated with the way the message was presented.
Jul 30, 2010 Gaile rated it really liked it
This is about the struggle of a deaf couple back in the thirties.
It was made into a movie starring Edward Waterstreet.
Time has moved on. Deaf culture is very different today from what it was then. We have come a long way!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This book is worth the read as long as you keep in mind that that time is long vanished.
I read this a few years ago when I was taking ASL classes because I saw the movie based on the book. It depicts the role of a hearing child of a deaf family in the 1930s --- I'm glad to say Deaf Culture and others' perception of deaf people has adapted and changed with the times.
Mar 24, 2008 Mindy rated it really liked it
I took four semesters of sign language in college. That is where I was introduced to this very powerful book about a Deaf couple living in a Hearing world. It was often heart-breaking, but gives some great insight into Deaf culture!
Nov 15, 2009 Jaylia3 rated it liked it
A novel by the author of I Never Promise You a Rose Garden about the isolation of being deaf in the early and middle part of the 1900s. How language can both reveal and conceal is one of the themes that runs through the book.
Sarah Strauss
Jun 01, 2011 Sarah Strauss rated it liked it
It's good. I've seen the movie. The movie didn't follow too closely to the book. The story line seems VERY realistic for that time period. Some deaf parents ARE dependent on their hearing children to interpret, even today.
Nov 20, 2008 Beth rated it really liked it
This was a good book that brings you right in to the Deaf culture during the Depression and World War II. Some concepts are easier to understand if you know sign language, but anyone can enjoy this book.
Jan 30, 2010 Marci rated it really liked it
I read this book as a young adult and it has always stayed with me. I'ld like to get my hands on a copy for my kids. I was riveted while reading this book 20+ years ago!
Aug 22, 2008 Audra rated it really liked it
I am an ASL major and I wanted to read this book because it deals with a Deaf family. It was an interesting read and a well written book portraying deafness.
Nov 22, 2010 Ann rated it really liked it
One of the better books I have read for awhile. Greeneberg tells it how it was being a "hearing" in a deaf family. We that hear have alot to learn.
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meaning of the last page? 1 5 Nov 12, 2013 01:10PM  
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Joanne Greenberg, also known as Hannah Green, is a writer whose style lends itself to the mature reader yet simultaneously presents themes suitable for all ages. Greenberg addresses the persistent doubts that plague all of us by relating stories of others in need. Though the scenarios in which her characters find themselves may be unfamiliar to the average reader, the emotions they feel while enme ...more
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