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If a Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard
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If a Tree Falls: A Family's Quest to Hear and Be Heard

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  103 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
Jennifer Rosner’s revelatory memoir explores family, silence, and what it means to be heard. When her daughters are born deaf, Rosner is stunned. Then she discovers a hidden history of deafness in her family, going back generations to the Jewish enclaves of Eastern Europe. Traveling back in time, she imagines her silent relatives, who showed surprising creativity in dealin ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published 2010)
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Really 2.5, but the writing quality itself is good - "plot" ... not so much.

When the author sticks to her direct experiences of being the mother of two hearing-impaired children, the story held my interest well; I found the younger daughter's cochlear implant section downright fascinating. Unfortunately, much of the book consists of Rosner's angst, along with a historical fiction story-within-a-story about her deaf ancestors' experiences in Eastern Europe and New York City (several pages between
Kallie Beltrami
Sep 27, 2015 Kallie Beltrami rated it liked it
This book tells the personal story of the author and her family, and how they learned about their family history of deafness. I thought that the author did an exceptional job describing her decision making processes while contemplating what would be best for her two children with hearing impairments. It is easy to develop an attachment to the family, but I found it difficult to read when the author went into detail about their ancestors; I often fund myself bored after reading too much about the ...more
Nov 09, 2014 Kirsten rated it liked it
This is just okay - the fictionalization if her ancestors' stories didn't really work well for me, and therefore I thought there was way too much of that. But without it, this book would have been much too short, and it was a pretty superficial look at everything as it was. I also tired of the discussion of the author's own mother and her relationship with her and her deafness. Maybe the central part of this book - having dead children and discovering a genetic component to it - should have been ...more
Oct 04, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
The author's struggle to decide how to handle her daughters' hearing problems was very interesting and I enjoyed hearing both how they made the decision and the outcome. The thing I really didn't like about the book was the amount of time the author spent complaining about feeling disconnected from her mother--a woman with four kids! It sounds like she would have preferred being an only child with a mother who had nothing better to do than give her attention all day long, and holding on to that ...more
Dec 22, 2010 thewanderingjew rated it liked it
This book is about a family that suffers the heartbreak of bearing a deaf child without realizing the genetic potential for it lying quietly in their genetic structure. Although Jennifer was raised by a hearing impaired mother, the fact that it was a genetic defect, occurring throughout her family tree, never occurred to her. When it was discovered that she and her husband both carried the recessive gene, it was proof positive that their newborn daughter, Sophia had a severe hearing loss.
How the
Talia Carner
Sep 25, 2015 Talia Carner rated it liked it
Heightened emotions and confusion would have marked the anguish parents must suffer when discovering that one, then--three years later--another daughter are deaf. Yet, Jennifer Rosner uses restrained prose throughout without resorting to the melodrama that has marked her life.
A voice for those who cannot speak....

While both Rosner and her husband carried recessive genes that sentenced her daughters to deafness, there had been nothing in her husband's family history to warn them. In Ms. Rosner's
Mar 08, 2011 Lowrha rated it liked it
I expected If a Tree Falls to read as an outstretched, sympathetic hand from the author to parents of deaf children; I began it more for my work than pleasure. Instead, it was a wonderful piece of my favorite genre, creative nonfiction. (Although, Rosner concedes in her Acknowledgements that there is much fiction entwined even within the story line about her present-day family.)

If a Tree Falls has two plots; every few chapters relates a story Rosner imagines for the deaf ancestors she researches
Justine Pomponi
Jul 20, 2010 Justine Pomponi rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 26, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
Unfortunately, I missed the author speak at the last AG Bell convention (, but I bought a copy of her book and got it autographed - not only by her, but by her two daughters. Sophia even put a heart next to her name - too cute!

Jennifer's story is all too familiar to families like mine, who had to deal with children who were born deaf (like me and my sister). But she has a different tack. For some reason, Jennifer was surprised, despite having an ancestral history of deafness. This
Oct 14, 2013 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Book club
As the parent of a child with a disability, I thought this memoir was a good representation of what goes through a parent's mind in those early months: To what extent should I help my child live a typical life? What if I choose something for my child that he or she would not have wanted? Should I just accept it and not try to "fix" my child? Yet, while the vividly written story recounts the struggles of the very early years of her children's lives, I do wish there was a deeper exploration of the ...more
Apr 14, 2011 Liesel rated it it was amazing
This is more than a memoir! I choose it because a friend of mine with a child who is deaf due to Connexin 26 recommended it to me as I have two children with Connexin 26. This is the reason the author's children are deaf. But, I found it is much, much more than that! I would recommend it to everyone and it would be a fabulous book club selection.

It is a book philosophically exploring what it means to be heard or unheard. It is also part detective story into her Eastern European Jewish ancestry.
Jun 22, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Rosner's memoir of the birth of her deaf daughters and the family's subsequent challenges is illuminating and memorable - even imaginative. Exploring her ancestry in search of an explanation for her daughters' lack of hearing leads Rosner to create a vivid depiction of life for her hearing impaired immigrant ancestors.

Well written, If a Tree Falls.. touches upon the schism between those who are Deaf and live wholly within Deaf culture and those who choose medical means to achieve hearing. Rosner
Jan 13, 2015 Chloe rated it it was ok
It was less informative than I had hoped although the writing was easy to read and talked about the division between deaf/hearing and the problems those who face the decision to either raise a child deaf or have facilitated hearing well.
I did tend to skip the chapters about her ancestors.
Carol E.
Sep 07, 2011 Carol E. rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle-books
A family discovers that their new baby is deaf. The book chronicles their struggles. The author looks into her family tree and discovers several deaf ancestors, then writes a fictional account of her deaf ancestors' lives, embedded into this book as her "journal entries." As someone who works in the field of deafness, I was a little disappointed with some of their decisions, though I know it can be very confusing for families who suddenly find themselves faced with this unknown. I also wonder ab ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Dru rated it liked it
Shelves: deafness, biographies
I wasn't sure of what to expect when I opened this book. It was about a mother describing her experience with two deaf daughters and how she decided to raise them. In a way, it was sad because she seemed preoccupied with what they were missing out on due to sounds.

It however was an interesting read because I'm familiar with different locations mentioned in the book. And the issues discussed are personal to me, as a Deaf person. I would recommend this to anybody who wants to further understand w
Oct 27, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I loved this thoughtful memoir, which weaves Rosner's experiences as the daughter of a mother with hearing loss and the mother of two deaf daughters together with her imagined account her deaf great aunts in Europe and then New York in the late 19th century. Thanks for recommending it, Sam!
Sep 02, 2011 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a mother of a hearing impaired child, I thought this was a very good book that described the emotional process that we as parents go through very well. It was one of the more helpful books I have read on the subject. I have recommended it to many.
Lindsey Lang
Aug 18, 2013 Lindsey Lang rated it really liked it
Great insight into the emotions and struggles a parent encounters when discovering their child is deaf. As a future SLP, I found this book eye-opening and important in trying to empathize with the feelings of these families.
Rebecca  Einstein Schorr
Dec 14, 2010 Rebecca Einstein Schorr rated it it was amazing
I first learned of Jennifer Rosner after my writing teacher pointed me to an essay Rosner had written earlier this year. This is a stunningly-crafted book. I read it in about a day -- could not pull myself away.
Apr 27, 2015 Kristine rated it really liked it
A brave and tender story of being a mother, a daughter and a wife. Luminous, touching and a useful perspective on hearing technology as a cultural dilemma.
Feb 20, 2013 Jonah rated it liked it
This book is alternatively a nonfiction account about dealing with daughters' deafness, and a fiction story about the what if life of her great grandmother.
Oct 09, 2013 Robin rated it really liked it
Friends know the author and this takes place in our area -- I am compelled to read it!
Alison Loeb
Aug 17, 2012 Alison Loeb rated it it was amazing
A great story about a family's struggles on raising a child with hearing loss.
Very moving. Enjoyed it very much.
Apr 27, 2012 Gina rated it liked it
Local author.
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