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Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
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Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  3,399 ratings  ·  588 reviews
Born with deaf-blindness, Girma grew up with enough vision to know when someone was in front of her and enough hearing to know when someone close to her was talking. However, she had difficulty reading facial features or distinguishing people in group conversations. Relying on her own problem-solving skills, Girma overcame roadblocks while simultaneously obtaining her unde ...more
Audiobook, 288 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by Twelve
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Start your review of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
"Haben" is the autobiographical story of Harvard's first deaf blind law school graduate. Her story, told in episodes from her childhood through professional life is one where she consistently proves that she could do what others said she couldn't, be it taking a college hike, learning to salsa dance from a blind instructor, or building a school in rural Mali. Now a disability rights advocate, who began her advocacy with demanding her college cafeteria provide an email menu that her computer coul ...more
Thank you to and Hachette Audio for my free audio copy for review!

A few notable aspects about this audiobook:

- Haben reads for this production! I assumed that a deafblind person wouldn't be able to speak, but my assumption got shot to pieces right away. I needed to adjust to her tone of voice, but I'm glad to have heard her story in her voice.
- I learned A LOT about what being deafblind is like. It reminded me of when I read El Deafo, and the physical, everyday reality was so foreign
Mariah Roze
Jun 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book has been on my to-read for a while! There was a long "hold" line at the library for this book, so I was super excited when I received it. The book definitely lived up to its expectations. I really enjoyed the read :)

"Born with deaf-blindness, Girma grew up with enough vision to know when someone was in front of her and enough hearing to know when someone close to her was talking. However, she had difficulty reading facial features or distinguishing people in group conversations. Relyin
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I really enjoyed learning a bit about Haben's journey as a deafblind person and about some of the cool accomplishments she's achieved so far. I listened to the audiobook after one of my law school professors said it was a good read.

Haben's voice is high-pitched, maybe in part because she is/was able to hear high-pitched noises easier than lower ones. I wasn't expecting it when I first started listening, but it takes no time at all before you get sucked in to hearing Haben talk about her loving f
Nilsa Pacheco
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
I am sure this young lady has a remarkable story worth telling, however, the way the book is written does not do it justice. The book reads like a poorly written comic book, with inconsequential dialog and lame lines. I didn't like it at all. ...more
Glenda Nelms
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing, incredible and worth telling memoir of resilience and love. Haben Girma’s Story teaches us to embrace the unknown, never give up and stand up for yourself. She demonstrates that accessibility for all benefits all. Haben continues to advocates for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. One of my favorite quotes from her memoir “Writing is Advocacy. Writing is strength. Writing is power”Thank you Haben Girma for sharing your story and advocacy.
Laura • lauralovestoread
Haben Girma has such an impactful life story to tell, and I was blown away by her memoir. As the first deafblind woman to graduate from Harvard Law School, Haben shares her experience in a moving way, and uses them to bring awareness and advocate for people with disabilities.

Thank you to the publisher, and to for the gifted copy and audiobook. All opinions are my own
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The relief you feel when you finished a book that you haven’t enjoyed at all. 🤔🥴 This book should be under young adult genre. I don’t even categorize it an autobiography. They’re short stories, essays. Regardless of Haben's achievements and bravery, the writing is slow, silly and uninteresting. It needs editing!!! ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: blog-recs
Mentioned in a blog post at ...more
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing book to read. Haben interweaves much needed advice on the life of people with disabilities. She gives so many example about how she navigates life while having great adventures.
Best book I have read in a long time.
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is the memoir of the first deafblind woman to graduate from Harvard Law School. The daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, she grew up with limited vision and hearing which grew worse over the years. Covering about 2 decades, this had an episodic feel. I wanted more insight into her daily life, how her peers responded to her, her interior life, etc. I was impressed with the support she received from her public high school, her liberal arts college and Harvard Law School. She comes across as a br ...more
Haben is pronounced thusly: the Ha is like haha, and the ben as in Benevolent (ie it doesn't rhyme with RobIN).

If you are shocked that I only gave this three stars, so am I. Haben herself is a 5 star woman. Part of my disappointment is due to the poorly chosen subtitle because I was expecting a lot more about her application to and time at Harvard. Only ONE chapter discusses her time at Harvard Law School! This isn't to say that there was nothing interesting, but I know that Girma is brilliant s
Feb 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
I feel terrible not liking this book, but it was truly awful. Certainly Haben the human is worth celebrating - anybody who gets through Harvard Law even with their senses working at max capacity, has one on me, but the writing is almost unbearably boring.

There is also the issue that Haben can actually hear - not well, she is clinically deaf, and prefers to use a Braille machine, but she can hear and does communicate with others using typical speech quite often. Not that I am downplaying her circ
Brittany Baker
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow. This book was incredible. Haben Girma's life so far is a story worth telling, and it is beautifully told. She has the rare ability to explain key moments in her life so clearly and vividly that one experiences them with her. (It is one thing to tell someone a story, and another thing entirely to help them feel it.) Girma's big heart and wonderful sense of humor as she describes the joys and frustrations of her life made this memoir a genuine pleasure to read. With kindness and patience, she ...more
Feb 01, 2022 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, I don’t think this was particularly well written. The use of present tense through out didn’t work for me. Haben as a person is obviously amazing and it’s always cool to read about disability activists, this book however was underwhelming in terms of execution. Also for a book with a tag line about conquering Harvard Law, there was very little about Harvard Law School which was one of the things as law graduate and trainee solicitor which really had me excited about this book in t ...more
Hayley Stenger
Although I appreciate Haben Girma's experiences, and did learn from this book, I felt it was a bit shallow. Girma was informative with her audience, but lacked vulnerability and therefore it was more difficult for me to connect. ...more
Jun 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography
Stellar read! Haben has had a very interesting life and has been instrumental in changing how people with disabilities are viewed in American society. The book is full of great stories from her upbringing in California, her mission trip to Mali, her educational career and ADA expansion into a technological space. What a wonderful young woman, and I loved hearing her narrate the audiobook. 5 stars!
Raquel (Silver Valkyrie Reads)
I enjoy books that let me see the world through someone else's eyes, though in this case it might be more accurate to say this book let me feel the world through someone else's hands. I didn't always agree with her opinions on what is the most just/ideal outcome for difficult situations, but I did love hearing her life story, and even the places I disagreed were good for making me think through specific situations and how I DO think they should be handled.

Content concerns would be very low fo
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wackynonfiction
I really enjoyed this quick read. Haben's family history is as interesting as her childhood is as intriguing as her journey to adulthood. Being a deafblind woman, Haben's story guides the reader to understand civil right issues for persons with disabilities. It made me constantly think about my library - how user-friendly is it to persons with disabilities? What if Haben walked in and asked us for assistance - how would we react and provide her with the outstanding customer service we pride ours ...more
Lindsey Guevel
Jun 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was so good. There were so many different quotes I could relate to. I am not one to typically read autobiographies, but this one was worth it. I highly recommend others to read this as it can change your perspectives around deafblind individuals as it did for me.

I think this individual is someone I can look up to who is bold to change things and pave the way for others.
Lindsay Kerr
Aug 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was wonderful to read a little bit more about one of the many influential disability rights advocates after meeting her at an event in Los Angeles.
Sharon Orlopp
Memoir is my absolute favorite genre, particularly when the obstacles and life challenges are immense, so I was looking very forward to reading Haben.

I think what she has accomplished is terrific and it requires grit, determination, and perseverance.

However, the writing style stymied me. I got over the present tense and was appreciative that it was mentioned that the entire book would be in present tense. But the writing style felt geared toward YA.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This book teetered between 3 and 4 stars for me. Parts of it extremely good, but as a whole a little bit snapshot-y. As others have mentioned, was hoping to see more of the "conquering Harvard Law" aspect but it was only briefly discussed in short anecdotes towards the end.

Definitely learned more about the challenges faced by deafblind (/deaf/blind) people. Some chapters I wish had gone into more in depth, some I wished had been shorter. There is a lot of information dumping about Ethiopia vs. E
Anne Slater
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
This is an amazing depiction of a seriously intelligent woman with a progressively worsening disability who just keeps saying YES to life. Not an ounce of self-pity to be found, and even a love affair hinted at if you follow the names of the people in her life.

The world is fortunate to have her in it. Her persistence, her intellectual capacity and creativity, her forthrightness make Haben Girma a total winner. Her thoughtful observations of what is available and what is necessary to provide disa
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book about an accomplished woman with unique life experiences. Loved learning about her life as she grew up and the challenges she has faced when the world around her has been less than accompdating. She is an amazingly hard worker and I love her positive attitude and how much she is willing to try anything, like building a school in Mali or climbing a glacier. Also love that she is a disability rights advocate.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it
2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge - A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement (a nod to 20/20 vision)

52 Books in 52 Weeks 2020 Reading Challenge - A book with a character who wears glasses (Haben's sister TT wears glasses)

August selection for Books and Beer Book Club

Rappahannock Reads - Central Rappahannock Regional Library's Annual Community Read (author is scheduled to give a presentation next spring to the community)
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lovely and delightful depiction of Haban's persistence, humor and strength. The reader will enjoy her adventures, obstacles and victories. ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an amazing story told by an incredible human being. We have so much to learn from each other's differences. An excellent read for all. ...more
Natasha (jouljet)
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
From navigating the world as a Deafblind child, to visiting family in Eritrea, to volunteering to help build a school in Mali, attending college and living on campus, to completing Law School at Harvard and becoming a fierce advocate for accessibility - Haben has crammed a lot into her life so far, and her memoir! There is nothing she has set her mind to, that she hasn't done! She shares important moments of her life so far, from big moments like becoming connected to her Seeing Eye Dog, Maxine, ...more
Carly Findlay
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have had Haben Girma’s book on my TBR pile for over a year. This month it’s been Tash @jouljet and my #DisabilityReads.

Haben is the first Deaf Blind woman to graduate from Harvard Law. She’s American born, and her parents are Eritrean and Ethiopian - and she talks a lot of her Eritrean and Ethiopian heritage in the book. I really loved the references to food in the book.

Haben details a lot of her life growing up, and so her experience in Harvard Law is a very small part of the book. She also
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Haben Girma is an American disability rights advocate, and the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School.

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