I always enjoy reading stuff by people who walk between worlds. Their viewpoints are usually fresh, their insights truthful and their language informed by both of the spheres in which they travel. With one foot in the Deaf world and another in the hearing, Raymond Luczak is no exception and Assembly Required is his story.
From his beginnings as a butcher’s son in Ironwood, MI to his coming out at the prestigious Gallaudet University in DC, Luczak details childhood memories, university experiences and his love of music, art and literature as well as technology. He also gives us a primer on “How to Meet a Deaf Man,” covering the different way hearing men treat Deaf guys as well as why Deaf men and women are so politicized.
You didn’t know that? Neither did I. I had no idea the Deaf community was so passionate and polarized by American Sign Language (ASL) as well as other internal issues. But even though I learned a great deal from this book, I also found out I have much more to learn.
Luczak’s language is simple but far from simplistic. Rather than over-writing passages about personal heartbreak or the joys of discovering who he is both as a gay man and as a Deaf one, those portions of his life are blissfully under-written. Many memoirists have not learned that less is usually more and exhaustive descriptions of their feelings serves to limit those experiences they seek to describe rather than make them truly universal.
My only complaint about the book is that it’s criminally short at less than 150 pages. It’s also a bit scattered – not that I need a chronologically correct version of Luczak’s life, but a more sequential ordering would have given me a better grounding to understand his struggle.
But don’t let that stop you from experiencing this fine lesson in humility and humanity from someone who sees gay issues from a fresh, unique perspective and can communicate his perspective with powerful common sense in a language we can all understand.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler