The thought of complete, endless silence would frighten many of us.
"A THOUSAND VOICES," by Jeri Parker, Winter Beach Press, $22, 213 pages (nf)
The thought of complete, endless silence would frighten many of us. It would mean isolation from the world around us and being denied that simple connection with other human beings — a connection that helps us to understand and to grow.
In Jeri Parker’s poignant memoir, "A Thousand Voices," the reader is introduced to a young 10-year-old boy, Carlos Louis Salazar, for whom silence has been a daily reality since birth.
Having been an educator among high school and university students for many years, Parker undoubtedly had many unique experiences in working with young people. But it was that moment in 1965 when she met Carlos at the Utah School for the Deaf in Ogden that motivated her to capture this experience in a beautifully moving way.
Carlos is, at first, as Parker poetically describes him, “more otherworldly than childlike.” Carlos “wore his beauty like a gift to the world, but occasionally — and regularly when adolescence went through him like a fire — he ripped at it with something like disdain.”
But Carlos is not portrayed as a typical “hero” who triumphs over his disability and always does great things. There is a difficult side road that marks his life. This young boy turns into a rebellious teenager, who fathers a child out of wedlock and then dabbles in violence and drugs.
These aspects are one of the reasons why this book would not be appropriate for all ages or individuals. But Parker handles the material appropriately, and there is a lesson to be learned from this glimpse inside Carlos' life.
That lesson speaks to all of us about the limitless nature of compassion and of the power of the human voice and spirit.
It may also be difficult for some readers to understand the instant bond that seemed to form between Carlos and Parker and the relationship that followed. It’s very reminiscent of a Helen Keller/Annie Sullivan situation in that even though Carlos was not dependent upon Parker intellectually to sign and translate, there was most certainly an emotional dependence. Together, they filled a void in each other.
Parker has won prizes for her writing from the Utah Arts Council. Other publications by Parker include "Uneasy Survivors: Five Women Writers" and various poems and short stories in literary reviews. She is also an accomplished artist, and her work is part of many public and private collections.
IF YOU GO ...
What: Jeri Parker book signing
When: Saturday, Dec. 3, 4 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Kim Grant has two novels published through Covenant Communications and a third to be released January 2012. Her website is at www.kcgrant.com.