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Staff Book Review for National Library Week

National Library Week highlights the contributions of libraries and library workers. Today, we share a library staff book review of  the inspiring book, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law.

Haben is the memoir of Haben Girma, the first deaf/blind student to graduate from Harvard Law School. Told in snippets of important, life-affirming stories from Girma’s early childhood through law school graduation, the book is a quick and engaging read.

Haben opens with a tale of Girma’s family’s life in and emigration from Eritrea, a country besieged by a long-standing war with Ethiopia. The book covers how Oakland-born Girma coped with her disability throughout life and how she was able to openly communicate with others. Girma reflects on learning to dance without being able to hear music and hiking a glacier without being able to see. At school, she updates a braille keyboard in order to communicate quicker and more efficiently with teachers and fellow students.

Girma’s career-deciding moment occurred in college. When Girma’s requests for daily emailed menus that her braille reader could translate went ignored for months by the manager of the dining hall, she threatened a  lawsuit against the vendor under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The company then began providing daily accommodations, and the incident sparked Girma’s interest in becoming a civil rights lawyer. After graduating from Harvard, Girma has been working as an advocate for the disabled and earned a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for her efforts. In 2015, she received a White House Champion of Change award from President Barrack Obama.

Haben is a great book, with very interesting insights into life as a deaf/blind person.

-Reviewed by Sue Petrofsky, Library Assistant

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