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The Shape of Sound (Fiona Murphy, Text)

Just like any relationship, even our relationship with our own body can be fraught with difficulty and denial. Fiona Murphy kept her deafness secret for 25 years, compensating for her hearing impairment by ‘just working harder’, taking extra coaching from her mum lest she fall so far behind in school that moving her to the small disability class would become necessary. Murphy was so anxious to pass as ‘normal’ that she formed perfectionist tendencies verging on self-destructive, including a punishing work ethic that left little time for love and unguarded interactions. ‘It never felt like an anxious habit, just a necessary act of housekeeping,’ she writes of lying in bed sleepless, reviewing the day’s conversations for any faux pas. When a hand injury forced a re-evaluation of her physiotherapy career, Murphy began to learn sign language and find common ground with others in the Deaf community. She embraced Deaf culture and disability advocacy, before finding her remaining hearing was steadily deteriorating. It is vital to read stories like this for their incredible insight, as Murphy navigates stigma, ableism and ideas of disability with reference to public space and her own time in the healthcare industry. The Shape of Sound presents wisdom hard-won through personal transformation, and Murphy’s story is compelling, honest and truly revelatory.

Anne Barnetson is a bookseller and illustrator based in Perth.


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