Jennifer Robinson from the Amhestview Branch recently enjoyed Haben, a compelling new memoir from a deafblind woman who navigated, and ultimately triumphed over, Harvard Law. The following is her review: 

Haben’s self-titled memoir shares insightful and amusing vignettes of what it is like for her to navigate school, career, and life in general, as a deafblind African-American woman. Her adventures include a courageous childhood encounter with a bull, a humanitarian youth effort to build a school, and a physical challenge to climb an iceberg. The positive portrayals of disability highlight resolve, specialized knowledge, fitness and, above all, creative solutions.

The memoir’s upbeat tone shows that Haben’s full life is normal not a heroic feat. In short, able-status does not determine success. The biggest obstacles exist in the physical, social and digital environment, not within the person. Further, disability drives advancement across all sectors – for instance, she notes a text-to-braille technological innovation she pioneered – that benefit everyone.

Haben insists that graduating from Harvard Law does not invite the cringe-worthy assessment of being an ‘inspirational’ feat. In fact, many disabled people are tired of an overused word that misses the point. As one reviewer said, “Simply by living her life Haben proves that disabled people can do almost anything, if they have access.”

Haben notes, “Helen Keller couldn’t go to Harvard, because Harvard was only for men. It wasn’t because of her disability, it wasn’t because of her gender, it was because Harvard chose to exclude people. The barrier wasn’t disability – it was the community’s choice.” (Helen Keller attended Radcliffe, the women’s counterpart to Harvard, in 1900.)

This disability rights advocate proves that disability is an asset that contributes to society. Check out Haben’s Ted Talk or Champion of Change speech for the Obama administration to learn more.

Reserve Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by clicking here