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The Shape of Sound

I am still unlearning the habit of secrecy. And yet, whenever somebody discovers that I am deaf, my body still reacts with churning terror. How do you build up a sense of robust pride when your body has taught itself to be fearful?

Fiona Murphy’s memoir about being deaf is a revelation.

Secrets are heavy, burdensome things. Imagine carrying a secret that if exposed could jeopardise your chances of securing a job and make you a social outcast. Fiona Murphy kept her deafness a secret for over twenty-five years.

But then, desperate to hold onto a career she’d worked hard to pursue, she tried hearing aids. Shocked by how the world sounded, she vowed never to wear them again. After an accident to her hand, she discovered that sign language could change her life, and that Deaf culture could be part of her identity.

Just as Fiona thought she was beginning to truly accept her body, she was diagnosed with a rare condition that causes the bones of the ears to harden. She was steadily losing her residual hearing. The news left her reeling.

Blending memoir with observations on the healthcare industry, The Shape of Sound is a story about the corrosive power of secrets, stigma and shame, and how deaf experiences and disability are shaped by economics, social policy, medicine and societal expectations.

This is the story of how Fiona learns to listen to her body. If you enjoy the writing of Bri Lee and Fiona Wright, this is a book for you.

Fiona Murphy
About the Author

Fiona Murphy is a Deaf poet and essayist. Her work has been published in Kill Your Darlings, Overland, Griffith Review and the Big Issue, among other publications. In 2019, she was awarded the Overland Fair Australia Essay Prize and the Monash Undergraduate Creative Writing Prize. In 2018, she was shortlisted for the Richell Prize and highly...

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Text publication date:
30 March 2021
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Praise for Fiona Murphy
andThe Shape of Sound

‘I devoured this in a day, fascinated, enlightened, moved.’

‘In The Shape of Sound Fiona Murphy impressively turns the intimate yet inanimate sense of hearing into a tangible, tactical object to be shared and explored with readers. Through a personal lens, she investigates the social, environmental, economical and political impacts of deafness and disability with rigour, yet without ever losing a pervading humanity. The Shape of Sound is an impressive accomplishment, equally industrious and delicate, and an exciting addition to Australian disability literature.’

‘A unique voice that reveals the world anew. Mark the name Fiona Murphy.’

‘Fiona Murphy is a spectacular writer. Her memoir about keeping a medical secret close, then celebrating disability, Deaf identity and community, highlights the need to remove barriers to access and inclusion. The Shape of Sound is brilliant.’

‘Powerfully written—books like this restore the world.’

‘A beautifully crafted memoir describing the gifts of a life without sound.’

‘I have been waiting for Fiona Murphy’s debut: a memoir about the lived experience of deafness and a developing understanding of disability as cultural identity. There is no reading The Shape of Sound without wishing that every Australian would read it too.’

The Shape of Sound is a game-changer, a book that challenges assumptions not only about what it means to be deaf, but what it takes to truly listen, communicate and connect.’

The Shape of Sound is an exquisite, eloquent and poetic memoir. Fiona Murphy draws the reader into a different sensory world, and provides a devastating critique of a society that all too often punishes disability. A damn fine read.’

‘Full of heart and delving into what it means to inhabit flesh, blood, sound and movement. The Shape of Sound is definitely a book I will return to over the years, and gain more from with each read. A brilliant debut.’

The Shape of Sound is about coming of age, and coming to terms with the unseen and unspoken forces that impinge upon a life lived in a disabled or different body. In this utterly gripping book, Murphy writes with candour and elegance, as she challenges how the reader sees the world.’

‘This book is an act of resistance. In her raw and unflinchingly honest memoir, Murphy tells the story of how she overcame shame and secrecy to claim her Deaf identity. An outstanding work and a must read.’

Other editions ofThe Shape of Sound
  • The Shape of Sound
    ISBN: 9781925923919
    30 March 2021
    Buy ebook