Book Review: The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

You are probably no stranger to the name Helen Keller. She is now a symbol of overcoming adversity and can be heard in songs like DJ Khaled’s “Helen Keller.”

You may know that Helen Keller was a deaf woman, but you may not know the details of her life and why she became so famous.

As you get older, you realize how difficult it is to cope with everyday life when you have a disability.

As a child, Keller displayed incredible bravery in the face of adversity. These vignettes dive deeper into her youth and are sure to serve as a source of inspiration and drive as you work toward your own goals.

You may be wondering if you should read the book. This book review will tell you what important lessons you can learn from this book so you can decide if it is worth your time.

At the end of this book review, I’ll also tell you the best way to get rich by reading and writing

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Lesson 1: Helen’s life has changed drastically thanks to her teacher, Miss Sullivan.

Helen and her parents were advised to go to the Perkins Institution in Boston for the blind after visiting inventor Dr. Alexander Graham Bell in Washington. Although Helen was not a student there, she visited often, so Mr. Anagnos, the school’s director, set about finding a suitable teacher for her.

It was Anne Sullivan who came to Helen. 

In 1887, she visited Keller and gave her a crash course in language, which included not only words but also the idea of language itself. Miss Sullivan used a technique known as hand alphabet, spelling words on the other hand. Helen’s first word she learned using this strategy was “doll.” She learned it by touching her doll, spelling the word with her hands, and then practicing the same movements over and over.

Keller learned from Miss Sullivan that the water in her glass and the water she felt when she put her hand in a stream were the same. When Helen finally understood that there was a name for everything, she became obsessed with learning as many as she could.

But she soon learned that even the intangible had a name.

As a child, Helen Keller struggled with abstract concepts for the first time as she tried to string beads. Miss Sullivan spelled the word “think” into Helen’s hand alphabetically by putting her hand to the child’s head.

Please explain how you would define something as abstract as love. Miss Sullivan compared clouds to rain: although we cannot touch the clouds, we can feel the rain on our skin, and the parched earth is grateful for the drenching in the midst of a hot summer. Miss Sullivan held that without love we cannot experience joy or lightness.

Keller’s world has been greatly expanded by the realization of the commonalities that unite us.

Keller owes much of her success to Miss Sullivan, who taught her the skills she needed to communicate clearly and fluently, which enabled her to overcome her past frustrations and achieve great things.

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Lesson 2: Helen Keller lived a full and wonderful life, despite the challenges she faced.

Keller’s formative years were marked by a wealth of formative experiences and supportive friendships, but they also included times of struggle.

She was reprimanded by the Perkins Institution when, at age 12, she accidentally plagiarized a book while working on a writing assignment.

She did not recall hearing such a story, but Mr. Anagnos claimed that the story she wrote for him was plagiarized. The plagiarism allegations against Keller led to a mock trial at the Perkins Institution, where he was questioned about his motives.

The thought of disappointing Mr. Anagnos, whom she greatly appreciated and respected, made her heart sink. She also doubted her own judgment and was afraid to put anything down on paper.

Keller was eventually able to let go of her fears and doubts, and by the time she was 10, she had mastered the art of communication. Keller was an unstoppable force because she was motivated by the discovery that another deaf and blind girl in Norway, Ragnhild Kta, could speak.

A woman named Sarah Fuller instructed Keller to imitate her every move when she spoke by touching her face and feeling the shape of her mouth and tongue. She felt a great sense of freedom because she could finally communicate with others and be herself.

Keller did not let her inability to see or hear take away her positive outlook on life. Some doubted her ability to see Niagara Falls and other natural wonders because she was deaf and blind. But Keller assured them that she could, just as we can all appreciate abstract concepts like love and kindness.

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Lesson 3: Helen Keller found pleasure in overcoming her obstacles.

Around 1900, Keller enrolled at the college. There were some challenges during her stay, but the feeling of having mastered them remains.

She began her education at the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, where, shockingly from today’s perspective, she received almost no special support because of her disability. Keller used Miss Sullivan’s learning techniques to help her cope in school.

After typing her answers on her typewriter, she had the principal, Mr. Gilman, spell them out. This way she could correct any mistakes she made during the exam.

Just before her senior year, Keller became ill. The principal took this as a sign of a breakdown and decided that she was not ready to take the final exams with the rest of her class; consequently, she had to wait another year before enrolling in college.

Keller’s mother had other ideas and took her daughter out of school to work with a private tutor. However, she was not given any relief or extra time for the final exams, and she had to review her answers with the rest of the class when time permitted.

In addition, Keller had learned a different type of Braille – the dots embossed on paper that can be “read” by touch – than the one used on her final exam, and therefore was unfamiliar with the algebraic symbols used.

Amazingly, she still managed to do well enough on the exam to be accepted to college.

During her time at the college, her two favorite subjects were German and English.

She was also fluent in French and Greek and read a lot in those languages, but her favorite language by far was German because a story could be told so clearly.

Her favorite book in English was the Bible, and she loved Shakespeare – especially Macbeth.

She felt most comfortable reading fiction and books, so she treasured them. The authors and characters in the stories she read took no notice of her, but whisked her away to worlds where she could roam freely.

Surprisingly, Keller felt little resentment toward the many challenges she encountered and instead found joy and purpose in overcoming them.

About The Author

Helen Keller was an American educator, advocate for the blind and deaf, and co-founder of ACLU. After an illness at age 2, Keller remained blind and deaf.

Beginning in 1887, Keller’s teacher Anne Sullivan helped her make tremendous progress in her communication skills, and Keller attended college, graduating in 1904. Throughout her life, she received numerous awards in recognition of her achievements.

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