Having read this poignant memoir of a brilliant and courageous young woman when I was a girl, I was in absolute awe of the challenges that she overcame. Her story was, indeed, inspiring and Helen Keller's accomplishments were amazing to me. This experience of reading about Helen's determination to overcome her difficult challenges was humbling as I realized how insignificant and petty many of my own disappointments in certain circumstances were.
The Story of My Life has given hope to many children enrolled in various schools throughout the United States. Helen's home state of Alabama has The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. This institute is composed of the Alabama School for the Blind, the Alabama School for the Deaf, and the Helen Keller School, which is for those who are both blind and deaf (to some degree or another) and who sometimes have other disabilities. Residents of the state pay no tuition to these schools.
Having been employed there, I personally know that at the School for the Blind, there are numerous copies of The Story of My Life in braille or in large print. These copies are a perennial favorite of students who are encouraged by Helen's memoir. Often they speak of a trip that they have taken to Tuscumbia, where they have touched the water pump at which Helen finally understood the meaning of Anne Sullivan's sign language. Furthermore, students who have only one of Helen's handicaps are certainly encouraged by someone who has both handicaps, feeling that if Helen could achieve what she did, they certainly should be able to succeed.
It is interesting to note that Miss Keller rewrote her memoir after receiving a braille copy. The revised format of short episodes makes for an easier read for younger readers, and for those who are new at braille reading. More importantly, the revisions have made the book truly Helen's. For this reason, The Story of My Life is all the more inspiring.
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller is an interesting and important book as it gives a first hand account of the experience of being deaf and blind in a world which, especially in the period she was writing, had only minimal accommodations in place. Its description of how Keller struggled to learn how to understand and communicate with people is fascinating, and its publication, and the continued advocacy of Keller herself, contributed much to improve the lives of people with disabilities and increase sympathy and understanding for them.
Despite the importance of the book, and the inherent interest of the narrative, I do not find the prose style particularly appealing, and do not generally enjoy autobiography as a genre. Thus while I enjoy what I learn from the book, and the sense of discovery of a world alien to my own experience, I do not find it pleasurable in the sense that I might enjoy Austen or Gibbon or Eco, or other writers whose prose style I enjoy.