The Story of My Life was written while Helen Keller, then in her early twenties, was a student at Radcliffe College. It is a moving story of the education of a child with the extreme handicap of being deaf and blind. The book begins with a rather vague description of young Helen’s earliest memories, before she became deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months, but most of it narrates her teaching by Anne Sullivan of the Perkins Institute for the Blind.
The Story of My Life is far from the cry for help that it might easily have been. The tone is one of joy. Keller emphasizes her early love of language. She recalls learning to speak before she lost her ability to see or hear and her desperate attempts to reawaken this ability. Throughout the book, there is a strong emphasis on her love of language, especially the written word, which was, after all, one of the few ways she had of relating to the outside world.
The major emphasis of A Story of My Life is on the work of Sullivan, whom Helen always in this book refers to as Teacher. As subsequent writings made clearer, Sullivan’s methods were far from orthodox at the time. She communicated with Helen mostly by use of the manual alphabet, although lip-reading with fingers was also attempted. At the time, oral communication was almost universally stressed among educators of deaf children.