Kambri Crews studied the man sitting across from her: dressed in prison whites, he chattered on in ASL about his new crude tattoos and the other inmates, and why hadn’t Kambri smuggled in a hamburger for her dear old Dad? What happened to this man, her deaf father, who was once a hero in her eyes? In her memoir, Burn Down the Ground, Kambri Crews revisits her childhood as a hearing child of deaf parents in rural Texas and the implosion of her family.
Once upon a time Ted Crews could do no wrong in Kambri’s eyes. Handsome, charming, and a hard worker, he cleared five acres of dense piney woods and created a dream home for his wife and family complete with running water and electricity. Much admired in his rural community for designing and building a bridge that kept an essential road open, he was also well-liked in the Deaf Community for his humor and mischievous personality.
There were demons to be fought, though, demons that sometimes got the best of him, and the biggest, blackest demon of all was Ted’s hatred of his deafness. Although some in the Deaf Community considered hearing loss to be a cultural identity, Ted loathed his silent world. What made it even worse was the separation from his family as his hearing children and partially hearing wife (who could hear some sounds with powerful hearing aids) were able to enjoy movies, music, and spoken conversations that excluded him. Sometimes he became violent, and this, coupled with his drinking, philandering, and poor financial decisions sent the once happy family into a tailspin.