Black cover of The butterfly cage. Title and Author name are in yellow. There is a painted butterfly on the front drawn by Nancy Rourke. It is colored in shades of blue, yellow and red.

The

Butterfly Cage

Joy, Heartache, and Corruption: Teaching While Deaf in a California Public School

by Rachel Zemach

Rachel Zemach Photo in Purple shirt

Rachel Zemach

Author | Teacher |  Advocate | Presenter

After ten years of teaching Deaf students in a public school, Rachel decided to write a memoir of this experience, in order to educate others, improve the experiences of Deaf children and try to start a national dialogue about mainstream Deaf education. Readers will meet individual students, watch raucous and often surprising class discussions, and see Rachel’s personal journey as her identity as a Deaf person undergoes a dramatic shift.

Teaching Deaf  Students in Public School

This book is tender, funny, surprising, and disruptive. You’ll be a fly on the wall in a Deaf classroom in a public school, watching a Deaf teacher struggle with staff, administration, and aides who sabotage the teachers at every turn. You’ll also see the children struggle with a principal who removes their textbooks, a vindictive, power-hungry speech therapist, and a system that leaves them all defenseless against it.

You’ll also meet a language-hungry boy who will capture your heart and run away with it and the political, fiercely intelligent elite members of the Deaf community who rally to change legislation after his life takes a shocking turn. Learn from these true stories of individual students and their quirky, fallible teacher, what the deepest feelings and dilemmas of Deaf and hard of hearing people are, and why 90% of our students around the country are being unnecessarily set up for failure.

‘In “The Butterfly Cage,” Rachel Zemach fills that gap, and then some! Writing from the perspective of both a Deaf student, and long-time Deaf teacher of the Deaf, Rachel enabled me to finally gain some real insight into the severe impediments to learning that we educators create for our Deaf students…’

Butterfly drawing by Nancy Rourke

General inquiries, speaking engagements, events, or literary rights

Book Reviews

"The value of her perspective can't be overstated...froma Deaf teacher working in a hearing school."

"The Butterfly Cage had me from the first page. I fell in love with Zemach's students as they fell in love with language. This is a tale of a woman's ...
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Arlyn (Amazon customer)
"The Butterfly Cage had me from the first page. I fell in love with Zemach's students as they fell in love with language. This is a tale of a woman's passion, creativity, and personal awakening in the least fertile environment possible. Zemach creates a safe, warm and hospitable narrative for readers - making it easy to settle in and open our minds. Zemach, a wise teacher indeed, weaves powerful learning around topics that could be strange and unfamiliar. She places it gently on our shoulders as we laugh and cry and love. We leave carrying new learning and are richer for it. Highly recommended."
Arlyn (Amazon customer)
The Butterfly Cage is a fascinating and heartfelt dive into the hidden world of education for Deaf children in a public “mainstream” school. Zemach brings her students to...
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Mal May, former school psychologist at a school for the Deaf
The Butterfly Cage is a fascinating and heartfelt dive into the hidden world of education for Deaf children in a public “mainstream” school. Zemach brings her students to life for us, and shares their trials and triumphs, heartbreaks and moments of pure joy, all while taking us along for the twists and turns of her own life journey. Whether or not you’ve ever known and loved a Deaf child — or any child — this is a book you won’t want to miss.”
Mal May, former school psychologist at a school for the Deaf
“Many books about educating the Deaf have struck me as a tad dry, but Rachel Zemach’s The Butterfly Cage is anything but dry. She shares her many...
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Raymond Luczak, author of A Quiet Foghorn: More Notes from a Deaf Gay Life
“Many books about educating the Deaf have struck me as a tad dry, but Rachel Zemach’s The Butterfly Cage is anything but dry. She shares her many years of teaching her Deaf students while trying to work within the “system” to provide a better—and more equitable—experience for them. While this may seem like a “big-picture” book filled with some truly heartbreaking scenes, we do meet many unforgettable characters, all of whom are beautifully rendered to illustrate clearly how and what must change in the future. The Butterfly Cage is a clarion call not only to reconsider how Deaf students have been historically served but also how they deserve a far better chance now to improve their own lives not as Deaf people trying to be hearing, which is actually a form of oppression which is brilliantly delineated in these pages, but as Deaf people as themselves with their own set of unique cultural attributes: diverse, vibrant, and powerful.”
Raymond Luczak, author of A Quiet Foghorn: More Notes from a Deaf Gay Life
The Butterfly Cage blows the lid off the California public school system’s treatment of deaf students. You will be both enlightened and outraged! ”
John Geogegehan, author of Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow: A True Story of Love, Hearing Loss, Heartbreak and Redemption
The Butterfly Cage blows the lid off the California public school system’s treatment of deaf students. You will be both enlightened and outraged!”
John Geogegehan, author of Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow: A True Story of Love, Hearing Loss, Heartbreak and Redemption
“This is a powerful read. Those who have worked in the field of Deaf education and truly get it will nod affirmatively. Those who are new or not...
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Mark Drolsbaugh, author of Deaf Again
“This is a powerful read. Those who have worked in the field of Deaf education and truly get it will nod affirmatively. Those who are new or not as familiar with the needs of Deaf children are in for an eye-opening experience. The book starts out like a nice, leisurely drive through the countryside and then holy smokes — strap yourself in! — you realize you’re in a fighter jet pulling 7 G’s. Rachel Zemach masterfully leads you through a world where we can and should be doing better. For good measure, Zemach adds a comprehensive list of tips and strategies that are must-read for parents, teachers, administrators, and allies of the Deaf community. A valuable resource.”
Mark Drolsbaugh, author of Deaf Again
"This is a page turner!! I never knew one beautiful bridge could bring together so many different types of people. Rachel Zemach has just become one of my favorite authors!!"
Beth
"This is a page turner!! I never knew one beautiful bridge could bring together so many different types of people. Rachel Zemach has just become one of my favorite authors!!"
Beth
"This memoir illustrates startling differences between public school education for Deaf children and the Deaf school. To quote a Deaf Reviewer, "powerful read". I agree that the book is powerful ...
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Diana
"This memoir illustrates startling differences between public school education for Deaf children and the Deaf school. To quote a Deaf Reviewer, "powerful read". I agree that the book is powerful and moving."
"
Diana
"This book is a gift in more ways than one. Rachel has the rare skill of reaching to multiple audiences at the same time: able to educate the hearing...
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Molly Glass
"This book is a gift in more ways than one. Rachel has the rare skill of reaching to multiple audiences at the same time: able to educate the hearing, and able to resonate with the d/Deaf. As a grown Deaf adult who was Deaf since toddlerhood, I cannot count the number of times I felt seen. I had to take breaks a few times, as many stories made me cry and remember my own experiences of coming of age while being in an all hearing family."
"
Molly Glass
"As a mainstream, public school and college-level educator of many years, with an M.S.Ed. in science education, and a Ph.D. in educational program evaluation, ...
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Larissa White
"As a mainstream, public school and college-level educator of many years, with an M.S.Ed. in science education, and a Ph.D. in educational program evaluation, I have taken many courses over the years -- both as course requirements, and then in the form of continuing education workshops -- to help myself better understand and serve the needs of my students. My goal was always to help each and every student thrive and learn. One of the best experiences I ever had was taking the F.A.T City Workshop, which explained various learning disabilities, and included a series of activities designed to help us gain a viceral understanding, from the student's point of view, of the challenges posed by various LDs. While Deafness was included in the F.A.T. City list, it was merely mentioned and then glossed over -- and it seems to me now that this was a major gap in my education as a teacher. In "The Butterfly Cage," Rachel Zemach fills that gap, and then some! Writing from the perspective of both a Deaf student, and long-time Deaf teacher of the Deaf, Rachel enabled me to finally gain some real insight into the severe impediments to learning that we educators create for our Deaf students, by not truly understanding the nature of their experience and nature of their learning needs. (How can anyone ever hope to learn anything, without the use of a first language?!) In reading her book, I laughed at the absurdity of problems we create, cried at the trauma created by our ignorance, and found new determination in the simple solutions that we as educators can implement to help resolve so many of these issues -- all by reading this little gem of a page-turner. In my professional opinion, "The Butterfly Cage" should be required reading for all educators. It was a joy to read. And now, I'm off to learn a little more ASL."
"
Larissa White
“The Butterfly Cage ” is a brilliant and thoughtful memoir written by Rachel Zemach, a deaf educator, writer, and activist. Here, Author Zemach recounts her...
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Lily Mooze
“The Butterfly Cage” is a brilliant and thoughtful memoir written by Rachel Zemach, a deaf educator, writer, and activist. Here, Author Zemach recounts her remarkable navigation through the intricacies of teaching while Deaf in a California public school. It is a crucial and sometimes disquieting panorama of the patchiness of deaf education in public schools offering necessary advice for educators and families alike.
Lily Mooze
butterfly watercolor made with hands in dark and light blue, red and yellow
(5/5)

“This is a page turner!! I never knew one beautiful bridge could bring together so many different types of people. Rachel Zemach has just become one of my favorite authors!!” — Beth

butterfly watercolor made with hands in dark and light blue, red and yellow

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Nancy Rourke

Deaf Artist

Nancy Rourke Artist painting and photograph of her painting.

Book and Website Art Work Courtesy of Nancy Rourke

“My work has a centralized focus that makes a theme using categories that can be resistance, affirmation and liberation art. I create images, colours and construction that show different symbols and motifs.”

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