Book Review: Tracey Sweetapple

Video Summary

Tracey Sweetapple, a Canadian teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing with 30 years of experience, shares her thoughts on Rachel Zemach’s book “The Butterfly Cage.” Sweetapple, who studied at UBC and has worked in various educational roles, was drawn to the book because of how some of it focused on corruption in Deaf education. As she read, she found many parallels with her experiences, marking the book with sticky notes and highlights. She has felt a deep connection to the book’s content, emphasizing the importance of Deaf empowerment and the challenges faced by Deaf and hard-of-hearing children in integrated settings.

Sweetapple recommends the book to three groups: general education teachers and those studying to become teachers, parents of Deaf and hard-of-hearing children, and hearing people in management positions in education. She emphasizes the need for each of these groups to understand the specific needs and challenges faced by Deaf and hard-of-hearing learners. Sweetapple praises the book for its influence and the author’s courage in addressing these critical issues.


  • 0:00-0:08: Tracey Sweetapple’s introduction, background, and profession.
  • 0:09-0:23: Sweetapple’s educational background and teaching experience.
  • 0:24-0:53: Discovery of “The Butterfly Cage” and its relevance to her experiences.
  • 0:54-1:06: Personal connection with the book’s experiences.
  • 1:07-1:21: Emotional impact of the book on Sweetapple and her advocacy for Deaf empowerment.
  • 1:22-1:44: The issues faced by Deaf and hard-of-hearing children in education.
  • 1:45-1:58: Recommendation for educators to read the book.
  • 1:59-2:31: The importance of specialized education for teachers of the Deaf and hard of hearing.
  • 2:32-2:39: Recommendation for parents of Deaf and hard-of-hearing children to read the book.
  • 2:40-2:50: Ethical constraints teachers face and the need for parent advocacy.
  • 2:51-3:11: Importance of collaboration between parents and specialized teachers.
  • 3:12-3:24: Urging hearing people in management roles in education to read the book.
  • 3:25-3:57: The impact of administrative decisions on Deaf and hard-of-hearing children.


The Butterfly Cage: Joy, heartache, and corruption: Teaching while Deaf in a California public school. A memoir by Rachel Zemach Book review in American Sign Language.

Introduction to Tracey Sweetapple

“Hello, my name is Tracey Sweetapple. I live in Canada and I’m hearing. I am a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I studied at UBC and graduated with my master’s degree in 1995. I previously taught at the BC School for the Deaf and I’ve held a variety of positions in education, in two provinces, for 30 years.”

Discovering The Butterfly Cage

“Scrolling on social media recently, I learned about a new book called “The Butterfly Cage” by Rachel Zemach. It caught my eye because the front cover spoke about corruption in Deaf education. My curiosity was piqued as I have experienced the same. As I read the book, I had my pencil out, underlining, circling, and starring various points.”

Personal Connection with the Book

“So many situations and so many experiences that I have also had. I added pink sticky notes to pages – I’ll show you. It was astounding to me how many similar experiences we have had. This book is like a diary – and I was able to visualize and experience all that Rachel did and so many similar experiences! My teacher’s heart was fully connected to Rachel’s.”

Advocating for Deaf Empowerment

“I am hearing and I believe strongly in Deaf empowerment. The isolation, loneliness, oppression, language deprivation, and language suppression that far too many Deaf and hard of hearing children experience in integrated settings is heartbreaking.”

“We need to do better!”

Call to Action

“We need to do better! I strongly encourage three groups of people to read this book. Starting with generalist education teachers and those studying to become teachers. In the same way that a bachelor’s degree requires breadth and depth, part of the breadth such as special education courses and Indigenous studies courses, so too should there be an ASL & Deaf Studies course for undergrad students. This book would be very helpful in demonstrating the specific needs of Deaf and hard of hearing learners – I mean – this is why one has to undertake a master’s degree to be a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing!”

The butterfly cage book with an arrow pointing to a yellow buy now button that leads you to Amazon.

Importance for Parents and Teachers

“Next, I recommend parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children read this book. Teachers are bound by a code of ethics. We are not able to talk about things freely or share stories of experiences we have had, the conflicts that can occur, and the barriers that need to be navigated. Parents need to know how to approach various situations, how to advocate for their child and to work as a team with the Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.”

“Parents need to know how to advocate for their child!”

A Special Message to Administrators

“It may only be the parents and the Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing up against the larger hearing majority – who don’t have the training or expertise. In light of all this, the group who most needs to read this book are hearing people in management positions in school districts and ministry/government level positions. Your decisions directly impact the lives of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children.”

Closing Thoughts

“If you have no understanding of the language learning, mental health, and social-emotional needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, there is great risk for harm. Enough – it is time for change. Thank you, Rachel, for your amazing book and the courage it took to write it. You are so influential, and I so appreciate your advocacy and candor. Thank you.”

Contact Tracey by email here.

Would you like to speak with Rachel?

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Feel free to share this post by using the links below!

“Calling all educators and parents of Deaf children: ‘The Butterfly Cage’ is an essential read to understand and navigate the complexities of Deaf education.” #EducationReform #DeafCommunity #TheButterflyCage

Check out the book review by Dr. Lisalee here.

12 + 11 =

Rachel Zemach - Light skinned woman with brown hair in a purple shirt with flowers on it.

An important book written from the heart about the educational challenges of deaf children

“I had the privilege of interviewing the author on my podcast, “The Art of Medicine with Dr. Andrew Wilner.” I would highly encourage anyone who knows a deaf child or who works in the public education system, especially special education, to read this enlightening, thoughtful and well researched book. It is likely you will view those who are hard of hearing and deaf very differently. It certainly opened my eyes to how much better we can do in our education of deaf children.”

– Andrew Wilner, MD


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

‘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…’
Woman in a library holding the Butterfly Cage book by Rachel Zemach.

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