The House With All The Lights On

Jessica Kirkness

‘If I were to tell you our story in sign language—the story of my grandparents and me—I’d begin with a single finger touching my chest.’

For most of her life Jessica Kirkness has traversed the boundary between deaf and hearing cultures, sometimes sitting on the periphery, and other times acting as a bridge between worlds.

The House With All the Lights On tells the story of her grandparents’ experience of growing up in a hearing world—one where sign language was banned for much of the twentieth century—and, weaving in her own experience as a hearing child being raised in a family that often struggled to navigate their elders’ disability, Jessica provides an insightful account of her family’s history and the broader history of deafness in Australia and the UK.

This journey takes her to sign language classes, to the workplaces of research audiologists, and even back to England where she visits her grandparents’ old schools and other family landmarks—all while also navigating the throes of grief, both for the loss of her grandfather during the pandemic and for all the ways her grandparents and their deafness have been so terribly misunderstood.

The House With All The Lights On captures the universal experience of navigating complex family relationships and beautifully explores the nuances of identity in what is both a memoir and a love letter to those she loves most.


Jessica Kirkness

Jessica Kirkness is a writer and researcher who lives in Sydney on Cammeraygal land. Her work has been published in Meanjin and The Conversation, among other outlets. In 2021, her manuscript was shortlisted for the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. In the same year, she also received a commendation for the Peter Blazey Fellowship, awarded to writers in the field of Life Writing. Earning her PhD in 2019, her research investigates the value of life writing and creative nonfiction in animating the ‘hearing line’: the invisible boundary between Deaf and hearing cultures. She currently teaches nonfiction writing at Macquarie University. The House With All The Lights On is her first book.

Allen & Unwin

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The House With All The Lights On
Rights sold
Sandra Buol