Books: Non-Fiction

Helen Keller: Rebellious Spirit

Time Periods: 20th Century, 1910, 1920
Themes: Women's History

The history most often taught of Helen Keller only focuses on her miraculous achievements in reading and writing despite going blind and deaf as a baby in the late nineteenth century. Her early life is emphasized in order to paint her as a kind of saint.

Too frequently concealed from the public is Helen Keller’s role as a “high-spirited, opinionated, and defiant rebel,” a socialist who worked with other activists during her life to achieve justice for working class people and women, and to end war. This book introduces younger readers to the side of Helen Keller they don’t get to hear about.

ISBN: 9780823415885 | Holiday House


“[Lawlor’s book provides] . . . another side of Helen’s character is her strong political beliefs and a rebellious nature.” —Children’s Books to Read and Own — Cuyahoga County Public Library

“. . . Lawlor does a fine job of peeling back layers of her achievements to reveal their cost and assess the extent to which Keller fulfilled her own dream of mainstreaming with the sighted, hearing world. . . . there is additional spark from Lawlor’s sharp insights….” —The Bulletin

“[Lawlor] uncovers much of the complexities of Keller’s life: the prickly personality of teacher Anne Sullivan; the relationship of Helen and Anne with Helen’s family and the culture of the deep south; how both her her fame and her family conspired to keep Helen more as a symbol than as a person rich in personality and contradiction.” —Kirkus Reviews

“. . . Keller’s persistent ability to reinvent herself, echoes throughout Laurie Lawlor’s absorbing and vigorously researched biography of the most famous deaf and blind person in history.” —Horn Book Magazine

“Most adults know about Helen Keller, the little girl who went blind and deaf at age 19 months. But our children and young people may not know the account. This book is for them, easy to read with lots of fascinating pictures.” —Peter J. Dyck, Provident Bookfinder (August-September 2001; vol. 32 issue 1)