After the Miracle

The Political Crusades of Helen Keller


By Max Wallace

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In this "stunning" new history, New York Times bestselling author Max Wallace draws on groundbreaking research to reframe Helen Keller’s journey after the miracle at the water pump, vividly bringing to light her rarely discussed, lifelong fight for social justice across gender, class, race, and ability (Rosemary Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author).

Kirkus Best Nonfiction Book of 2023

Raised in Alabama, she sent shockwaves through the South when she launched a public broadside against Jim Crow and donated to the NAACP. She used her fame to oppose American intervention in WWI. She spoke out against Hitler the month he took power in 1933 and embraced the anti-fascist cause during the Spanish Civil War. She was one of the first public figures to alert the world to the evils of Apartheid, raising money to defend Nelson Mandela when he faced the death penalty for High Treason, and she lambasted Joseph McCarthy at the height of the Cold War, even as her contemporaries shied away from his notorious witch hunt. But who was this revolutionary figure?

She was Helen Keller.

From books to movies to Barbie dolls, most mainstream portrayals of Keller focus heavily on her struggles as a deafblind child—portraying her Teacher, Annie Sullivan, as a miracle worker. This narrative—which has often made Keller a secondary character in her own story—has resulted in few people knowing that her greatest accomplishment was not learning to speak, but what she did with her voice when she found it.

After the Miracle is a much-needed corrective to this antiquated narrative. In this first major biography of Keller in decades, Max Wallace reveals that the lionization of Sullivan at the expense of her famous pupil was no accident, and calls attention to Keller’s efforts as a card-carrying socialist, fierce anti-racist, and progressive disability advocate. Despite being raised in an era when eugenics and discrimination were commonplace, Keller consistently challenged the media for its ableist coverage and was one of the first activists to highlight the links between disability and capitalism, even as she struggled against the expectations and prejudices of those closest to her.

Peeling back the curtain that obscured Keller’s political crusades in favor of her “inspirational” childhood, After the Miracle chronicles the complete legacy of one of the 20th century’s most extraordinary figures.

  • "Wallace strips away the sentimental image of Helen Keller and reveals an astonishing woman who lectured, traveled, wrote books, and loved movies. A friend of Charlie Chaplin and of Martin Luther King, she was a radical and passionate political activist taking stands against war, racism, and inequality that brought her to the attention of Hoover and his FBI. Following Keller’s life, Wallace offers a bonus: a stunning overview of the brutal politics of the 20th century. I enjoyed the book very much."
    Rosemary Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation
  • “A penetrating vision into the life and times of Helen Keller . . . adds the needed dimensions, insights, and details to elevate this famous woman to the true historic pivot she created; and [Wallace] does so with exceptional clarity, immense grasp of subject, and compelling detail.”
    Edwin Black, New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation
  • "A fresh look at an international icon, offering new perspectives on her life and work . . . compelling."
    Kirkus, Starred Review
  • "Wallace rebalances the portrait with this deeply researched book. He repeatedly shows how ableist prejudices as well as political distaste suppressed Keller’s voice."
    Wall Street Journal
  •  “A riveting series of adventures with Helen Keller, from befriending Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood to calling out apartheid in South Africa. Helen’s delightful wit and fierce dedication to advocating for underrepresented people makes her a timeless role model.”
    Haben Girma, disability justice advocate and author of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law
  • “Max Wallace’s impeccably researched book lays out a fascinating epilogue to the familiar story of a blind-deaf girl at a water pump. After the Miracle paints a compelling portrait of a complicated, revolutionary woman who spent a lifetime advocating for peace and equal rights despite powerful forces pressuring her to adhere to the simplistic persona they had created.”
    Liz Heinecke, author of Radiant: The Dancer, The Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light
  • “Meticulous research and the author’s nuanced perspective make this is an enlightening study of Keller’s fierce commitment to justice.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • "[A] fascinating biography."
    Christian Science Monitor
  • "Deeply researched and gracefully written, Wallace's After the Miracle offers a compelling, nuanced portrait of Helen Keller as a passionate political activist and socialist crusader whose radical convictions were often at odds with her angelic public image. The lively pace and original approach make for an enjoyable read."
    Elisabeth Gitter, author of The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, the Original Deaf-Blind Girl
  • "There is much more to the life stories of Keller and Sullivan than the limited, if inspirational narrative of the movie, as Wallace’s superb biographical chronicle makes clear . . . [After the Miracle] paint[s] a more complete picture of the imperfect humanity behind the inspirational narrative. [Wallace] shows that just because saints have feet of clay, that doesn’t make them less saintly."
  • "In this highly readable, deeply researched, and illuminating work, Max Wallace brings the full range of Helen Keller’s lifetime accomplishments to a new and contemporary level of clarity. After the Miracle dispels myths, carefully investigates and untangles erroneous narratives, and adds immeasurably to our knowledge of the multi-dimensional woman who became a fearless political activist, anti-racist, and radical socialist in her day."
    Elizabeth Emerson, author of Letters From Red Farm: The Untold Story of the Friendship between Helen Keller and Journalist Joseph Edgar Chamberlin
  • “An amazing insight into the life and mission of a genius.”
    Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi
  • "Illuminating . . . highlights Keller’s abiding devotion to radical leftist causes, which included speaking out against Jim Crow, Nazism, McCarthyism, and more . . . compelling."
    Christian Science Monitor
  • "Reclaims the life of the international icon through the lens of her pioneering political activism, including speaking out against racism, poverty and disability . . . With whiplash narrative drive this meticulously researched account of Keller’s legacy clarifies the lifelong commitment of a progressive radical whose social justice advocacy remains timeless. It’s an essential read that shifts the well-worn tale of one of the 20th century’s most intrepid figures."
    Toronto Star
  • "The passing of time can offer new perspectives on the lives and the legacy of famous people. That’s the case with Helen Keller, who is generally remembered as a wild, deafblind child, tamed and educated by a determined teacher, Annie Sullivan, a narrative concretized by the 1962 Hollywood film The Miracle Worker . . . In his extensively researched and clearly written account, Wallace delineates how Keller was pressured to fudge or hide her views . . . enlightening."
    Winnipeg Free Press
  • "To say that After the Miracle is enlightening would be an understatement . . . The author’s prolific research has enabled him to document in great detail the political awakening of Helen Keller."
  • "Engrossing . . . Wallace's writing is nuanced, neither diminishing her accomplishments nor overlooking her missteps, but instead returning Keller to the center of her own life story. After the Miracle is a portrait not of a saint or a miracle, but a woman with strong convictions living in a complicated world."
  • Praise for Max Wallace's In the Name of Humanity:

    “A riveting tale of the previously unknown and fascinating story of the unsung angels who strove to foil the Final Solution.”
    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
  • "A wonderfully engrossing example of hidden history."
    Montreal Times
  • "Dramatic and formidably researched."
    Anna Porter, author of Kasztner’s Train and Ghosts of Europe

On Sale
Apr 11, 2023
Page Count
368 pages

Max Wallace

About the Author

Max Wallace is a Canadian journalist, filmmaker, and human rights activist, and the New York Times bestselling author of five books. His most recent book, In the Name of Humanity: The Secret Deal to End the Holocaust (PRH Canada, 2017) became a national bestseller and was shortlisted for the 2018 RBC Taylor Prize—Canada’s most prestigious award for literary non-fiction. The book also won the 2018 Canadian Jewish Literary Award. As a journalist, he has contributed to the Sunday New York Times and the BBC. Since 2007, he has also worked with AMI-TV—a television network for blind and partially sighted people—to write hundreds of Described Video film and television scripts.

Learn more about this author