Marlee Bethany Matlin (born August 24, 1965) is an American actress. She is the youngest woman and the only deaf actress to date to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, which she won at age 21 for Children of a Lesser God. Her work in film and television has resulted in a Golden Globe award, with two additional nominations, and four Emmy nominations. Deaf since she was 18 months old , she is also a prominent member of the National Association of the Deaf.
Matlin was born in Morton Grove, Illinois, to Libby and Donald Matlin, an automobile dealer. She has two older brothers, Eric and Marc. She lost all hearing in her right ear and 80% of the hearing in her left ear at the age of 18 months. In her autobiography, I'll Scream Later, she suggests that her hearing loss may have been due to a genetically malformed cochlea. She also indicated that she is the only member of her family who is deaf. She is of Russian Jewish descent. She was able to have her Bat Mitzvah by learning Hebrew phonetically; she was later interviewed for the book Mazel Tov: Celebrities' Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories. Matlin graduated from John Hersey High School in nearby Arlington Heights and attended Harper College.
In her new book I'll Scream Later (chapter 11), she also speaks of her two instances of child molestation, the first by her babysitter at the age of 11 and then at the hand of her teacher in high school.