This elegantly written book offers an unexpected and unprecedented account of blindness and sight. Legally blind since the age of eleven, Georgina Kleege draws on her experiences to offer a detailed testimony of visual impairment--both her own view of the world and the world's view of the blind. "I hope to turn the reader's gaze outward, to say not only 'Here's what I see' but also 'Here's what you see,' to show both what's unique and what's universal," Kleege writes. Kleege describes the negative social status of the blind, analyzes stereotypes of the blind that have been perpetuated by movies, and discusses how blindness has been portrayed in literature. She vividly conveys the visual experience of someone with severely impaired sight and explains what she can see and what she cannot (and how her inability to achieve eye contact--in a society that prizes that form of connection--has affected her). Finally she tells of the various ways she reads, and the freedom she felt when she stopped concealing her blindness and acquired skills, such as reading braille, as part of a new, blind identity.
Without sentimentality or cliches, Kleege offers us the opportunity to imagine life without sight.
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(210mm x 140mm x 23mm)
Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
Well-crafted essays on blindness and sightedness that clarify for the sighted not only what it's like to be blind but what it's like to be perceived as blind. "I am legally blind" is how the visually impaired Kleege introduces herself both to her writing class students and to her readers. At age 11 macular degeneration robbed her of a large measure of her central vision, but it did not prevent her from graduating magna cum laude from Yale or from pursuing a career as a writer and teacher of writing (at Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma). She shares her personal story with telling anecdotes about her early attempts to appear sighted, about drawing for her artist father, of using her peripheral vision to view paintings in a museum, and of a visit to the home of Louis Braille to pay tribute to man who developed the reading and writing system that has given her a freedom that none of the new technologies for the blind could provide. The teacher in Kleege doesn't stop with personal anecdotes, however, for here her intent is clearly to instruct the sighted about what blindness means and what it doesn't mean. She analyzes how the blind have been portrayed on film (Scent of a Woman, Wait Until Dark, Places in the Heart, etc.) and in literature (Jane Eyre, The Light That Failed, Oedipus Rex, etc.), demonstrating how blindness has often been equated with a pitiful helplessness, loss of sexuality, and even as appropriate retribution for some monstrous crime. Her argument that filmmakers regard blindness as their worst nightmare and therefore treat the blind disparagingly fails to persuade, but her perplexed musings on what eye contact really means are intriguing, and her vivid descriptions of her own visual experiences are fascinating. Not always a comfortable read - there's a fair amount of irritation expressed here - but certainly an eye-opening one. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Georgina Kleege
Georgina Kleege is a novelist, essayist, and translator. Her most recent book is the novel Home for the Summer. She has taught writing and literature courses at the University of Oklahoma and at The Ohio State University.