32 Books in 32 Days – Day Nine

Each day leading up to the April 17 announcement of the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature

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Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Finalist,
Going Blind: A Memoir
Mara Faulkner, OSB
EXCELSIOR EDITIONS/STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK 

 

Excerpt from Going Blind: A Memoir:

When I imagine the eventual loss of my eyesight, I dread the day when I can no longer pick up the trails of feeling, thought, and sensation that crisscross a room. I dread being on the sidelines of the wordless dance that goes on wherever people gather: the laughter at a funny move or look, the quiet smile moving around the room like the light from a candle flame, the play of emotion on faces, conspiratorial glances, silent tears. Will my face too, forget how to open in listening, soften in response, relax when tension melts into laughter? How will I know what people are feeling, when I can’t catch their slightest falling into grief? For someone who lives in her eyes as I do and as my dad did, this is a death.

But it’s not the death of the mind and heart that the language of blindness imagines. In fact, the growing number of men and women who speak and write honestly and brilliantly about their experiences of blindness have convinced me that the opposite is true: that blind people can teach everyone a new kind of vision and a new kind of compassion and that together we can imagine and create a planet of the blind where everyone will be welcome.

This incredible, prolific, and skillfully written memoir challenges the commonly held stereotypes of blindness and the origins and implications of the various cultural metaphors of what it means to be blind. Mara Faulkner gives the reader a fresh look at the meaning of blindness by telling her father’s story of his gradual loss of sight and its impact on her and the rest of her family. This thorough and historical journey also interlaces events in history that she and others were “blind” to, including the uprooting of Native Americans in North Dakota by the Garrison Dam and the Irish Famine.

 

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Mara Faulkner, OSB, is an Associate Professor of English at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota. She is also the author of Protest and Possibility in the Writing of Tillie Olsen and Born of Common Hungers: Benedictine Women in Search of Connections.

 

Reviews:

“The author tells the story of how her father’s secret and denial of his blindness greatly affected her childhood and growing up, in an Irish family with many children. Each chapter’s use of the word blind in a different way weaves the meanings of different types of blindness with her family story of growing up in North Dakota. The author’s budding intelligence at a young age helped her rise from poverty and hardship to a greater understanding of life and the world. This well written memoir is very well researched in the subjects of blindness, Irish immigrants, and North Dakota. A book that is hard to put down.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

Going Blind is as wide-ranging as it is introspective, and Faulkner is as courageous in her questioning of the world as she is in her questioning of her self. As a result of her creative investigations, Faulkner notes how much her own understanding of blindness changed over the course of researching and writing it. In her final chapter she writes, ‘When I look back on my early notes for the book, I’m shocked at their narrowness and inaccuracy. For there, in all their shameful glory, are most of the patronizing and damaging misconceptions, stereotypes, and bad attitudes I’ve tried to dismantle in these chapters.’ As I read her book, I felt like I was learning along with her, learning to dismantle and revise not only my own misconceptions about blindness but also how I see the world.” – Steven Thomas, Professor, Department of English, Saint John’s University

“An incredible story that stays with you long after finishing the final page.” – Emily Rapp, author of Poster Child: A Memoir

“This is a remarkable, multidimensional, and accomplished memoir. The author renders the lives of her family members with candor, sensitivity, and integrity.” – G. Thomas Couser, author of Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing

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Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

 

Have you read Going Blind: A Memoir? What are your thoughts? Did you vote for the Readers’ Choice Award? We welcome your comments!

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