Sight Unseen

Georgina Kleege, Author Yale University Press $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-300-07680-6
In this blend of memoir and pointed cultural criticism, novelist (Home for the Summer), essayist and translator Kleege describes how she has come to terms with being blind in a world that fears and stigmatizes blindness. In 1967, at the age of 11, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration, told there was no cure or hope of improvement and declared legally blind. So Kleege, who is able to discern some light, color, movement and form, learned to hide her impairment. In school, she memorized pages of text in anticipation of being asked to read aloud, and determined what school friends were seeing by their tone of voice. With erudition that only partially belies her fury, Kleege goes on to explore the cultural meanings of blindness, dismantling negative stereotypes about the blind, including those perpetuated by such Hollywood films as Wait Until Dark and The Paradine Case and novels such as Eden Close. She also contrasts her visual experiences with those of the fully sighted and explains how, as a writer for whom reading was central, she has developed workable reading techniques. Although she was discouraged from learning braille as a child because she had ""too much sight,"" Kleege now considers it a useful and pleasurable supplement to recorded tapes and magnification devices. Although sometimes didactic, Kleege gives readers an enlightening look at life with marginal eyesight. Agent, Mildred Marmur. (Mar.) FYI: Readers interested in this title might also enjoy Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto.
Reviewed on: 03/08/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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