cover image There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

M. Leona Godin. Pantheon, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4871-5

Godin, a performer and educator who is blind, debuts with a revealing and humorous account of how blindness has been misunderstood by the sighted. At the age of 10, she was diagnosed with retinal dystrophy, a degenerative condition that gradually caused her to become blind. “Lack of sight does not give rise to specific types of personalities, behaviors... or conversions,” she writes, noting how blindness has long been treated by the seeing-world as either something to be pitied or something to be revered as a marker of “innocence and purity.” Oftentimes, she argues, sighted people like to believe that being blind is linked to secret supernatural abilities, as with the Marvel character Daredevil, whose blindness masks his superhuman crime-fighting abilities. The Bible, meanwhile, casts blindness as a symbol of “spiritual ignorance.” These pervasive biases are “not only misplaced but demeaning,” she writes, and rob the blind of their agency. Through her educational writing and “in-your-face, irreverent performance art,” Godin has worked to challenge such stereotypes, but she also realizes it’s not all on her. “If a sighted person wants to believe in my prophetic powers, why not? I mean, our practical abilities are so often doubted.... I might as well claim the blindseer superpower.” By turns heartfelt and thought-provoking, this is a striking achievement. (June)