cover image The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight

The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight

Andrew Leland. Penguin Press, $29 (368p) ISBN 978-1-984881-42-7

Believer editor Leland delivers a masterful exploration of disability in his brilliant debut. Living with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that gradually results in total vision loss, since he was a teenager, Leland considers his ongoing transition from sightedness to blindness with ambivalence and curiosity: “I need to know how I will live, and what kind of blind person I’ll be.” While he mourns the loss of things like seeing his son’s face and reading printed text, he discovers new, more tactile ways of being, such as letting his son guide him through a museum, or sweeping his fingers across “marvelous” lines of braille. Interweaving his own experiences, dozens of interviews with blind people and cultural experts, and forays into philosophy, history, and literature, Leland constructs a nuanced understanding of “blind politics, blind tech, blind culture, and blind struggle,” discussing, among other topics, schisms within the National Federation of the Blind and the ways much modern technology can trace its roots back to “blind troubleshooters,” whose innovations have become integrated into the broader culture. At the core of his inquiry are the paradoxes of disability: how does one understand blindness as both an impairment and a “neutral characteristic,” and how can Leland accept his “new identity” as both central and incidental? Enriched by its sparkling prose, this is an extraordinary and intellectually rigorous account of adapting to change. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME. (Aug.)