Braille Monitor                                                    December 2009

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Featured Book from the Jacobus tenBroek Library

Going Blind: A Memoir by Mara Faulkner, OSB. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009

by Ed Morman

A man reading Braille and a woman reading print are seated at a table in the Jacobus tenBroek Library with bookshelves filled with volumes behind them and a stack of Braille books on the table in front of them.From the Editor: We plan frequently to spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is librarian Ed Morman’s description of a recent acquisition:

Sister Mara Faulkner is a Benedictine nun whose father gradually lost his vision to retinitis pigmentosa during her childhood. This book is her meditation on the meaning of blindness, both as a real bodily disability and as a convenient word on which to hang a wide range of metaphorical meanings. Growing up in near-poverty in a remote part of North Dakota, Faulkner had the opportunity to learn much, not only about the real blindness that ran in her family, but also about how people can be blind to each other’s needs and capabilities. Deftly employing the figurative--if sometimes offensive--use of the word “blindness,” she discusses the nineteenth-century famine that brought her Irish ancestors to America, a famine that was largely ignored by the English rulers of Ireland. Similarly she talks about other ethnic groups that lived around her father’s general store, such as the Germans from Russia, an immigrant group whose story gets lost in the better-known histories of other German-speakers and other peoples who came to America from Russia. The saddest story she tells is of the three Native American nations that lived settled agricultural lives on land progressively taken from them until their remaining villages were finally inundated when the Missouri River was dammed.

Faulkner’s thoughts on literal blindness are especially worthy of consideration by Federationists. Losing vision to RP herself, she knows of the NFB and in many ways agrees with and lives by the Federation’s philosophy. However, while she regrets her father’s refusal to acknowledge his own blindness, she also acknowledges his right to live as he saw fit. She celebrates Erik Weihenmayer’s ascent of Mt. Everest, but she objects to focusing on his accomplishments so much that the daily lives and accomplishments of the average blind person become invisible to the general public.

Google Books provides an accessible overview of Going Blind, with links to booksellers and libraries that have copies. A new book, it is not yet available in Braille or audio editions.

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