Vicky: Today is #NationalReadaBookDay so we thought we’d do a brief run down on some of the books we’ve read and also ask if there are any others out there that people can recommend with a link to blindness/sight loss or disability in general. We are interested in both autobiographies and fiction novels. Whilst VIDA Training is not a book club, we read books to widen our own knowledge base and talk about books we’ve read in our training if we feel they could enhance people’s understanding or provide an easy way to add insight to living with sight loss.
So in order to extend our reading references, a while ago Dave and I sat down and went through a list of books available to me through Surrey Libraries (https://www.facebook.com/surreylibrariesonline/) and for him through RNIB’s Talking Books service (https://www.facebook.com/rnibuk/). They didn’t always match but then good old Amazon and Ebay came in handy for some of the paperbacks and Surrey Libraries went to an extra effort to locate Touching the World for me from Sussex – thank you! The latter is such a great book by the way that I’ve just purchased it from their website (http://worldtour.org.uk/) – we’ll review it properly once Dave has read it too (come on Dave 😊)
We’ve already reviewed Touching the Rock by John M Hull and Blind Trust by Red Szell on our blog page (VIDA Insight numbers 3 and 15 - www.vidatraining.weebly.com/blog).
Recently we have also read – Bleed Out by Joan Brady; Stargazing by Linda Gillard; Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood and Out of the Darkness by Tina Nash.
Some quotes that we think illustrate elements of living with sight loss well from these books are below:
From Bleed Out by Joan Brady -
“I reached instinctively to put my hand on her shoulder.
But a simple, physical reaching out like that – the only meaningful communication at times like this when no words will serve – is the privilege of a sighted person. … if I wanted to put my hand on it, I had to find it first.”
“‘I’m usually kind of good with dogs’ he said unhappily ‘This one sure don’t like me much’
‘It’s not you Mr Doe. She is a professional on duty. Rather like a Secret Service Agent. You must meet her in her free time one day’”
“Within a month, she was installed in the office across the fire escape from me, and I was aware almost at once that my judgement about her had been correct. She is one of the few people I have known – who has an instinctive sensitively about the blind. I do not believe she had ever known anybody in my condition before, and yet she knew without being told to identify herself when she entered a room so I knew who she was and to notify me when she was leaving the room so that I did not end up talking into thin air. She used words like ‘look’, ‘see’, ‘blind’ as though I were perfectly normal, and she did so as she cautioned me about stairs, kerbs or obstacles in my path. She knew to look directly at me when we spoke so that I could follow her voice with my eyes and face and she even seemed to take pleasure in the delicate social nicety of placing my hand on the door knob or the arm of a chair so I could orientate myself.”
From Stargazing by Linda Gillard
“The blind are as fetishistic about voices as the sighted are about appearances, so allow me if you will to describe this man’s voice as chocolate. Serious chocolate. Green and Black’s, not Cadbury’s.”
“ ‘Jesus! Didn’t you see me coming? Are you blind or what?’
Shaken, the woman turns to face the cyclist. As she adjusts her hat, knocked askew, her hands are unsteady but her voice is firm. ‘Yes. As a matter of fact I am.’
Marianne – That’s right, I’m blind.
I’ll give you a moment or two to adjust your prejudices.
But, I hear you ask, shouldn’t I have been escorted by a Golden Labrador? Or waving a white stick? At the very least, shouldn’t I have been wearing enormous dark glasses, as favoured by Roy Orbison and Ray Charles?
I know, I know – it was really my own stupid fault for wandering round looking normal. (Well, I’m told I do. How would I know?)”
"Has it ever struck you how language favours the sighted? (Of course not, because you can see.) I don't just have a problem seeing, I have a problem talking, trying to find words and phrases appropriate to my experience. Just listen to how people go on: Oh I see what you mean...Now look here...The way I see it...Reading between the lines...I didn't see that coming...It depends on your point of view...You get the picture? I, of course, don't"
“Harvey was dead. Long dead. I hardly even thought about him anymore, perhaps because I’d never had any visual memories of him – no photographs, no wedding video to watch to keep the memories alive, no children to remind me of him”
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood –
“She’d rather see for herself, she doesn’t trust Tobias to interpret, she suspects him of holding things back. Protecting her he’d call it. But she doesn’t want to be protected in that way”
“Next morning Tobias is late for breakfast. She senses this lateness, then confirms it with the talking clock in the kitchen, another gift from Alyson: you hit the button – if you can find the button - and it tells you the time in the voice of a condescending grade two arithmetic teacher ‘It is eight thirty-two. Eight thirty-two’”
Dave: Reading was never my thing when I was young and I found reading quite hard work. I wonder now if it is because of my sight condition and that reading was difficult because I couldn’t see as well as everyone thought or whether I just didn’t like reading! Since losing my sight and this making what I can do rather more limiting, I have started to listen to audio books. Crime detective is my preferred genre but I’m up for reading anything. I’m doing my best to keep up with Vicky but I just can’t read as quickly as her. Vicky informed me that she had read 8(?) books whilst on her 12 day holiday this year when I struggled to get through 1 book with a reading time of just over 8 hours! (Vicky: not listening again Dave – it was only 6 books over a 13 day holiday 😊) The problem I have is that I fall asleep when listening so have to retrack the audio until I find a bit that I know I’ve heard before… at least if you fall asleep when reading a paper book you know what page you got to as it’s staring at you when you wake up with it on your face!. (Vicky: not true when it hits the floor, but I accept it’s easier to visually scan to refind your place - but away with the excuses and get reading Dave!!)
Regarding the above mentioned books, I have been able to relate to all of them in some way. Some passages (not the ones we’ve quoted above) have made me cringe a bit and others have made me smile with the understanding that the blind person is having the same hurdles as me or has a similar thought process when doing things.
Books on our list still to read are:
All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr,
Death from the Woods by Brigitte Aubert,
The Blind Man of Hoy by Rod Szell,
The Windhorse by Elaine Brook and Julie Donnelly.
If you have comments to make on any of the books we have mentioned, or are aware of any other books that are a must read then please do let us know by commenting…
Interested to learn more about VIDA Training? Read about our Training and Consultancy packages, specialising in Vision Impairment and Disability Awareness, Communication and Team Building or contact us for further information.
Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.