In this memoir, a blind, retired judge revisits his battle with chronic illness and the loss of his sight.
Brown opens his second memoir (Blind Justice, 2009) with the chilling line, “Going blind is like dying except you are still alive.” He then recounts his battle with Behcet’s Syndrome and becoming blind, spanning from his undergraduate days in the Triangle area of North Carolina, to his transition to retirement from the law profession where he was a district court judge, imparting advice from his life experiences along the way. After battling to stave off his impending blindness for more than a decade, Brown must physically and mentally adjust to life as a disabled person and deal with other life changes, or “train wrecks” as he calls them. He delivers some practical advice about handling loss and making good decisions about health care, but his focus could be better controlled and his audience narrowed down in order to avoid alienating some readers. While the book is filled with clichéd phrases, several stand-out lines, such as the opening one, bring emotion to Brown’s ordeal. The chapters alternate between encyclopedia-like recall of people and places associated with his life in Durham and advice for others facing a chronic disease. Photographs interspersed in the text and quotes beginning each chapter feel elementary, but Brown showcases his writing chops in the standout chapter “The Sightless End Game.” In it, he undergoes a series of cataract surgeries with the hope of being able to continue to see the face of his firstborn daughter and eventually memorize the face of his second daughter before he loses his sight completely, and this makes for heartwarming, emotionally charged scenes. The book concludes first with a chapter on Brown’s ideas for decreasing the national debt and then a final chapter on hope and love. While the book’s scope could have benefited from a tighter focus, the memoir has moments where there is much to learn from Brown’s wisdom.
An ambitious memoir with a unique viewpoint regarding disabilities and life’s “train wrecks.”