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At age eight, Lucy Ching, the blind daughter of a wealthy Cantonese family, heard over the radio ""that blind children in America and England learned to read in some special way with their fingers""--and, through her ham-radio-operator brother, received braille equipment from an anonymous doctor in Manila. Shortly she and her sighted sister were studying the same English word! ""I knew in a flash that it was up to me--that I could do whatever I had the determination to do and was not limited by arbitrary, pre-set boundaries in the way that my family had brought me up to believe."" This is the unusual, heartening story of her next nine years--and of her kinship with her illiterate, resourceful amah, Ah Wor, who continually rescues Lucy from financial and familial straits. On her own, Lucy persuades a succession of schools to accept her as a regular student--brailling the textbooks, late into the night, with the aid of volunteer and paid readers. She begins to attend church surreptitiously, and converts to Christianity. She has a first, unnerving ride in an elevator; a first experience with a fork (""a small cold hand with prickly fingers""). She and Ah Wor meet a young blind girl whose vicious ""slave mistress"" forces her to sing in the streets--inspiration, for Lucy, to continue her studies and become a teacher of the blind. At the Communist take-over, the Chings flee to Hong Kong, then Macao and Kowloon; Lucy, abetted by the now-unpaid Ah Wor (who takes outside work to advance Lucy's education), wins recognition as a pianist and a student; at 17, she receives a scholarship for further training in the US. In the brief epilogue, we hear of her American studies (1954-59); her meeting with Helen Keller (who urged her to write her life-story); and her decision, opposed by her family, to return to Hong Kong to teach other blind Chinese. (In 1977, she had an opportunity to bring Ah Wor here for a visit too.) A modest, affecting account of each difficult step.

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday