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PLANET OF THE BLIND by Stephen Kuusisto

PLANET OF THE BLIND

A Memoir

By Stephen Kuusisto

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-31615-1
Publisher: Dial

 A masterful coming-out story in which the author's secret life involves not sexuality but blindness. Kuusisto, with a condition of the retinas that left him legally blind at birth, was raised by parents who denied his handicap. Consequently, he grew up disavowing his blindness and pretending to be able to see much better than he really could. He sees, he writes, ``through smeared and broken windowpanes,'' his impressions of the world ``at once beautiful and largely useless.'' A ridiculed child, at first obese and later anorexic, he developed a love for words, especially poetry. Despite his limitations, he graduated from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, was a Fulbright scholar in Finland, and taught creative writing at Hobart College for seven years. When that job ended, Kuusisto, alone, unemployed, and desperate, found himself face-to-face with the undeniable fact of his blindness, and he at last reached out for the help he'd always needed. After accepting the stigmatizing white cane of the blind that he had rejected ten years earlier, and learning to relish the safety and mobility it gave him, he moved on to Corky, a guide dog that changed his life entirely. Today, Kuusisto is director of student services for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a training school where the blind are matched with guide dogs and trained to use them. He no longer pretends he can see what others see; at age 39, he says, he has chosen to be blind ``in a forceful way.'' Athough portions of this memoir have appeared in various literary magazines (Antioch Review, Harper's, etc.), the presentation here is seamless. An astonishing, occasionally dismaying, and sometimes heart-breaking glimpse of life on the planet of the blind. (Author tour)