A debut memoir focuses on a rare condition involving the senses.
Early in this work, Margolis provides the following definition of his affliction: “Synesthesia is a condition where one sense is stimulated, but two senses respond.” Specific manifestations may vary, but the author first addresses his perception that each letter or number has a specific color. He then prints an entire page of text in color, as he sees it, and the effect is definitely disorienting. In the prologue, when young Margolis was tasked with unscrambling letters on a chalkboard in front of the class, he encountered an additional difficulty because the letters began to argue with one another. Thus, the author adds another layer to the story, reflected in the title, as he sometimes perceives voices or sounds emanating from inanimate objects. Margolis later explains: “I don’t hear their voices per se. They don’t have faces or mouths. I hear them as thoughts or impressions.” During his college years, a chance encounter with a poster featuring the curious word “synesthetic” led him to discover that he was not entirely alone. As fascinating as this situation may seem, there is much more to the story that makes his case even more unusual, including an ironic twist whereby the coping mechanisms and compensation strategies he had developed on his own and came to rely upon no longer worked properly. Still, through all of this turmoil, Margolis only shared his secret with one other person; even his wife remained in the dark. The act of publishing this book is his big reveal, although he admits that he considered using a pseudonym. (If it’s a safe assumption that Margolis eventually opened up to his wife, one wonders why he omits that potentially dramatic moment from the text.) Overall, the author writes in an easily accessible style with a pleasant combination of self-deprecating humor and vivid descriptions of key incidents. The organization of the text into four main sections—Discovery, Concealment, Education, and Acceptance—reflects a journey that many will likely recognize and embrace. Margolis’ memoir should certainly resonate with readers who have ever felt somehow outside of the norm in any number of different contexts.
This delightful book about coping with a disorder delivers important lessons for parents and educators as well as younger audiences.