What Life Would You Have Without Being Able to See?

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[Following is a volunteer review of “I Know My Way Memoir” by Theresa Marafito with Linda Odubayo Thompson.]

3 out of 4 Stars

One day a woman bumped into me on the street. She seemed to me like a tank going straight no matter what, right through any wall if needed. She walked fast, with an enviable confidence in herself. How rude, I thought, she is as she didn’t apologize. She didn’t even seem to notice me. What I did not see – how paradoxical – that she was blind, as a woman who was following the blind one whispered to me. I guess one must get tired apologizing hundred times a day.

Have you ever thought what kind of life you would have without being able to see? How would you be able to imagine the world and everything around you? How would you light the gas stove to cook your food? Using kitchen tools is just one more question… How much of ordinary everyday things you would not be able to do? It sounds miserable and yet people manage. So I chose this book out of curiosity to learn more about how visually impaired people live their daily life…

…And because a blind woman bumped into me once.

Theresa Marafito’s notes were discovered after her death and released as the memoir I Know My Wayby one of her daughters – Linda Odubayo Thompson. Having been visually impaired from very young age, Theresa managed to live her life to the fullest, always finding her way, as the book title suggests, never giving up. Theresa wasn’t completely blind so she refused to use Braile at school and was just copying teacher’s hand movements into the notebook instead when the latter wrote on the blackboard. Theresa did everything not to condemn herself to the life in darkness. She learned to type and got a job as a typist, got married and together with her visually impaired husband designed and built a house, gave birth to two daughters, made friends, owned business…

The book isn’t a plain biography – it is full of funny stories that only could happen to visually impaired people. And although many sighted people would feel sorry for someone apologizing for bumping into a fire hydrant or climbing the snow pile on the side of a neatly shoveled walkway – people, to whom these things happen every day, know better to laugh their lungs out of it. The way these funny stories are revealed in the book – simple and straight – is charming and made me laugh many times. The following paragraph from the book about the time when Theresa, her husband Jerry and their friends went to the camp for visually impaired people, shows it the best, I believe:

“Every once in a while, we would come upon a counselor who considered her stay at camp to be a penitential pilgrimage, wherein she alone could atone for the sins, injustices, and ignorance of mankind. This young lady was the type who would preach to anyone who would listen how awful she felt when she met a blind man who wandered around for two hours after breakfast in search of his cabin, or how she could have cried when that young fellow over there had asked another guy to dance, thinking that he was a she. Now, we all thought that this sort of thing was uproariously funny and certainly not deserving of any great degree of pity, but our friend would plunge into another of her sermons on the need for love and understanding. As I promised earlier, my Jerry and another conspirator decided that enough is enough! Here’s what happened next!

Harry Dando, a young man with a cherubic face, remarked, I’ll bet there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for any of us. I’ll bet she’d even teach us how to row a boat, if I asked her! Row a boat, we roared. Why you’re one of the best crewman in the whole camp! I know that and you know that, but she doesn’t. I wonder how long it will take before she catches on. Probably just a few minutes, if I give her a good dose of my charm! What’s the point? we asked. The point is to get her mad, so she’ll forget about being so damned sad. As far as she’s concerned, we’re the dumbest, most pathetic aggregation of misfits ever created by the left hand of God and someone’s got to call her bluff.”

I will let the reader find out what happened next. I can promise – it’s rewarding; as many other funny stories throughout the pages of the memoir.

I love the writing style, humorous approach when describing even the most challenging life moments, unique language that somehow feels like a retrospective Polaroid picture of the American Dream. At first I couldn’t put the book aside. It is well-edited and pleasant to read. But somewhere near the end of the book the style starts slightly changing and it feels that the narrator becomes more like the “watcher” than the “doer”. Thus the memoir transforms into a biography with the obligation to mention every detail or event which, in my opinion, was not necessary.

The very end of the story was disappointing as it had a very religious approach (while the rest of the book didn’t) which, I think, for many people would not be very acceptable. Because of the latter and the change of the style in the end of the book, I rate it 3 out of 4, although this is hardly the reason to put it aside.

I would recommend the book to anyone anxious to learn how handicapped people live, to understand why their life, while challenging, isn’t so much different from the life of us all who can see. The story may broaden the way sighted people see the visually impaired ones and, after reading the memoir, I believe, namely the sighted people are the ones who usually have to learn seeing and not the other way around. This is a very beautiful story of a woman that overcame so many obstacles that could inspire the sighted people, as well as the visually impaired ones, to never give up, to always “remember to color the sky blue”, as the book’s subtitle says. And of course, the book is a must, in my opinion, to everyone having vision problems.

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I Know My Way Memoir:Always Remember to Color the Sky Blue

Is available in the following formats:

Print: soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket

E-Book: Mobie(Kindle), epub (Nook and other e-readers)

Audio:Download to smart phones, pc/laptop computers and other audio reading devices

Contact Linda Odubayo Thompson

E-Mail: [email protected]

Telephone: 914-944-1474