From Homer to Helen Keller, from Dune to Stevie Wonder, from the invention of braille to the science of echolocation, M. Leona Godin explores the long history of blindness, interweaving it with her own story of gradually losing her sight.
... elegant, fiercely argued ... the most intriguing sections in There Plant Eyes form a kind of seminar, close readings of texts through the prism of blindness: Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare and Milton ... The author’s dry wit runs throughout ... We sense the influence of weighty critics such as Harold Bloom, but Ms. Godin leavens her narrative with pop-culture references ... Her anecdotes sparkle ... Honest and direct with her readers, she confesses past jealousies and alcohol abuse while celebrating her current stable relationship with her partner ... brings us deeply into Ms. Godin’s experience: the things she said in anger and later regretted, the technologies that boost her, microaggressions that annoy. But as she shifts to memoir mode her tone shifts as well. She increasingly hectors her sighted readers. Her provocations are righteous but often fall flat. She neglects the vast spectrum of other disabilities: a patient with cerebral palsy, for instance, or a teenager with a neuromuscular disorder, hooked up to a ventilator. By focusing relentlessly on blind versus sighted she sometimes affirms the binary thinking she seeks to overturn ... And yet Ms. Godin largely succeeds in her call to arms. All too often disabled writers are treated as stepchildren of social-justice movements ... Ms. Godin enlarges our understanding of the blind and sight impaired, and There Plant Eyes, proves a landmark contribution to the literature of disability...which is to say the literature of the human itself.
Godin makes a passionate argument for placing blind people at the center of their own stories. She delves into the metaphorical, biological, and societal aspects of blindness, drawing not just from history and literature but from her own experience of becoming blind over the course of her life. This book is an insightful and wide-ranging book that asks sighted readers to examine the myriad ways in which our culture uses concepts of blindness as metaphor or morality tale while simultaneously ignoring the existence, insights, and experiences of blind people. Even in its lapses—Godin says little, for instance, about how race, ethnicity, or sexuality inflect blind experience, representation, or community—There Plant Eyes speaks eloquently and urgently to the necessity of making space for blind thinkers within our ocular-centric world.
... a sweeping work of social history, literary criticism, and memoir about blindness and sight ... The author devotes a chapter to the legacy of Helen Keller, though this could have been expanded into its own book ... Godin covers a lot of ground in this wide-ranging account. Though sometimes dense with detail, her writing stands out for the way it emphasizes that disability is often an afterthought when it comes to diversity, and that disabled people are not a monolith.