There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

Pantheon. Jun. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9781524748715. $26.95. SOC SCI
Writer and educator Godin has produced a sweeping work of social history, literary criticism, and memoir about blindness and sight. After sharing her own story of losing her vision, Godin proceeds to interrogate biases surrounding blindness in particular, and disability in general. Particularly strong chapters explore fictional representations of blindness, where it is often linked with knowledge and understanding. Other impactful sections analyze works by John Milton and Jorge Luis Borges and recount how their gradual vision loss parallelled Godin’s. Moving into the realm of pop culture, Godin asks readers to reconsider blindness as a literary trope, especially in the form of sighted seers in SFF and horror. Later chapters draw on the work of disability researchers to detail the complicated history of Louis Braille and the braille writing system. The author devotes a chapter to the legacy of Helen Keller, though this could have been expanded into its own book.
VERDICT 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.
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