[nabs-l] To Be, or Not to Be, A Blind Character

Jedi loneblindjedi at samobile.net
Sat Aug 21 04:56:48 UTC 2010


Joe,

If you're looking for a good example of how blindness could be 
positively and realistically portrayed in a novel, check out the 
children's book entitled A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND. It's about a pre-teen 
girl whose dog falls ill and needs medication that she decides to raise 
money for by working. While blindness is one of the issues she faces 
(dealing with teachers and the like) it doesn't take center stage in 
the way that blindness tends to in literature.

Respectfully,
Jedi

Original message:
> I like your idea.  I am a writer myself, and struggle with the same problem
> concerning the blind in books.  I don't want to fall in to a stereotype, but
> you are rite when you say it would help educate people.  It is true that
> blind individuals are either overly romanticized or seriously degraded, no
> one seems to find that reality.  I think it is a good idea to put a blind
> character in your book, but to dissuade from stereotypes I guess I would
> make it a secondary character.  That however depends on what angle your
> going for.  Since you said you wanted the person to go blind later in life
> and it is a rival gang theme, perhaps the individual could get shot.  I have
> a few friends who went blind that way all later in life.  I myself can't
> attest to losing my vision quickly as I was young when I lost a large chunk
> and it is now a gradual decline however the friends I know who went through
> it in a "now I see, now I don't" faction, told me a bit of what they went
> through.  Of course it was different for each individual, most agree that
> the first emotion was: helplessness, followed by denial, then sadness, then
> most prominently anger, and then for the strong acceptance, and for the week
> back to denial.  I don't mean to be harsh but I have friends that took both
> paths.  I think if your story has a sudden blindness it is important to
> cover all this, but if your trying to educate the reader I would pick the
> stronger of the two characters, as one negative takes ten positives to
> remedy.

> --------------------------------------------------
> From: "Joe Orozco" <jsorozco at gmail.com>
> Sent: Thursday, August 19, 2010 10:42 PM
> To: "'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'"
> <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
> Subject: [nabs-l] To Be, or Not to Be, A Blind Character

>> Hello,

>> It's no mystery I thoroughly enjoy writing.  This year I've decided to
>> quit
>> fiddling around and finish that novel that's been festering in my head for
>> several years.  Without divulging too many details, I can tell you that it
>> will most likely be a piece about two street gangs that fight for more
>> than
>> just respect in a classic war between good and evil.  Think Stephen King
>> meets S.E. Hinton in a more aggressive version of The Outsiders...

>> Now, here's my question:  What has been your response to blind characters
>> portrayed in books and movies?  I have mostly been disappointed.  They're
>> either too Super Hero or too wimpy.  I've progressed far enough in my
>> writing to come to the pivotal point where one of my protagonists can
>> either
>> go blind or not.  Actually, featuring a blind character was not part of my
>> original thought process.  I did not want to fit into the easy fallback of
>> the blind writing about the blind, but it would be a very good means of
>> educating the public, assuming anyone outside my family bought a copy of
>> my
>> ramblings, right?

>> I'm curious to hear your thoughts.  If you think a blind character should
>> be
>> featured, what would you want him or her to portray?  Mind you, this
>> person
>> would have just lost their sight, so they would not be able to come out
>> swinging as a hyper independent role model.  They'll need to experience
>> the
>> typical stages of acceptance, a daunting process that may in itself rule
>> out
>> a blind person in my plot, but it would be a good means of emphasizing
>> Braille and other forms of essential training.  I'm looking for a balanced
>> prospective between educating in a positive light and realistic reactions
>> in
>> someone who lost their vision from one moment to the next, something to
>> which I cannot relate since my own vision loss has been and continues to
>> be
>> very slow.  If you think blind characters run the risk of reaffirming
>> stereotypes according to how people interpret the character's actions, I'd
>> like to know this as well.

>> Naturally I have no idea if my little book will make it anywhere, but by
>> golly it's going to be finished, and in exchange for your participation in
>> the brainstorming phase, I will offer you a teaser which I previously
>> shared
>> with the writer's list.  It is very much a raw draft, so please feel free
>> to
>> tear it up so long as the main discussion is about my original question so
>> that the discussion stays on topic and I keep David Andrews off my back.
>> (grin)  Thanks in advance.

>> Joe

>> ***

>> Christian Slater knew they would come calling one day.  He just
>> wasn't sure how they would make contact.  Perhaps a mysterious letter
>> would
>> one day appear in their mailbox.  Maybe one morning he would open his
>> e-mail
>> inbox to discover a message from an obscure sender, but given their
>> obsession with secrecy, it was more likely that someone from the old
>> fraternity would simply appear at the front door bearing news of the kind
>> Christian and his family could do without.
>> They chose the telephone.  Christian would have never guessed the
>> fraternity would gamble with an unsecure line, but he had always been
>> right
>> to assume that when they did reconnect with him, it would come as a total
>> surprise no matter how much he thought he'd prepared for the inevitable
>> encounter.
>> On the morning the call came, he was deeply immersed in the first
>> chapter of his latest novel.  The idea had come to him, as so many of them
>> often did, without forethought, and by the time he'd seen his family out
>> the
>> door, the kernel of an idea had grown into the makings of a promising
>> plot.
>> With school out, he had the rest of the summer to devote to his writing
>> without the burden of teaching the craft to a bunch of high school kids
>> who
>> would have already forgotten what they learned.
>> Christian snapped a glance at the caller ID, saw that it was a
>> restricted number and dismissed it as a telemarketer.  In his feverish
>> state
>> of mind he only wanted to be left alone with his story in progress.  The
>> call went to the machine, and after the obligatory beep, a voice Christian
>> hadn't heard in years came from the speaker.
>> "Mr. Slater, this is Don speaking.
>> Christian froze, fingers hovering over the laptop keyboard, eyes
>> slowly moving back to the answering machine and the clipped British accent
>> emanating from it.
>> "I trust you are well," the cultured voice said.
>> The energy left Christian in a stomach-turning lurch.  His blood ran
>> cold when doubt turned to certainty.  He slumped in his seat, eyes riveted
>> to the machine.
>> "Mr. Slater, it is important that we speak at your earliest
>> opportunity," the man said.  "If you are there, please pick up the phone.
>> This is most urgent."
>> Christian pondered it for a moment.  He could ignore the call,
>> pretend he was not home.  Then a memory of the man's ice blue glare
>> surfaced.  That penetrating stare had always troubled Christian.  Now it
>> was
>> almost as though the man were in the room, daring him to be foolish.  He
>> slowly reached out for the receiver, willing his voice to sound calm and
>> collected.
>> "Hello," he croaked.
>> "Ah, good.  You are home after all," the caller said, sounding
>> genuinely relieved.
>> "Wha, what do you want?" Christian stammered.
>> "Come now, Mr. Slater that is no way to greet an old friend."  The
>> man's voice appeared to be amiable.  Christian, despite not having heard
>> this man's voice in nearly twenty years, knew this was only a facade.
>> "We are not friends," Christian countered.
>> "So you are still a bit sore about that old business," the man
>> mused.  "I dare say it has been far too long for you to hold a grudge."
>> "You're unbelievable," Christian hissed.
>> "Alas, it would appear time may not heel all wounds after all.  So,
>> let me get to the purpose of my call."
>> Christian's hand tightened around the receiver.  He had never cared
>> for the man's false joviality, but he was sure it would be far preferable
>> to
>> the blow that was no doubt coming.  "Please do," Christian said.
>> "One of your brothers has met with an unfortunate...accident."
>> "I have no brothers," Christian said in a voice that was just over a
>> whisper.
>> "I'm sorry," the man replied.  "I thought we were done being coy.
>> Of course I was referring to the brotherhood in the fraternity."
>> "I left the fraternity," Christian muttered.
>> "You never left the fraternity," the man sighed as though exercising
>> immense patience with a stubborn child.  "You never left the fraternity.
>> No
>> one ever leaves the fraternity, Mr. Slater."
>> "I was told I could--"
>> "You were told you could what," the man interrupted, dropping all
>> pretense of pleasantries. "You thought you could just leave and pretend
>> your
>> allegiance never existed?"
>> Christian's eyes strayed to the family photo hanging over the
>> fireplace in his study.  In the picture his then three-year-old son,
>> Aaron,
>> stood blithely between his parents.  Their daughter, Trish, was a newborn
>> cradled in the arms of a smiling Carolyn.  Posing for the photo, he had
>> felt
>> that his life had truly taken a turn for the better, that his past would
>> fade into distant memory.  Now, despite the fear raking his stomach, he
>> almost grinned at his own stupidity.  Had he truly believed he could just
>> get away?
>> "One of the brothers and his wife have met with an untimely death,"
>> the caller went on.  "They had a son, Theodore, who has been left behind
>> with no suitable guardians.  The High Council has met and decided your
>> family would be best suited to take responsibility for the young man."
>> "I beg your pardon?"
>> "A family has died.  Their son needs a home."  The voice was slow
>> and irritatingly precise, exhibiting all the patience of a teacher
>> explaining to his dimwitted student the basic principles of gravity.
>> Christian was torn.  On the one hand he could not have felt more
>> relieved.  He had been certain the request would be far more despicable.
>> Exactly what he thought they might ask of him he did not want to begin to
>> imagine, but on the other hand, this business of a homeless boy was, well,
>> random!
>> "What part of it is confusing, Mr. Slater?"
>> Christian sat forward.  "You want me to just take in a boy I've
>> never met?  From a group of people I haven't even spoken to in more than
>> eighteen years?"
>> After a pause, the man asked, "Do you foresee a problem with that?"
>> "Do I foresee a problem with that?"  Christian was appalled.
>> "You're damn right I foresee a problem with that.  I think you're crazy to
>> just call me up this way.  What, did you just draw my name from a hat or
>> something?"
>> "I do not pretend to understand the Council's decisions.  You have
>> an obligation to the fraternity," the man explained in a tone that was
>> almost brittle with disdain.  "Your respite is over.  Far worthier
>> brothers
>> would be all too glad to assume this responsibility."
>> "I'm sorry for the boy's loss," Christian hissed.  "But you just
>> can't call me and expect me to be overjoyed when I'm being coerced into
>> taking in a child from a family I never even met."
>> "Coercion," the man pondered, savoring the word.  "You are right to
>> assume that you do not really have a choice in the matter.  The boy will
>> be
>> coming to your home in two months, just in time for the fall term.  This
>> should give you ample time to prepare for his arrival."
>> "And if I refuse?"
>> "Mr. Slater," the man chuckled.  "Don't be silly.  I'll be in
>> touch."
>> The line went dead.  Christian dropped the phone into its cradle and
>> then just sat staring at it.  There were too many questions colliding in
>> his
>> head, too many competing thoughts.  The call had been a shock.  The nature
>> of the call had been just plain strange, and...  With dawning horror,
>> Christian looked around the room.  The fraternity was indeed obsessed with
>> secrecy.  It would never take unnecessary risks.  He suddenly wondered how
>> long they had been monitoring his family.

>> ***

>> "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves,
>> some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."--Sam Ewing


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