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Nonfiction Audio book Review: The Country of the Blind by Andrew Leland

Country of the Blind: a Memoir at the End of Sight
Author: Andrew Leland (writer and narrator)
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult nonfiction (memoir)
Pages: 368 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map): USA (CA, CO)

SummaryWe meet Andrew Leland as he’s suspended in the liminal state of the soon-to-be blind: he’s midway through his life with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that ushers those who live with it from sightedness to blindness over years, even decades. He grew up with full vision, but starting in his teenage years, his sight began to degrade from the outside in. Soon— but without knowing exactly when—he will likely have no vision left.

Full of apprehension but also dogged curiosity, Leland embarks on a sweeping exploration of the state of being that awaits him: not only the physical experience of blindness but also its language, politics, and customs. He negotiates his changing relationships with his wife and son, and with his own sense of self, as he moves from his mainstream, “typical” life to one with a disability. Part memoir, part historical and cultural investigation, The Country of the Blind represents Leland’s determination not to merely survive this transition but to grow from it—to seek out and revel in that which makes blindness enlightening. Brimming with warmth and humor, it is an exhilarating tour of a new way of being.

Review: One of my book groups chose this one for this month's read and though I wasn't sure at first, I got really into it. The author is the narrator of this audio book and I think he does a really good job.

This book is a personal journey of someone who is slowly losing his sight, never sure how much will be visible and how much he is "missing" each day, week, etc. That part is interesting, but what is even more captivating is the history of how society views blindness, how it has coped (or not) with those who cannot see or can only partially see, the laws, the attitudes, etc.

Some examples of topics covered are: how braille came to be and how different people read it; school and college for those who cannot see; classifications of blindness; how the seeing public treats the blind; and more. Within each topic the author weaves his own personal learning and experiences. One of my favorite sections is the one on braille and audiobooks. The author describes how the brain processes these vs sited reading and his attempts to read a braille book out loud to his son.

While this book is not officially a science book it has a bunch of science and science-adjacent information in it so that's the category I've chosen for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Literary Escapes--Colorado
  • Bookish--lots on reading for the blind, creation of braille, etc
  • Nonfiction--science

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