Mara Faulkner’s Going Blind is a memoir with many layers. Faulkner (no relation to William) uses her writing as a testing ground for figuring out her experience of her father’s blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa. This genetic form of gradual blindness, which her paternal great grandparents took with them when they emigrated from Ireland, becomes an interesting vantage point from which Faulkner approaches other kinds of blindness, both physical and mental. Each chapter revolves around a different manifestation of being unable to see, from “blind spot[s]” to “blinders” to “turning a blind eye.” Under these over-arching topics, Faulkner covers a surprisingly wide range of issues, including moments in her personal history and historical events in which blindness (sometimes unintentional, sometimes willful) played a role. She moves seamlessly from the difficulties and prejudices faced by the blind, to the blind eyes that refused to acknowledge The Great Hunger, to the tragic saga of Native American displacement in the mid-west, to connotations of blindness in scripture and society.
Faulkner has clearly done extensive research and she expertly unfolds her findings and her confusions. She doesn’t just tell readers about her experience, but invites them to share in making sense of her contemplations and discoveries. While this is not a light read, it is an extremely rewarding one. – Sheila Langan
(227 pages / Excelsior Editions)