For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind

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Overview

"In this intelligent and humane book, Rosemary Mahoney writes of people who are blind....She reports on their courage and gives voice, time and again, to their miraculous dignity."—Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree

In the tradition of Oliver Sacks's The Island of the Colorblind, Rosemary Mahoney tells the story of Braille Without Borders, the first school for the blind in Tibet, and of Sabriye Tenberken, the remarkable blind woman who founded the school. Fascinated and...

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For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind

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Overview

"In this intelligent and humane book, Rosemary Mahoney writes of people who are blind....She reports on their courage and gives voice, time and again, to their miraculous dignity."—Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree

In the tradition of Oliver Sacks's The Island of the Colorblind, Rosemary Mahoney tells the story of Braille Without Borders, the first school for the blind in Tibet, and of Sabriye Tenberken, the remarkable blind woman who founded the school. Fascinated and impressed by what she learned from the blind children of Tibet, Mahoney was moved to investigate further the cultural history of blindness. As part of her research, she spent three months teaching at Tenberken's international training center for blind adults in Kerala, India, an experience that reveals both the shocking oppression endured by the world's blind, as well as their great resilience, integrity, ingenuity, and strength. By living among the blind, Rosemary Mahoney enables us to see them in fascinating close up, revealing their particular "quality of ease that seems to broadcast a fundamental connection to the world." Having read FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO SEE, you will never see the world in quite the same way again.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

This book began with a visit to Tibet's first school for the blind and Sabriye Tenberken, the remarkable blind woman who founded it. Those familiar with Rosemary Mahoney's previous work (Down the Nile; The Early Arrival of Dreams) will not be surprised that this intrepid journalist would not simply splice together a story and leave. Instead, this National Book Critics Circle Award finalist went to Tenberken's international training center in India and spent three months teaching blind adults. Her account is a fine example of what "immersion journalism" can be even in the most remote locales. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
“The blind can well enough defend themselves,” says Mahoney (Down the Nile) in this beautiful book about a vibrant leader of the blind, Sabriye Tenberken. German-born Tenberken founded a school for blind children in Tibet—which later became Braille Without Borders—as well as a school in Kerala, India, to train blind teachers. Mahoney, who is sighted, became a teacher at the latter facility and was at first terrified by her decision. All around her, the blind were laughing, thinking, walking without fear and with an impossible patience. She was startled by the way her students easily inhabited “a world dominated by thought rather than appearances.” Doubting herself, she says, “I was not even a well-adjusted sighted person... I was born impatient and annoyed.” For such reasons, she writes, “I was not quite sure I was prepared to teach.” She stumbles through her first challenge—to define “twinkling”—as one might expect of a sighted person in a sightless world. But in time Mahoney becomes an exceptional translator for the blind, mediating for what she ends up seeing as two groups of the sighted: those who see with their eyes, and those who see with their minds. Agent: Betsy Lerner; Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Jan.)
Lisa Fugard - New York Times Book Review
Praise for Rosemary Mahoney's Down the Nile:

"Mahoney has a gift for revealing apparently unremarkable moments in such a way as to make them utterly engrossing....sinuous and richly textured writing and an eye for vivid and startling details"

Megan O'Grady - Vogue
"A travel-minded memoir guaranteed to transport you."
Jennifer Reese - Entertainment Weekly (An EW Pick)
"Riveting....The trip would be no more than a gutsy stunt if Mahoney were not such a beautifully precise writer and such a compassionate observer.... In the course of her trip, Mahoney traversed just 120 miles of the world's longest river; by the end of her brilliant travelogue, you'll wish she'd tackled the whole length."
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-10-20
A spiritual odyssey into the world of the blind. In 2005, Mahoney (Down the Nile Alone: In a Fisherman's Skiff, 2007, etc.) visited Braille Without Borders, Tibet's first school for the blind, founded by German educator Sabriye Tenberken, who herself is blind. It offered classes in "Braille, Chinese, English, computers, mathematics and navigational skills," to blind young Tibetans, many of whom were illiterate and had been living in deplorable conditions in their impoverished villages, where they were a burden to their families and were shunned and bullied by their peers. At first, the author viewed the trip with trepidation, believing the typical stereotype that the blind were deprived of "their real enjoyment of life, their effectuality, and their potential." Mahoney was astonished to see the students' levels of joy and accomplishment. Being blind, many of them said, had given them the opportunity to leave the hardscrabble existence in their villages and attend this wonderful school where they were being educated and making new friends. For the author, the experience was a revelation. Four years later, she volunteered to teach English at a new school that Braille Without Borders was opening in India, attended by adult students from Africa and Latin America as well as Asia who wished to work on behalf of the blind in their own countries. The diversity of the students greatly enhanced the vibrancy of the community, and Mahoney was impressed by their intellectual and spiritual depths. She observed that they navigated the heavily trafficked streets of Kerala with ease. They gathered information about their environment from their other senses in order to recognize people and places, and they lived in a world "dominated by thought rather than appearance and visual details." After all, she writes, "it's the ability to reason and communicate that make us extraordinary." A beautiful meditation on human nature.
From the Publisher
"Rosemary Mahoney's stunning new [book]...could not have arrived at a better moment. In more ways than ever, we are always seeing, always seen. But at what cost to our other senses? To our humanity? Not only touch, smell, hearing, and taste lose out in our oppressively visual brave new world, but also a sixth sense that students at two schools for the blind Mahoney visits in Tibet and India all seem to possess: the ability to divine character unswayed by appearance or the deceptions of Photoshop. Writing with a scientist's curiosity and insistence on fact-and a novelist's gift for delineating place and character-Mahoney makes their world ours, too." -Megan Marshall, Radcliffe Magazine
Library Journal
12/01/2013
Like many sighted people, Mahoney (Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff) dreaded the idea of going blind and felt uncomfortable around blind people. A magazine assignment sent her to visit Braille Without Borders, Tibet's first educational institution for the blind, and its founder, blind German educator Sabriye Tenberken. Mahoney's encounters with Tenberken and her resilient students inspired her to take a teaching position at Tenberken's International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs (IISE) in Kerala, India, which trains and empowers visually impaired adults. Here she surveys the history of blind education and the surprising, upsetting results of vision restoration surgery but also focuses on the Tibetan children and the IISE students from lands as diverse as Liberia, Japan, and Norway. Readers learn shocking backstories relating to prejudices and ignorance that led to neglect and abuse of blind people—from children kept in permanent confinement to the harvesting of body parts of blind African albinos. Yet in the context of the joy, determination, and dignity of the tellers here, Mahoney's overall story is one of hope and affirmation. VERDICT This gracious book illuminates blind culture and teaches something of lifeways in Tibet, southern India, and sub-Saharan Africa. It should reach a wide general audience and may also bring readers to Tenberken's own work, My Path Leads to Tibet.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316043427
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 125,263
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Rosemary Mahoney is the author of The Early Arrival of Dreams, a New York Times Notable Book; Whoredom in Kimmage, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist; Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff, a New York Times Notable Book; and two other books. She was a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and is the recipient of a Whiting Writer's Award.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 21, 2014

    Highly Recommended - Must Read

    I wanted to let readers know how much I enjoyed the book FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO SEE Dispatches from the World of the Blind. The personal stories of the individuals within the book are genuine, personal and endearing. Mentioning Laura Bridgman, who preceded Helen Keller by half a century was worthy of mention. Not too many people are aware of Bridgman and her contribution to other blind and visually impaired individuals including Helen Keller and her side-kick Anne Sullivan.

    The two chapters that were most revealing to me were Perception and Sight Regained. I had never given thought to how one would react when gaining sight from having been blind. The Authors examples were revealing and very thought provoking. These two chapters along with the final chapter, The Definition of Real where Pynhoi (a blind student at Braille Without Borders) was recognized for her birthday along with the overwhelming emotions appearing to this saintly girl, was emotionally charged…...I felt her joy especially with the ending…..”….we found ourselves bathed in beautiful darkness.” How appropriate….

    The book has given me further insight to the blind and visually impaired who come to us wanting to learn the sport of Judo (Blind Judo Foundation). All our blind visually impaired athletes have great resilience and dedication with Judo being somewhat foreign to them yet very intuitive. Once they start to practice and compete with sighted athletes their confidence level is exponential.

    Thank you for writing the book Rosemary Mahoney. Job well done!

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