According to author Rosemary Mahoney, “the United States has the lowest rate of blindness in the world,” yet Americans fear blindness more than any other handicap. As she concedes in her riveting glance into the world of the blind, she was among those who palpably feared a world of darkness.

Yet, in her compulsively readable account, For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind, Mahoney reveals that the blind often embrace their affliction rather than wallowing in self-pity or searching for sympathy.

Mahoney (Down the Nile) travels to India to teach in a school for the blind run by Sabriye Tenberken, founder of Braille Without Borders. She admits that she chose the school because she had developed a strong curiosity about blindness and that “she wanted to meet blind people, to spend time with them, to get to know them . . . to see how they live in their world, and how they navigate.”

What she discovers is that the blind don’t let their sightlessness stand in the way of living their lives. Many of the students feel lucky to be blind, because, as they tell her, if “we were not blind, we would still be sitting in our countries only helping at home and doing nothing.” The blind individuals with whom she lives and works are “strong and happy and very capable . . . they’ve accepted their blindness; it can’t stand in their way.”

Mahoney’s beautifully written narrative opens our eyes to the experience of blindness and offers fresh insight into human resilience and the way we view the world.

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