Author and cover images: I’m standing to the side of and facing a six-foot canvas on which is painted a hyper-realistic close-up of my head (painting by Roy Nachum, photographed by Alabaster Rhumb)); A misty, speckled spectrum of colors ranging from light grey at the spine to a vibrant violet at center. The title, There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness, and byline, M. Leona Godin, are large with only one or two words running across the cover from left to right and doubled in grade two braille.

There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness

About the Book

From Homer to Helen Keller, from Dune to Stevie Wonder, from the invention of braille to the science of echolocation, M. Leona Godin explores the fascinating history of blindness, interweaving it with her own story of gradually losing her sight.

There Plant Eyes probes the ways in which blindness has shaped our ocularcentric culture, challenging deeply ingrained ideas about what it means to be “blind.” For millennia, blindness has been used to signify such things as thoughtlessness (“blind faith”), irrationality (“blind rage”), and unconsciousness (“blind evolution”). But at the same time, blind people have been othered as the recipients of special powers as compensation for lost sight (from the poetic gifts of John Milton to the heightened senses of the comic book hero Daredevil).

Godin—who began losing her vision at age ten—illuminates the often-surprising history of both the condition of blindness and the myths and ideas that have grown up around it over the course of generations. She combines an analysis of blindness in art and culture (from King Lear to Star Wars) with a study of the science of blindness and key developments in accessibility (the white cane, embossed printing, digital technology) to paint a vivid personal and cultural history.

A genre-defying work, There Plant Eyes reveals just how essential blindness and vision are to humanity’s understanding of itself and the world.

 

*Available through your favorite local or online bookstore*

 

About the Author

M. LEONA GODIN is a writer, performer, and educator. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Playboy, The Oprah Magazine, Electric Literature, and Catapult, among others. She was a 2019 Logan Nonfiction Fellow and has written and produced two theatrical productions: The Star of Happiness, based on Helen Keller’s time performing on vaudeville, and The Spectator & the Blind Man, about the invention of Braille.

Godin (pronounced like French sculptor Rodin) holds a PhD in English, and besides her many years teaching literature and  humanities courses at NYU, she has lectured on art, accessibility, technology, and disability at such places as Tandon School of Engineering, Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine, and the American Printing House for the Blind. Her online magazine exploring the arts and sciences of smell and taste, Aromatica Poetica, publishes writing and art from around the world.

 

*The audiobook, narrated by me, is available at Libro.FM, Audible, or wherever you get your audiobooks*

 

 

Praise for There Plant Eyes

“…elegant, fiercely argued.” —Wall Street Journal

“‘The dual aspects of blindness—that it is a tragic horror on the one hand and a powerful gift from the gods on the other—remain stubbornly fixed in our cultural imaginations,’ Godin, a blind writer and performer, asserts in this thought-provoking mixture of criticism, memoir, and advocacy.” —The New Yorker

“There Plant Eyes is so graceful, so wise, so effortlessly erudite, I learned something new and took pleasure in every page. All hail its originality, its humanity, and its ‘philosophical obsession with diversity in all its complicated and messy glory.’”
—Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

“Godin guides readers through the surprising twists and turns in Western blind history, from ancient seers to contemporary scientists. The lively writing style and memorable
personal anecdotes are delightful. This book is a gift to both blind and sighted readers.”
—Haben Girma, human rights lawyer and author of the bestseller Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law

“This sighted disabled person learned so much from There Plant Eyes! The book took me on a cultural journey that showed how blindness is beautiful, complex, and brilliant.”
—Alice Wong, Editor, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century

“In the fascinating There Plant Eyes, Leona Godin moves effortlessly from erudite explorations of the construction of ‘blindness’ in the times of Homer and Milton; to incisive and often funny examinations of technology that helps—or does not—the blind individual; to personal stories of her own life as a writer and performer. I was only a few pages in before I realized that what I thought about being blind was either wrong or woefully insufficient. The reader will be lost in admiration for the breadth and sweep of Godin’s gifts as a writer and cultural critic.”
—Riva Lehrer, author of Golem Girl: A Memoir

“I’ve been waiting most of my life for a book like There Plant Eyes to demystify what it means and doesn’t mean to be blind. With eloquence and wit, M. Leona Godin articulates what our culture has gotten wrong for centuries. Blindness, she makes clear, is a feature, not merely a difference. I’ll be recommending this book every chance I get.”
— James Tate Hill, author of Blind Man’s Bluff

“We are inevitably blind to realities outside our own experience, and it takes a sensitive writer like Godin—with her poet’s ear—to give insight into sightlessness.”
—David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford, author of Livewired

“…erudite, capacious…As Godin wonderfully shows, we’ve come a long way in our quest to understand what blindness means.”
––Kirkus Reviews

“By turns heartfelt and thought-provoking, this is a striking achievement.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

 

*Visit TherePlantEyes.com for book bonus material, such as accessible, hyperlinked endnotes and an updated list of media appearances*   

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9 thoughts on “There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness”

  1. Dear M.
    I was delighted to get a copy of your book, for which many thanks. Can we get back in touch?

  2. Hello
    I just heard your interview with the CBC – Writers and Company- and I felt compelled to drop you a line.
    I was so totally impressed with the breath and depth of knowledge of Classical and Modern literature. Every question you answered as if you had actually been there. I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t tear myself away from an interview.
    Thank you.

  3. Hello!

    Your audiobook popped up while I was searching for my next book to listen to. I LOVED it, and also loved that you narrated it (i’ve just started narrating audiobooks and I know what it takes to do that, but of course I’m simply reading the manuscript with my eyes. It meant so much to me to hear the book with your voice). The history of blindness and assistive technology and the many literary references were fascinating, and it was also fabulous for me to hear your personal history throughout the book, with your fierce intelligence and spunk.

    My son, Casey, has Lebers congenital amaurosis, but it was so puzzling when he was a toddler figuring out what was going on with that kid (with some infuriating doctor experiences). Casey felt pretty liberated when he got his first cane, but nonetheless from fourth grade on he was such a rebel, anti-authoritarian and anti-school! Frankly, it was comforting for me as a mom to read about your rebellious life. So thank you for that too.

    My son is now an adult, the father of two boys, and part of the band X Ambassadors (Daniel Kish is featured in their Renegades) video. He grew up to be a wonderful and happy man, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry about him for years! Their most recent album, The Beautiful Liar, has a companion dramatic podcast (coming out 11/3/21), about a blind high school girl. Would love to hear your take on it. I see that character growing up to be you, haha.

    Thank you for your excellent, wonderful book!

    1. Hello, thank you for reaching out and for the kind words! I’m so happy to hear my book resonated. Also, I’m delighted to know about your son and his band. I will definitely check out their music and that podcast… All my best, Leona

  4. Good Morning! I’m Terry Galloway, a deaf, lesbian performance artist. I read your essay and laughed at your description of Helen Keller ‘s story as too wholesome and precious.” I grew up with Helen Keller stuffed down my throat as the one and only role model for a deaf girl.
    So I wholeheartedly agree with your description! Years ago I wrote, directed and produced a short film parody of The Miracle Worker called Annie Dearest- The Real Miracle Worker. SuperFest loved it and gave it awards; it has been show at film festivals all over the world; and it gets taught a lot in Universities lucky enough to have courses in Disability Studies. I have a link to the YouTube version which is captioned and should also be auto-described. But it has been years since it was put online. I thought you might think it was funny. Thanks for all you do on behalf of those of us who are deaf, disabled and weird of heart. Here’s the link to Annie Dearest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXNUN5OCZdY

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