CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Kuusisto will read from memoir about accepting blindness Jan. 26
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa Writers' Workshop alumnus Stephen
Kuusisto will read from "Planet of the Blind," his new memoir
about the process of coming to terms with his blindness, at 8 p.m. Monday,
Jan. 26, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown
The free reading will be broadcast live as part of the "Live at
Prairie Lights" series, originating on WSUI, 910 AM, and hosted by
Writing in the Dec. 23, 1997, New York Times, critic Michiko Kakutani
called Kuusisto's book a "luminous new memoir": "He is a
powerful writer with a musical ear for language and a gift for emotional
candor. He has written a book that makes the reader understand the terrifying
experience of blindness and that stands on its own as the lyrical memoir
of a poet."
Nancy Margolis wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Historically,
the blind have been endowed with divine judgment and magical power. Kuusisto
is a bearer of such insight and enchantment."
Kuusisto lost most of his sight as an infant, when an over-oxygenated
incubator caused permanent damage to his retinas. But for the first 39
years of his life -- through a combination of determination, cleverness,
memory and recklessness -- he persisted in denial of his disability. With
20/200 vision in his better eye, he could read only by holding a book an
inch from his face and with the use of magnifying glasses, and yet he attended
the Writers' Workshop and won a Fulbright Fellowship.
Only after a freak accident further damaged his better eye -- it was
accidentally sliced by a bookmark -- did Kuusisto finally accept his condition.
He now has a guide-dog companion, Corky, and with canine assistance has
begun a new chapter of life. He says of Corky, "We're a great match
because we both love the intensity of the work and yet we're both voluptuaries
who like to snuggle on Sunday and listen to Mozart."
Of his intentions in writing the memoir, Kuusisto has said, "It's
my hope that my book will inspire others in the blind community to tell
their stories. I believe that the lives of blind men and women are steep
and often brilliant. I'd like the sighted community to know that blind
people are just like everyone else -- that they don't bite, they're not
hopeless, and that the planet of the blind can be a beautiful and empathetic
place, an instructive world."