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For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind Hardcover – January 14, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1ST edition (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316043427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316043427
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

October, 2013
"[A] beautiful book . . . Mahoney becomes an exceptional translator for the blind, mediating for what she ends up seeing as two groups of people: those who see with their eyes, and those who see with their minds."

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Mahoney (Down the Nile, 2007) takes readers along on her life-changing experience of immersion in the lives of blind students. Through her work with Braille Without Borders and its founder, Sabriye Tenberken, Mahoney sought to illuminate blind culture and its ongoing, complicated relationship with the sighted world. In day-to-day interactions, first in schools in Tibet and later Kerala, India, Mahoney found children and adults to be dedicated and determined as they navigated a sighted world with an ease she almost can not believe. Patiently, the students revealed how they hear, smell, and feel, and Mahoney shares this information while also conveying her own confusion and struggles when blindfolded. Her observations are punctuated by research into the social history of blindness and how it is still stigmatized in places like Tibet, where, prior to Tenberken’s arrival, there was no group or institution providing assistance to the blind. These historical passages are punctuated by a careful consideration of the famous, such as Helen Keller, and the relatively (and sadly) obscure, such as Laura Bridgman. Mahoney’s compassion for her subjects shines through in every word here, making this a fascinating and thoughtful look into the lives of people who experience the world differently than most. --Colleen Mondor

Customer Reviews

Their stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring.
John Martin
To judge by her students, one could gather from this book that Mahoney thinks blind people are in some way superior to the sighted.
Bookreporter
Your examples were revealing and very thought provoking.
Ron C. Peck

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By River City Reading on January 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
At the beginning of For the Benefit of Those Who See, Rosemary Mahoney explores the work of Braille Without Borders, an international organization focused on teaching Braille to learners with blindness in developing countries. After visiting one of the group's founding schools in Tibet, Mahoney is determined to learn more and commits to spending three months teaching English at a Braille Without Borders' adult school in India.

Both in and out of the classroom, Mahoney is consistently surprised by the ways her students are able to adapt in order to thrive in the world around them. Their senses of hearing and smell work overtime, allowing them to recognize their teacher by the speed of her typing on a keyboard or the smell of her beer glass from across the room. Soon, Mahoney comes to appreciate the patience and fearlessness within each of her students, as she begins to question her own.

Between Mahoney's experiences with her students, she recounts a history of the study and social treatment of people with blindness throughout the world. While these sections are filled with wonderful information that often parallels the stories from Mahoney's classroom, as complete chapters removed from the central pulse of the book they feel slightly off. Still, For the Benefit of Those Who See is both a fascinating look into the world of the blind and a reminder of the strength of human spirit.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By smartin on April 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My husband and I listened to the audio version of For the Benefit of Those Who See. I’ve been blind for over thirty years and we have both had a long career in the field of blind rehab. We both thoroughly enjoyed this book and found ourselves laughing out loud more than once.
I applaud the author for her forthrightness in discussing her preconceived notions about blindness and people who are blind. It’s an honesty seen too seldom in our culture of political correctness.
The book, at its core, is the journey of one person, into the world of blindness and people who are blind. In grad school we learned that negative attitudes towards blindness are most effectively changed when someone meets and gets to know someone who is blind. For Mahoney, that first person is Sabriye Tenberken. From Mahoney’s description, Tenberken is a force of nature. It was delightful to watch, as Mahoney’s preconceived notions and fears about blindness faded away, one by one.
One of my favorite scenes in the book takes place shortly after Mahoney arrives at Braille Without Borders, a school started by Tenberken in Tibet, Tenberken sends Mahoney out into the city of Lasa with two teenage students. I have to tip my hat to the author for being willing to take this excursion, blindfolded. It took a lot of courage to not rip that blindfold off.
A lot of research went into this book. Mahoney thoroughly explores the sources of negative attitudes towards blindness in literature and mythology. Goodness, no wonder people are afraid of blindness and people who are blind! She also explores, in some detail, individuals who are given sight through surgery who are congenitally blind. I can see this book being required reading for the professional preparation programs for those entering the field of blind rehab.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Rosemary Mahoney empathetically guides us in the world of the blind. She notes that having had an accident that took the vision in one eye, she is morbidly afraid of losing her sight. She has taken this fear and used it to propel her through a study of those people who cannot usefully see. Alternating with more academic chapters, Rosemary shares her stories of working at two schools for the blind that have been created with the purpose of establishing meaningful integration of the blind into the community.

"Surely being blind was like being buried alive." , however she finds this is not the case. In illustrating the world perceptions of the blind people she meets, Rosemary gives the reader another sense of the world itself. She explains the ways that people employ their other senses, dispensing with the folk belief that the other senses become somewhat supernatural. The descriptions and citations she provides are a lovely counterpoint to the sighted world. Sight is a bully of a sense that overcomes the other senses easily, so this book is a welcome invitation to alternate perceptions. An example is the discussion of "amazing power of the human voice to reveal the person."

Perhaps the most jarring realization is that she is correct when she notes that the blind person in turn holds a dominance over those of us in awe and bewilderment of their experience. We are flustered and confused, and humans do not like that feeling. This in fact goes a long way in explaining the world's bigotry toward the blind, although in no way excuses it. I always welcome a chance to walk in a different world, and this book is an engrossing and intimate trip. It is a powerful discourse on different not being less, but bringing a new strength to the world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Martin on February 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Wow! Buy and read this book and it will change your life. For the Benefit of Those Who See by Rosemary Mahoney tells the story of Sabriye Tenberken, a blind German woman who went to Tibet to start a school for the blind there, Braille Without Borders and subsequently founded with Paul Kronenberg in Kerala, India the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs which trains blind persons from many countries to start NGOs and lead positive, productive lives. This story is amazing, inspirational and true. No book I have read ever touched me as this one did.

Much of the book is taken up with the comments, experiences and life stories of the blind Mahoney meets in Tibet and India. Their stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring. Far from being angry or discouraged about their lives they are joyful and even happy to be blind. As one girls says, “being blind enabled me to come to this school while my sighted brothers and sisters remain ignorant in our village. Mahoney also details the way the blind are treated still around the world—they are taunted, ridiculed and often punished. To cite but one quote: “if a child is blind they want to kill that child because he is a burden.” Especially in developing countries they are not given educational or employment opportunities.

Mahoney also details the abilities of the blind to make their way in the world. Their heightened senses enable them to make accurate judgments that sighted people cannot, such as telling who a person is by the way they walk or smell. Mahoney also shares her own feelings about the environment she is forced to live in—the heat, insects and snakes that impact every day life there.

I would also encourage Amazon readers to buy Sabriye Tenberken’s own book, My Path Leads to Tibet, and to become involved in supporting this program which you can do initially by going to [...]. There is nothing more important that you can do to make the world a better place.
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More About the Author

Rosemary Mahoney was educated at Harvard College and John Hopkins University and has been awarded numerous awards for her writing, including a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Whiting Writers Award, a nomination for the National Book Critics' Circle Award, a Transatlantic Review Award for Fiction, and Harvard's Charles E. Horman Prize for writing. She is the author of Down the Nile; Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff, a New York Times Notable Book, A Likely Story: One Summer with Lillian Hellman, The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground, Whoredom in Kimmage: The World of Irish Women, a National Book Critics Award Finalist and New York Times Notable Book, and The Early Arrival of Dreams; A Year in China, a New York Times Notable Book. She is a citizen of Ireland and the United States and lives in Rhode island

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