Author

As a boy he careened down the street on the bicycle his mother bought him. As a teenager he traveled to Europe and played basketball. As a young man he won scholarships, taught classes, went bird watching. And all the while, Stephen Kuusisto would not utter, even to himself, the one central truth of his life: he could not see. With 20/200 vision in his better eye, he was legally blind. Writes Kuusisto: “I see like a person who looks through a kaleidoscope; my impressions of the world at once beautiful and largely useless.”

In this breathtaking memoir, Stephen Kuusisto leads us on a vividly painted odyssey into a landscape that is both beautiful, terrifying, and magical. A work of exquisite intelligence and passionate heart, Planet of the Blind is for anyone who has viewed the world through a unique lens – and ultimately seen the truth.

“The world is a surreal pageant,” writes Stephen Kuusisto. “Ahead of me the shapes and colors suggest the sails of Tristan’s ship or an elephant’s ear floating in air, though in reality it is a middle-aged man in a London Fog rain coat which billows behind him in the April wind.”

So begins Kuusisto’s memoir, Planet of the Blind, a journey through the kaleidoscope geography of the partially-sighted, where everyday encounters become revelations, struggles, or simple triumphs. Not fully blind, not fully sighted, the author lives in what he describes as “the customs-house of the blind”, a midway point between vision and blindness that makes possible his unique perception of the world. In this singular memoir, Kuusisto charts the years of a childhood spent behind bottle-lens glasses trying to pass as a normal boy, the depression that brought him from obesity to anorexia, the struggle through high school, college, first love, and sex. Ridiculed by his classmates, his parents in denial, here is the story of a man caught in a perilous world with no one to trust–until a devastating accident forces him to accept his own disability and place his confidence in the one relationship that can reconnect him to the world–the relationship with his guide dog, a golden Labrador retriever named Corky. With Corky at his side, Kuusisto is again awakened to his abilities, his voice as a writer and his own particular place in the world around him.

Written with all the emotional precision of poetry, Kuusisto’s evocative memoir explores the painful irony of a visually sensitive individual–in love with reading, painting, and the everyday images of the natural world–faced with his gradual descent into blindness. Folded into his own experience is the rich folklore the phenomenon of blindness has inspired throughout history and legend.

5 thoughts on “Author

  1. Thank you, Steve, for “Have Dog, Will Travel!” I enjoyed it so much. It brought back my mother to me, so vividly! [OK, here is yet another one of those people who must tell you about their experience!!]. My mother was born in 1913 in Scotland with an eye condition that very slowly took her sight. She lost it so gradually, most people [including my father] had no idea what was going on. She was like you in many ways. Did you lose your front teeth to parking meters, I wonder? Mom [Mary] was not declared to be legally blind until in her 40s. Learning braille at that age seems especially daunting! The system never would have allowed her to adopt me if they had any idea how bad her eyes were! Thankfully she pulled it off and I became, in a manner of speaking, her first guide dog. We lived on the edge of the world here on Vancouver Island, B.C. in a small town called Nanaimo. There were no guide dogs anywhere in the province. When I was a teenager, a lady named Mrs. Fowler came from somewhere in the US to visit relatives and came to mom’s White Cane Club. She brought Maggie, her beautiful guide dog. My mom was never without a dog. And she was so excited to meet this Guide Dog. Mrs. Fowler could see mom’s interest and offered to let her try out Maggie. Mom was thrilled. More meetings occurred and before long, Mrs. Fowler told mom that if she really wanted a dog, she would support her going to the same school she had been to – Pilot Dogs in Columbus, Ohio. I won’t bore you with all the details about how it eventually worked out. But it was meant to be. My mother was the first Canadian who went to Columbus around 1962 and brought back Maya, an aristocratic and amazing Doberman. The second time mom went for Lucy, the smallest shepherd I ever met, she was the first great-grandmother to grace their halls.
    Mom was also an ambassador, like you. So many experiences you spoke of are like my memories of what mom went through. But she had the right personality to be the first Guide Dog User in the province – she charmed people and explained and in the end, everything was just fine. [Though I never forgave the pilot who insisted her dog be muzzled on the plane!] She went to the schools to speak to the children about guide dogs and blindness.
    And when those dogs left for the Rainbow Bridge, it was like I lost a sister!
    Your description of the new-found independence you had was so reminiscent of my mother’s experience too. And on more than one occasion, mom would remind me that the dogs never jossled her off the end of a curb [as obviously I must have done from time to time!].
    Mom has been gone 15 years now, so I thank you for this lovely experience of remembering and feeling her close.
    I am so happy you have had other dogs to fly down the street with you! That was my mom – she would leave her friends in the dust!
    Thanks you again for your book!
    Joanne Peterson in Cowichan Bay, BC, Canada

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  2. Dear Paul:

    I don’t know if my reply will reach you, but you’ve made my day, my week, my month. This life is so precious, the obstacles needlessly placed in our ways so silly, and the enduring satisfactions of wisdom so great. I’m so very glad that my scribbling has been helpful to you in your quest to make sense of this journey. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. It means far ore than you know. Steve

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  3. I am almost finished reading “Have Dog Will Travel,” and I can’t wait to thank Stephen for writing the book. My visual condition is akin to Stephen’s, and my parents’ responses to my blindness were similar to his. “Never let on!” was my instruction. I was born twenty years before him, and my first eight years of life were spent in a tiny Blue Ridge Mountains town, light years away from any understanding of my condition. Mother scared me with her claim that if she hadn’t home-schooled me for my first grade year I would have had to be sent to a home for the blind. I wasn’t able to admit to my “legal blindness” until I read “Planet of the Blind.” When it appeared, I devoured it, and I bought a dozen copies for friends and family members. Their reactions were disappointing, as Stephen can well imagine. The best parts of “Have Dog” are the well-aimed droplets of poetry and wisdom. I am ready for them now. At age 84, I’m feeling young again.

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  4. Just finished reading Have Dog, Will Travel and loved it. Thank you for bringing light to this subject and now I want to read your other books. Coincidentally, I recently received something in the mail from Guiding Eyes and now I will make a donation knowing how much good they do. Blessings to you and your family.

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  5. Pingback: Welcome, new faculty, to the University of Amazon.com | Words Are Roads

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