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For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  332 ratings  ·  69 reviews
In the tradition of Oliver Sacks's The Island of the Colorblind, Rosemary Mahoney tells the story of Braille Without Borders, the first school for the blind in Tibet, and of Sabriye Tenberken, the remarkable blind woman who founded the school.

Fascinated and impressed by what she learned from the blind children of Tibet, Mahoney was moved to investigate further the cultura
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2014)
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Shannon Dyer
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a strange book for me to read. I've read quite a bit about blindness, but the books I've read have been written by blind people. This book was written by a sighted woman with a very great fear of blindness, and a grave discomfort around those who could not see.

As a college student, the author suffered an eye injury which caused her to lose the sight in her right eye for a month. This terrified her, and, from this experience, she formed the idea that she would rather be dead than blind.
Jan 12, 2014 marked it as to-read
Shelves: maybe-later
This book opens with a description of an eye surgery.


That freaked me out so much I haven't been able to get past page 10. I'll try to read this again later when I'm no longer hiding under my bed covers.
Jan 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
We are drawn to that which relates to us. Our perspective is shaped by our experience, and because people in similar circumstances connect and draw from the well of similar experiences, our experience is also colored by our perspective.

I am certain that I am drawn to books about blindness because of my experience. (For those of you who don't know, I have an amazing and wonderfully intelligent daughter who also happens to be blind.)

My wife started reading this book, but became (justifiably) rathe
I would have given this book a half-star more if I could have.

To be honest, this book made me uncomfortable throughout my reading of it. As someone who has grown up legally blind, I felt as if the author was writing about me and others who are blind as some sort of "other." I know that a lot of people fear blindness, and that this is how the author came to gain an interest in this subject, but her continual reference to blindness and fear also made me uncomfortable.

Her writing gave the impressio
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free as a First Reads book.

There is a fine line between providing useful information about how the blind live and turning them into sideshow freaks to be gawked at. Mahoney seems to narrate her own evolution from seeing the blind as frightening marvels to accepting them as people who happen to experience the world differently. I appreciated her final chapters where she shows more comfort around the blind, but it still felt a little awkward in that she felt the need to co
Apr 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is beautifully written. The author is empathetic with the blind people she encounters, you get to walk in their shoes. Yet you won't pity them, because quite frankly they don't need it. I doubt anyone would choose to be blind but the book does reveal that relying solely on site has some disadvantages. The feel of the world around us is something we ignore when we can see it. This was a truly rewarding read.
Rebecca McPhedran
Written by Rosemary Mahoney, who traveled to two schools for the blind, one in India and one in Tibet. She followed the work of Sabriye Tenberken, a blind woman who founded Braille Without Boarders, the first school for the blind in Tibet.
Mahoney does a good job describing how the blind have been treated in the past (as lazy, conduits for the devil, horrible members of society-pretty much anything negative you could think of). I thought this book was ok, but I wanted to hear more from the blind
Mar 26, 2014 added it
A remarkable look at the lives of those who are blind. The author worked in several schools for blind and spent a lot of time with them with a great appreciation for their world. Very helpful and encouraging book. "It seemed to me that they knew the city every bit as well as its sighted residents, and I was beginning to wonder whether I too couldn't benefit from knowing my environment from this different perspective." "For most of the blind people I knew, there were sadnesses and tragedies far m ...more
May 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
The subtitle is misleading, since the writer is not blind. I found her to be clueless, rude, and sometimes offensive. She finally learns something, on page 266 out of 268: "...[blind people] were human beings just like the rest of us, with lives and important relationships and personal complications that from time to time took precedence over everything else. Just like the rest of us." Well duh. She met some fascinating people but told their stories in a patronizing way. Historical points are th ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book for the blind, as the title states, it is for the benefit of those who see.

Blind people may take offense at the level of ignorance displayed by the author. However I think this ignorance real, or exaggerated serves a purpose. It allows a reader that approaches blind people with such misconceptions to take the journey into enlightenment together with the narrator.

Feb 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Both thought-provoking and perhaps a little disappointing. Others have covered the book (good and bad) better than I can, so I'll keep this short.

Mahoney, spurred on by a fear of blindness, seeks to better understand the lives of the blind and how they perceived the world around them. It is in many ways a slow process for her; teaching English in a school where most of the students are blind (run by Sabriye Tenberken -- not a school for basic academics and functioning but for aspiring entreprene
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a tough one for me. The first two thirds of this book made me so mad that I kept saying I should just bring it back to the library unfinished. The author's attitude toward blindness and blind people was so over-the-top negative that I had a hard time believing it. Seriously, she has never had to deal with ANYone who is different in some way? This woman who has traveled all over the world and seen all kinds of people and customs and different ways of life? I really cannot understand how s ...more
Dec 16, 2013 rated it liked it
It's one of those cases where a half star would work. But, that being impossible in goodreads, I just can't get to a place where I round up.

There are two fascinating stories here. The author's travels through the worlds of the blind, with her description of their total self sufficiency and confidence. There's also the story which we could call a cultural history of blindness, including an all-too-short chapter on the immense challenges those who gain sight late in life encounter. But Rosemary Ma
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book provides a very interesting look at specific areas relating to blindness. Because of her interest in the subject, the author visited a school for the blind in Tibet and taught for several months at a related one in India. The book is mostly the story her encounters at those two schools. They are both operated by Braille without Borders, founded by an amazing German woman who is blind and her sighted husband. The stories of the people there are fascinating. Most of the blind people had ...more
Kathleen Hagen
For the Benefit of Those Who See: Dispatches from the World of the Blind, by Rosemary Mahoney, narrated by the author, produced by Hachette Audio, downloaded from

Rosemary Mahoney tells the story of Braille Without Borders, the first school for the
blind in Tibet, and of Sabriye Tenberken, the blind woman from Germany who founded the school. Fascinated and impressed by what she learned from the blind
children of Tibet, Mahoney was moved to investigate further the cultural history of bl
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent, well researched book. Some reviews have stated that she gives too much physical detail, but I think that it is fair to say that many of us have had few if any encounters with blind people; so I am sorry for our ignorance about the subject. Mahoney asks the questions that we would all like answers to, even if they sometimes seem juvenile, perhaps that is partially why we read the book. Although she gives a history of the treatment of blind people, her writing flows and her descriptions ...more
Nelda Brangwin
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Excellent book written by a woman who worked for Braille Without Boundaries in both Tibet and India. Her description of the people with whom she worked brings them springing from the pages. She is continually surprised by how they are able to navigate the world where we assume sighted people have and advantage. In between her recollections of her work in BWB, she gives a history of the blind. One of the most surprising things I found in this "history book" section was that most blindness in thir ...more
Rachel Morgan
Oct 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
An interesting read about schooling but the hope that author changes her opinions and obvious fear is not fulfilled. Unfortunately. Unnecessary inclusions such as giving rude gestures towards the head of the school are uncalled for. The author would have done well to research in schools across different cultures and examine people with varying ambition, perspectives and talent. Overall it does nothing to dispel any myths of grotesque stereotypical imagery.
Margaret Sankey
May 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Mohoney intersperses accounts of her time at Braille Without Borders in Lhasa with a pop social history of blindness (medieval licences for beggars, Louis Braille, WWI veterans). Parts of this are very interesting, but it all comes back to Mahoney dwelling on how she couldn't deal with being blind, and how uncomfortable she is with even the idea, which is off-putting and narcissistic.
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nls-audio
Essentially, the book details the sighted author’s experiences working with blind students in India and Tibet. It is a chronicle of her own assumptions and fears, and she makes a gallant attempt here at demonstrating to her sighted readership how false many of her assumptions were.

This was probably a good book for me to read because it enhanced my empathy toward those who lose their sight. My initial inclination is to encourage such individuals to “just suck it up and move forward,” a perfectly
Benjamin Torres
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book is an introduction to the world of the blind for non-blind people. It gives account of the history of blind discrimination and how the teaching mechanisms evolved, describing the life of Laura Bridgeman and mentioning other famous blind-people like Hellen Keller.

The author also focuses on her personal experience of teaching english and living in the foundation "Braile without borders" and describes how this center help them develop the skills they need to work and make a living without

Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book gives a special insight into the daily life of people who are blind and the prejudices they must endure. Braille Without Borders is a boarding school in Tibet and India and emphasizes the persecutions the blind are subject to in developing countries.
Years ago, I worked with a co-worker who was blind. The co-worker was a successful employee in the operations department of a bank. He used a Braille typewriter. This book discusses the importance of access to affordable Braille machines t
V.K. Budd
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible-books
Incredible look into how blind people interpret and handle life.
Jan C
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Amazing. Learned so much about those with limited or no sight.
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book
Jeff Scott
An author's inner journey through her own perceptions of what it means to be blind drives this memoir/history of society treatment of the blind. Assigned to a magazine profile on Tibet's first school for the blind, Braille Without Borders, she realized that she needed to face her own fears of being blind. An incident in high school almost left her blind in one eye. She further recounts a scene in the film All Quiet on the Western Front where she thinks someone dies of blindness. She finds her ow ...more
Ann Woodbury Moore
Nov 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Like many of us, journalist and author Rosemary Mahoney felt that blindness would be the worst possible affliction. Her attitude changed after she traveled to Tibet to research an article on the amazing Sabriye Tenberken, a blind German who founded Braille Without Borders and opened a training school for blind children and teens in Tibet. (One of many unusual facts Mahoney passes on is that Tibet has more than 30,000 blind people--about twice the global rate--due to poor diet and unhygienic cond ...more
Amelia Gremelspacher
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Mahoney goes to Lhasa to teach blind students, mostly from India and Africa. They have all been terribly discriminated against in their own countries, deprived of an education and treated as if they were capable of nothing. Much of the book is a celebration of what they can do, when given the chance. It also relates how much blind people use their other senses to navigate the world, senses those with sight simply do not use or use very little, including touch and smell. They do not regard themse ...more
Mary Keck
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was very interesting about blind people. The author lived and taught English to the blind in Tibet for over four years. She learned a lot about the people and their condition. The blind use their memory so much more than we do. They listen to your voice, sounds around us, the payment, the wind. They feel the sun, the wind.They are more interested in you, not your looks, remember they can't see you.

The author asked a girl that had been blind since birth, how she imagined human faces. She sa
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Rosemary Mahoney (born January 28, 1961 Boston) is an American non-fiction writer.

She grew up in Milton, Massachusetts, andgraduated from St. Paul's School (Concord, New Hampshire). She worked briefly for Lillian Hellman.

She has attended Yaddo.

She has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Elle, National G

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