Can You Bluff Being Blind? Read My Review on  James Tate Hill’s Memoire

a blind woman wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane

The definition of the word Bluff, according to WordHippo, is an attempt to deceive someone into believing that one can or is going to do something. It is bravado or bluster that is superficial or not backed up. So, can you successfully bluff your way through life? What about a particular situation? How long could you do it before exhaustion or reality sets in? Or what about someone discovering and calling you out? Lastly, why would you do it in the first place?

Emotionally Challenging Book

Empish holding book on Blind Tom

These are some of the questions that ran through my mind as I read the book, Blind Man’s Bluff   by James Tate Hill. I have read many books on blindness over the years, but I have to say this book frustrated and annoyed me the most. I struggled finishing but knew I needed to soldier through to write this review. When I write a book review I work hard to focus on the positive elements in the story and try to understand  the author’s perspective. However, this book was emotionally challenging.

I know most people have occasionally bluffed there way  through something. Me included. However, Hill’s story of his vision loss was a bit extreme. I am getting ahead of myself and haven’t even told you what the book is about. So, let me do that first and then share my review.

Book Summary

Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds
Display of NLS Talking Book Player, Cartridges and Earbuds

The audiobook is available at Bookshare and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Impaired . Bookshare says, Blind Man’s Bluff is a male writer’s humorous and often-heartbreaking tale of losing his sight—and how he hid it from the world. At age sixteen, Hill was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, a condition that left him legally blind. When high-school friends stopped calling and a disability counselor advised him to aim for C’s in his classes, he tried to escape the stigma by pretending he could still see.

In this unfailingly candid yet humorous memoir, Hill discloses the tricks he employed to pass for sighted, from displaying shelves of paperbacks he read on tape to arriving early on first dates so women would have to find him. He risked his life every time he crossed a street, doing his best to listen for approaching cars. A good memory and pop culture obsessions like Tom Cruise, Prince, and all things 1980s allowed him to steer conversations toward common experiences. For fifteen years, Hill hid his blindness from friends, colleagues, and lovers, even convincing himself that if he stared long enough, his blurry peripheral vision would bring the world into focus. Finally, at thirty, faced with a stalled writing career, a crumbling marriage, and a growing fear of leaving his apartment, he began to wonder if there was a better way.

Concept of Bluffing

Fifteen years is a long time to pretend to be something you are not. But I know people do it everyday. This book  caused me to think hard and deep about  the concept of bluffing. Hill spent Too much energy pretending, or some would call passing, as a sighted person. I was amazed  at the elaborate methods  and schemes he use to keep people from knowing how bad his vision really was. At one point in the book, he explained he would rather let people think he was a drunk butthole  than blind. Now that is pretty deep. It made me question what type of world do we live in when it is better to be a drunk butthole  than blind?

For the Benefit of Those Who See Book Cover

I have known for years vision loss is equivalent to the fear of public speaking. People feel they would rather die than go blind. There is an inherent fear of blindness in our society. So, I get it. After all I lost my vision after 25 years of seeing clearly. I do understand and have some empathy. But this is the thing. . Pretending to see when you can’t is dangerous. Not only physically but mentally. We live in a sighted world  and have to learn how to adjust. Perhaps bluffing is a form of adjustment? But for how long?

I remember when I first went blind, I did the whole “fake it to you make it.” That approach worked for a while but I couldn’t sustain it long. After a while it became mentally wearing and I had to disclose my vision impairment. No, it wasn’t easy. Yes, I had to explain more than I wanted. But at the end of the day people  got it and I was able to conduct my business and get my needs met. If you are pretending all the time I seriously doubt  the results will be in your favor.

People Looked the Other Way

Another aspect of the book that frustrated me was how complicit Hill’s family, friends, teachers and co-workers were in his bluffing. Over and over again there were examples when people in his life literally and figuratively looked the other way. People knew he had a vision problem   and really didn’t talk or confront him making the pretending last longer. Plus there was no mention of therapy or counseling. All of this were missed opportunities  for Hill to get needed support. A disabled life is hard and having a circle of support  is critical to being happy and successful.

Disability Visibility Book Cover

Reading about Hill’s life triggered this question-are societies ideas of the disabled that awful? Do we need more positive and real role models for people to see the possibilities? I’m not talking about inspirational porn rather images of people living their life as capable disabled people. We are lacking in this but I do see improvements.

Can’t Bluff Blindness

By the end of the story Hill is coming to an understanding. It is harder to pretend than just be real. He  is noticing how much he is losing in his life. So, the answer to my initial question, can you bluff being blind is no. Well, maybe for a while but it won’t last and you will miss out on the beauty of what life  has to offer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.