The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
July 23, 2022
Did you know Helen Keller dedicated her book, “The Story of my Life,” to the inventor of the telephone? She wrote: “To Alexander Graham Bell who taught the deaf to speak and enabled the listening ear to hear speech from the Atlantic to the Rockies.” She was remarkable and she herself had remarkable and memorable friends.
Born with sight and hearing, she lost both to illness during a high fever at the age of two. Many deemed her journey would end there, but instead, Helen reached out to life with a determined grasp. She grabbed the glasses off the face of her first and loyal teacher, grabbed the keys from Teacher’s pocket to open locked doors, literally and figuratively. She grabbed at everything that stood in her path, including the water flowing from the water pump that brought a memory of a word learned before her illness. Water. The simple word of “water” opened the floodgates that continued to pour over her throughout her lifetime.
Helen first learned to converse through sign language and people signed into the palm of her hand. Later she learned to read braille and with the help of Miss Sullivan, she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. She met Mark Twain at the age of 14 and he called her the 8th wonder of the world. She said she could feel the twinkle in his eye. She met several presidents, including Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were her friends. Did you know Edison was nearly deaf himself and Bell’s wife and mother were both hearing impaired? In 1918, Helen met Charlie Chaplin. She read his lips with one hand while feeling the vibration of his throat with the other. Chaplin himself worked with the deaf during his career, seeking to improve his pantomime communication skills and was a great supporter of the deaf community. Helen Keller traveled the world meeting people, giving speeches, inspiring those with disabilities and challenges and encouraging them to never give up and to reach for more.
Becoming blind at 13, main character Luca faces difficult adjustments in “Never the Wind,” written by Italian author Francesco Dimitri. Dimitri lays out Luca’s process from light to darkness, while also being challenged by teenage emotions and difficult family dynamics. Luca walks the reader through his family’s move from Turin to their inherited farmhouse outside of Paglia, Italy. He marks out the steps from one wall to another, between the orchard trees and landmarks, and even the long walk into and through town, clear down to the shore to swim blind in the sea. But the reader should be prepared for the deeper darker story that unfurls. There are mysteries, feuds, abuse and something very dark in the wind. Be prepared to face both the darkness of men’s souls and an unnamed entity as well.
On a lighter note, “Sticks,” illustrated and written by Diane Alber, tells the dramatic story of an orange popsicle that melts too quickly in the sun and melts down into a sticky puddle. With his self esteem still attached to the ice cream, Stick must learn to readjust his own measure of who he is now. Twig comes down from a tree and helps Stick see himself in a new and positive way. Sometimes life comes along and changes everything we know and feel, and we must learn to accept changes inside and out.
Whether something as dramatic occurs as blindness, deafness, losing a limb, the ability to walk or talk, or as with Stick, no longer being who you were and being plunged into the world completely different, we have the ability to find our way. Helen did. Luca did. Stick did. We can meet the challenges of our world and be victorious and live full and happy lives just like them. The biggest challenge is moving past the wall we have hit, whether going around, over, digging under, or carving our way out.
Life can bombard and wear us down. Make us doubt ourselves. But we can choose to embrace the examples of people who have fought the good fight and won. We can win too, and in the process, be examples to those around us. It is a good way of paying it forward. Because, most probably, we have many Twigs in our lives who graciously give us a helping hand. We can honor them by winning against all odds.
Good books. Good reading.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.