Vision Quest: Meet the Real Joe Koury

by Tony Swartz

 

One of our presentations at this year’s upcoming conference, “Questioning the Limitations of Vision Loss” will be based on a book by Joseph Koury, “Seeing Without Eyes”.

 

Joe was the subject of a book by Lou Briganti, “Flying Blind: One Man’s Journey Out of Darkness”, which was added to the NLS collection late in 2019, DB97425. The book was the subject of a Library User’s of America discussion at last year’s ACB conference. The consensus of the discussion participants was that the accomplishments of the books protagonist were totally unrealistic, and some questioned whether the character was perhaps even fictitious.

 

Many of the participants in the discussion were then taken aback when I spoke up to inform them that not only was Joe a real person, but that he and I are very distantly related. I did admit that some of the episodes in the book were described out of context, and that the young man to whom Joe tells his story was a fictional character, a literary device of the author. One of the discussion participants then suggested that Joe attempt to write his own version.

 

When Joe and I next spoke, I told him of the reaction of the discussion participants and passed on the suggestion to write his own version of his story. Joe had been feeling somewhat uncomfortable with the way Briganti’s book had related some of the events in Joe’s life and had started to wonder how he could put the record straight.

 

After some consideration, Joe undertook the task of rewriting the book from his own perspective. He removed all of Briganti’s literary devices, and devoted greater space to the explanation of perceptual concepts such as echo location.

 

In brief, in 1953, at the age of 19 Joe suddenly loses his vision, and out of despair and fearing to be a burden to his family, he decides to embark on a trip hitch hiking across the United States. More than just a cross country journey, it turns out to be a quest of exploration and development of his remaining senses. In the presentation to us Joe will briefly chronical his journey and describe the abilities he developed, allowing him to build a successful life, both personally and financially.

 

To prepare you for Joe’s conference presentation, I have created a daisy version, a talking book of Joe’s book, “Seeing Without Eyes”. For those with email, in July I will email out a link to the book which will allow you to download the book as you would from Bard. For those who receive the audio edition of The PCB Advocate on cartridge, it will follow the summer edition. For braille readers, PCB will mail you a thumb drive holding the daisy edition which you can plug into your NLS player. The book is just under four hours in length; an absorbing read which will prepare you for an interesting presentation at this year’s conference.

 

As for Joe, he’s looking forward to your questions.

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