SHADES OF DARKNESS
by George E. Brummell
How does a blind person write a book?
How does a blind person write a whole book? How about a blind person with his left hand compromised by a battle injury?
I started writing “Shades of Darkness” in 1977 after being inspired by a book, “If You Could See What I Hear,” by actor/musician/speaker Tom Sullivan, who had attended Harvard University as a blind student and described with humor and honesty how he overcame his limitations. The book was a success and was later made into a film.
I believed I could write a book that would also be inspiring, but from the perspective of a black man’s journey from modest roots, to combat in Vietnam, sudden blindness, and beyond.
I started getting up in the early mornings, with a tape recorder, sitting at my basement bar and trying to remember as much as I could. The process of transferring from tape to paper was a huge obstacle and I dropped the project for a while, until I enrolled at the University of Akron. There I found a writer willing to assist me with class work, as well as transcribing bits of my manuscript.
I persuaded my English instructors to grade my personal writings as class projects. When I became computer literate in the mid-1980s I managed to get what I had on paper scanned into digital form. But it was a mess. When I finally got the text cleaned up, my writing project picked up speed. Nearly every night after returning home from work, I sat typing with my one hand, telling my story to the hard drive. Many nights I only got down a sentence or two, but it was progress nonetheless.
Thanks to the technology that allows a computer to “speak” words, I could haltingly write and edit my thoughts. For a short time I had a couple of volunteers who stopped by and took dictation. The years flew by, but I kept up my routine.
I finally completed the manuscript five years ago, but it just sat on my computer, awaiting the right moment to be born. That came in the fall of 2005 when I went to the VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in New Haven, Connecticut, for computer enhancement training.
There I met a veteran of World War II, Arthur Gerold, who was learning to cope with macular degeneration. After telling him my story, he was convinced I should get it out of the computer and into the hands of someone who could help me polish it for publication.
He volunteered to carry a printed copy of the manuscript in a snow storm by train to an author friend in New York City. That started a process that ended with the publication of "Shades of Darkness." I hope you get as much pleasure and inspiration out of reading it as I did in the writing.