Don’t Lose Sight: Vanity, incompetence, and my ill-fated left eye by Genevieve A. Chornenki

The preface of Genevieve A. Chornenki’s short memoir, Don’t Lose Sight: Vanity, incompetence, and my ill-fated left eye is a glowing ode to the visual surprises of the every day. Chornenki delights in the colours and textures of a cabbage, exclaiming in wonder about this simple thing, while her husband isn’t nearly as riveted. However, after a retinal detachment that went untreated for longer than it should have, Chornenki is far more appreciative of the things she can see after this brush with sightlessness. Exploring illness while parenting, advocating for more than herself, and walking the up-and-down journey that is managing health. Brief but frank, this is a great look at the value of sight and the challenges of taking care of it in our current healthcare system. As Chornenki points out so deftly in this memoir, we take vision for granted until we suffer the loss of it.

“Chornenki, in the space of 125 pages, explores the context of her retinal detachment: how the treatment and recuperation bled into her work, affected her ability to parent, and resulted in pressures and judgement from others who were unaware of her vision issues, pain, and active healing.”

Which brings me to the reason why I’m reviewing this book. James reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in reading it specifically, because he knows that I have a visual impairment, resulting from my own brush with an eye disease. So my review comes from the lens of someone who already knows what it’s like to live in a world with some vision loss, and what that means – which, for the purposes of this review, means that I definitely got a lot out of it, but also had to reconcile my own biases resulting from my experience while reading this.

Chornenki, in the space of 125 pages, explores the context of her retinal detachment: how the treatment and recuperation bled into her work, affected her ability to parent, and resulted in pressures and judgement from others who were unaware of her vision issues, pain, and active healing. This is a well-rounded look at how medical issues can spiral, or even what we consider to be “minimal” vision problems, can wreak havoc on your life, require years of treatment, and are always a risk. Eyesight is incredibly fragile, and Chornenki captures that lesson beautifully in this memoir.

The other major part of this memoir is advocacy: advocacy for yourself as a patient, and advocacy for others. Part of Chornenki’s story is her then-optometrist misdiagnosing her retinal detachment as migraine, leaving it to get worse and then become more difficult to repair. Chornenki ultimately decides to make a complaint, and she details the arduous and occasionally demeaning process of filing a formal complaint. Attacking this part of her story with the same pluck as she attacked her treatment and healing, was interesting, enraging, and very informative.

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Chornenki describes this memoir as a “small story.” I agree with that, and I also agree that small stories are important. This was valuable to me, as a person who has vision loss, and I think would be wonderfully helpful for anyone going through something similar.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Genevieve Chornenki is a dispute resolution consultant and emerging writer based in Toronto, Canada. When she was in grade 4, the teacher noted on her report card, Has excellent story-writing ability which should be encouraged as much as possible. No one in the family noticed. Nor did first prize for poetry in high school relieve her of household chores like washing dishes and sweeping the kitchen floor. Eventually, she figured out that writing is about persistence, not permission. It also helps to have something to say. Genevieve holds a Master of Laws in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto, and a Certificate in Publishing from Ryerson University. Her works include Bypass Court: A Dispute Resolution Handbook and When Families Start Talking, a CBC Ideas radio documentary. Visit her at www.genevievechornenki.com or email her at gac@chornenki.com.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Iguana Books (April 15 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 140 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771804807
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771804806

Alison Manley bounced around the Maritimes before landing in Miramichi, NB, where she works as a hospital librarian. She has an honours BA in political science and English from St. Francis Xavier University, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. When she's not reading biomedical research for her work, she likes reading poetry, contemporary and historical fiction, and personal essays. Noted for a love of bright colours (and lipstick), you can find her wandering the banks of the Miramichi River with a book and a paintbrush.

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