Tag Archives: eyesight

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.

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

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Alison Manley
Some Rights Reserved  

Two White Queens and The One-Eyed Jack, By Heidi von Palleske

How can you not pick up a book with the title Two White Queens and The One-eyed Jack? Such a title promises an out-of-the-ordinary experience, and author Heidi Von Palleske delivers, starting with the unusual cast of characters and a penchant for eye trauma.

A young boy’s act unintentionally results in another boy losing an eye. A third boy has been blind in one eye since birth and doesn’t know it. Two albino twin sisters with a troubled family history have reduced vision as part of their albinism. The lives of these characters, their families and others intertwine during the story. Family tragedy, abuse, betrayal and the many faces of guilt form a backdrop to the story. Characters search for love and acceptance. Longing transforms to belonging. Guilt encounters change, forgiveness and yes, sometimes retribution. The past comes back to haunt and fulfill.

Sight in its physical and metaphorical sense features prominently in the narrative. A Berlin ocularist makes glass eyes, perfect eyes that will never see, to replace missing ones. I found him to be the most human and interesting of the characters. Each year he makes replacement eyes for himself in case he loses his sight. These eyes reflect changes as he ages: an extra vein, a cloudiness, a tinge of yellow. He wants the orbs to reflect what is inside the person’s soul. He says to the boy who lost his eye:

“… there are two types of seeing … the outward-looking and inward-looking…. I will make you the best eye possible, and you will have to start doing the seeing. Inward-seeing. And that, my new friend, is called insight.”

Palleske uses juxtaposition effectively. While it is the twins’ vision that is impaired, people with fully functioning eyesight see only the girls’ whiteness. A woman who fled Germany and the holocaust offers the twins the security they long for. One of the one-eyed boys becomes a photographer where monocular vision is an asset. It takes the loss of her son’s sight for a woman to see the failure in her own marriage. A man who has been blind to what has been happening in his family provides a resolution.

I loved the quirkiness of the characters. This is a dense book with a large field of characters and multiple storylines that required Palleske’s deft hand to knit it together. Two White Queens and The One-Eyed Jack is published by Dundurn.


Heidi von Palleske is a writer, actor, and activist. She has written poetry, articles, and fiction, and won the H.R. Percy Novel Prize for They Don’t Run Red Trains Anymore. Heidi spends time on both the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts but calls Toronto home.

  • PUBLISHER: Dundurn; 2021
  • ISBN: 9781459746787
  • Pages: 288

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved