4 out of 4 stars
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I Know My Way. Always Remember to Color the Sky Blue by Theresa Marafito with Linda Odubayo Thompson is a memoir which tells the story of Theresa Marafito, a visually impaired woman.
I chose to read this book because I believe it is important to have access to other perspectives in order to be able to live a fuller life. In my opinion, the surest way to gain access to such perspectives is by listening to others’ life stories. I appreciate the comforting feeling of belonging, of being confirmed that I am not alone. I get this from people whom I feel are similar to me, sharing my beliefs, my concerns, my challenges or my perceived failures. Despite this, I also think that connecting with those who are most different than me in some aspects can bring about a very enriching different optic. I am a junkie for memoirs, journals and autobiographies. I feel that these provide the most authentic reflection of the marriage between authentic and profound subjective perception and the raw reality of unpredictable and uncontrollable exterior events. I feel that, although they might not, fiction books have the option to cheat. A writer might resolve a conflict by juggling with the characters as she pleases, or, if she feels it is too much for the story, she might decide to renounce it altogether. One does not have that option in life and I expect books which tell real-life stories to carry me along a path of such life challenges and to show me the real-life resolutions. I know my way does exactly this and, in my opinion, this is one of its biggest strengths. I am very grateful for those who write memoirs, journals and autobiographies because I think it takes great strength to open oneself to the world.
Overall I enjoyed reading I know my way, but I would lie if I would say I have appreciated all its parts equally. The parts that I liked most were the ones which tell the story of Terry as a child, adolescent and young adult. I feel that the childhood years are particularly well described and that the character is strongly contoured. I could not say for sure if I enjoyed this part more because it was better written or because I was so taken with little Terry. I perceived her as a stubborn and intelligent girl who fights to avoid the compassion of those who do not seem to understand that her poor vision is not something that can stand in her way. She is determined to accomplishing everything she wants. I perceived her as being the ideal mix of ingenuity, wits and roguish daring. The story of her years as a teenager and young woman continues as one of courage and determination. She graduates college magna cum laude when she is only 19 years old. She describes her condition with humour and a sort of detachment, demonstrating that she manages to achieve independence. Her visual impairment transforms her experiences, but it does by no means cancel them. She lives a life of accomplishments and challenges, potentially fuller than that of many of her readers. She goes to school and lives the full social complexity of the experience: she meets new people, she makes friends and she is bullied. As a young woman, she studies with determination but she also finds the time to go to parties and to hang out late at night with her friends. In later years the story continues as a first-person narrative, but it is less focused on Teresa and more on the family. I believe this is a consequence of her family becoming such a big part of who she was at that point. She becomes the mother of two girls and along with her husband Jerry she builds a house and starts a business. The challenges she faces along the way are worth discovering by reading the book.
A lesson that seems to be infused in the story is that meeting impairment with compassion can be offensive. Theresa’s story demonstrates that disability can be integrated into the normal life path similar to other challenges. It also shows that those who manage to do this deserve nothing less than respect as they show a strength which is to be envied rather than pitied.
As I understood, most of the book is written by Theresa herself, but her older daughter, Linda, contributed significantly to editing it and filling in the parts not covered by her mother, especially those in the last part of her life. I read through the book mostly unaware that it had two authors which I believe is a real success. Despite this, the last chapter, which continues the story after Theresa’s death adds a perspective which alters the sense of a memoir. To me, this chapter and the Afterword felt disjoint and, in my opinion, they did not add to the story, on the contrary. I was happy however that the information presented in the Afterword was not added to the book as an introduction. Reading this first would have probably changed my whole perspective on the book. This last part made me consider rating the book three out of four stars, but I have reconsidered. I believe Theresa’s book deserves four stars out of four and it should not be penalized due to an addition which, in my opinion, is uninspired although well intended.
In terms of editing the quality is really good. I did not find any mistakes, but at first, I did not understand the purpose of the blank pages introduced after some chapters. As some of the chapters are really short, at one point, the number of blank pages felt excessive. Eventually, I realized that these would probably only feel strange for those reading the book in an electronic format as was my case. I read it in a PDF format. For a print version, they make sense as these are even numbered pages, left blank in order to allow for the new chapters to start on odd-numbered pages. The book contains pictures which contribute to bringing the characters closer to the reader.
I know my way is a story about perseverance, independence and optimism and a life lesson about how to keep on going, regardless of what life throws at you. It made me laugh, it made me sad, it made me curious and it gave me the courage to look at the ‘impossible’ challenges in my life with new eyes. I believe this book is suitable for everyone from young adults who may just be starting their own journeys, to seniors who have already gone through many of their personal life experiences.
I Know My Way Memoir
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