When you first hear of what happened to Belo Miguel Cipriani, you might assume that he was gay-bashed. At age 26, the San Francisco resident was brutally beaten in the Castro District, the City's legendary "gay ghetto." However, it wasn't an anti-gay attack.
Cipriani's eyes were nearly kicked out of his head by people he considered friends from within the gay community. Although the reasons for the attack remain vague, it appears that the young man's "crime" was choosing going to school instead of going to clubs.
Blind: A Memoir is Cipriani's moving account of his readjustment to life as a gay man in a new, dark city. Written in an almost conversational style, the author shares his hopes of regaining his sight through numerous surgeries. For a while, he still had limited vision. But one day, he was forced to face the truth about what had been done to him. His quiet acceptance of his fate, and his determination to live life to it's fullest, are inspirational.
Cipriani has to learn how to walk, cook, read and even date in his sightless world. He learns fairly quickly that many doors remain open to him; at San Francisco's Lighthouse for the Blind, he meets Bryce, a fellow blind gay man. Bryce has a sighted partner.
Through it all, he retains his sense of humor, as when he names his walking stick "Citizen Cane."
Sharing his story wasn't always easy. "I think the attack took the longest to write as it brought me back to that moment each time," the writer shared in an email to Windy City Times. "Some consider the attack scene the most dramatic part of the bookit was definitely the most intense for me to write. Other parts of the book helped me to recognize my physical and spiritual growth."
The book moves back and forth in time. The attack scene comes fairly early and then jumps forward to the author's hospital room, where, as he awaits his latest surgery, he takes us back to his days as a semi-closeted young man in San Jose, Calif. In that earlier, more carefree time, his future attackers were his closest friends, introducing him to the gay-club scene.
"I decided to write a non-linear memoir because that is how memories occur," Cipriani stated. "We could be listening to a song on the radio that takes one back to high school or smell something that reminds us of the previous weekend. I believe that memories occur out of chronological order and I wanted to recapture that with my book."
Cipriani's closest companion is now Madge, his beautiful and much-beloved guide dog: "The chapters about Madge helped me to recognize the major ways in which she contributes to my life by making exploring the world a more manageable task."
The book is definitely having an impact: "The response has been extremely positive. I get weekly messages from parents of blind children; adults dealing with blindness; disabled queer people; Latinos whose parents are losing sight due to diabetes; and students with research interests in the field of queer and disabilities studies. It's also nice that I'm receiving support from outside the gay and blind communities. Univision, a Spanish TV network that has been known to be conservative, has featured me in the 6 p.m. news, and even gave my mom a makeover."
Blind: A Memoir is, in my view, an awe-inspiring tale of courage against seemingly insurmountable odds.
It can be ordered from Amazon.com, in select bookstores or through Cipriani's personal website, www.blindamemoir.com .