A Washington Independent Review of Books Favorite Book of 2021
A writer’s humorous and often-heartbreaking tale of losing his sight—and how he hid it from the world.
At age sixteen, James Tate Hill was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, a condition that left him legally blind. When high-school friends stopped calling and a disability counselor advised him to aim for C’s in his classes, he tried to escape the stigma by pretending he could still see.
In this unfailingly candid yet humorous memoir, Hill discloses the tricks he employed to pass for sighted, from displaying shelves of paperbacks he read on tape to arriving early on first dates so women would have to find him. He risked his life every time he crossed a street, doing his best to listen for approaching cars. A good memory and pop culture obsessions like Tom Cruise, Prince, and all things 1980s allowed him to steer conversations toward common experiences.
For fifteen years, Hill hid his blindness from friends, colleagues, and lovers, even convincing himself that if he stared long enough, his blurry peripheral vision would bring the world into focus. At thirty, faced with a stalled writing career, a crumbling marriage, and a growing fear of leaving his apartment, he began to wonder if there was a better way.
About the Author
James Tate Hill is an editor for Monkeybicycle and contributing editor at Literary Hub, where he writes a monthly audiobooks column. The Best American Essays has chosen two of his works as "Notable," and he won the Nilsen Literary Prize for a First Novel for Academy Gothic. Born in West Virginia, he lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
It’s been a long time since I met such a thoroughly normal guy in a memoir…I’d buy him a beer anytime. — Dwight Garner, New York Times
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, The Liars' Club by Mary Karr, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou are among the memoirs that leave you breathless; they're books you keep and don't pawn off on your neighbor's yard sale. Now comes another keeper: Blind Man's Bluff by James Tate Hill.
— Kitty Kelley, Washington Independent Review of Books
Hill sketches these scenes in a spare, fuss-free way…[Y]ou root for him to hold on to the little bit of joy he's found—the colors in his life, for once, sharp and bright — Tommy Tomlinson, New York Times Book Review
A beautiful, sad, frustrating story about how frustrating, sad and beautiful life can be…[A] triumph. — Ben Tanzer, Lit Reactor
Hill's honesty is endearing…The story he tells in Blind Man's Bluff is, to be sure, one of living with and not being defined by a disability. It's also much more, a story that should resonate with anyone who's just trying to figure out what life is all about.
— Linda C. Brinson, Greensboro News & Record
Disarmingly honest and funny…An inspiring, often incredible story that reminds us of the strength that come from vulnerability. — Bookpage
A coming-of-age story worthy of its hero’s stellar VHS collection of ’80s and ’90s movies. Hill’s journey toward learning to live with his blindness will have you wincing, crying, sighing, and cheering right along with him—not to mention sharing in his love of Molly Ringwald, The Golden Girls, Prince, and Tom Cruise.
— Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, best-selling author of Seinfeldia
Told with humor and grace, Blind Man’s Bluff is a story of reinventions—ones both enormous and minute, ones both forced and earned. It’s also an education, and an illumination.
— Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize–finalist author of The Great Believers
Compelling and honest, James Tate Hill writes of the isolation, confusion, and longing for connection, which is what it means to be human. A gripping and unflinching journey of love, acceptance, and finding the courage to tell your own story. — Alison Stine, author of Road Out of Winter
Reading Blind Man’s Bluff is like going out for coffee with your funniest friend. It’s also about which Golden Girl you’d most want your doctor to resemble, assuming that your doctor must resemble a Golden Girl. (The answer is Dorothy. Obviously.) It’s a smart, thoughtful, and hilarious book, and it will engage you from the first page to the last.
— Best-selling writer Carolyn Parkhurst, author of Harmony
Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Hill’s narratives on disability, pop culture, and just getting through life are filled with heartbreak, humor, and hope. — Beth (Bich Minh) Nguyen, author of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner