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Sunday, August 12, 2012

at 82 she writes book to share journey through vision/hearing loss

At 81, she writes book to share journey of vision, hearing loss

Michael Sears
Ruth Silver reads over some of her work printed out in Braille at
her Milwaukee apartment.
Author hopes book will encourage readers to look past disability
and into the hearts and minds of others
By Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel
July 28, 2012

Marvin Silver reads to his wife, Ruth. Many new books are not
available in Braille, the couple say, so Marvin will simply read
them to Ruth. That way they both have read the book and can
discuss it.

more photos



It would have been a lot easier for Ruth Silver not to do this.
The woman is blind and mostly deaf and 81 years old.

She's been through enough.

But there is something in her spirit that urges her to stare down
the dark moments of her remarkable life.

She has just finished her memoir, "Invisible: My Journey through
Vision and Hearing Loss," and it is a blockbuster.

Amazon carries it, as does Barnes & Noble. Silver will be making
the rounds promoting it at bookstores and book clubs soon.

"They tell me I should get a Facebook account and Twitter and all
that, but I don't know," she said. "Am I really that
interesting?"

Well, yes.

You needn't be blind or deaf to relate to Silver. Her story is an
inspiration for anyone who's ever felt alone or different.

Silver doesn't hold back. Her story tackles anti-Semitism,
physical abuse, infertility, even erectile dysfunction. There are
enough steamy sex scenes to give "Fifty Shades of Grey" a little
competition.

"Did you get to the R-rated stuff yet," she asks, smiling.

Silver looks tiny and fragile as she makes her way down the hall
of St. John's on the Lake, the east side retirement community
where she and her husband, Marvin, live. Her fingers brush
against the wall to guide her.

Don't be fooled.

This is one tough lady.

She is well-known as the founder of the Center for Deaf-Blind
Persons, begun in 1983.

Her book begins in 1947 when she was 16 years old sitting in the
back seat of the family car on her way home from the Mayo Clinic
after learning that she would go blind. It is a gut-wrenching
account of how shattered her parents were and how alone and
frightened she felt hearing her rock-solid father sobbing.

"That one chapter took me something like 10 years to write," she
said.

Writing with such vivid detail was exhausting, she said.

"Sometimes, it sent me spiraling downward, leaving me unable to
write for weeks, months and even years," she said.

She worked on a computer that translates Braille. That made for
some awkward copy-editing moments - dropped commas, forgotten
paragraph markers.

Silver said she felt she had to write it - both to make sense of
her life for herself and to give encouragement to others who
struggle, regardless of their disability.

A lot of the book deals with how she managed to find a balance
between her mother's desires to shelter and comfort her and her
father's demands that she be independent. He threatened to kick
her out of the house unless she enrolled in college. Modern-day
helicopter parents might cringe at that, but Silver says she
gained a lot of confidence and strength from her father's refusal
to indulge her.

"I might be sitting in a chair feeling sorry for myself for the
rest of my life if it weren't for him," she said.

Local landmarks
There are breezy passages. Milwaukee readers will get a kick out
of her descriptions of Hopkins Street School, Sherman Park and
the hot fudge sundaes at Gimbels Department Store. Her story
recalls her days teaching in Iowa and Massachusetts and how she
managed motherhood.

Silver sits at St. John's dining room overlooking a scene she
cannot see - the lake as it glistens against the midsummer sky -
and talks about moxie. She had no choice but to keep going as her
sight failed and her hearing began to go, a condition believed to
be genetic. Her father's family was lost in the Holocaust, so
there are no medical records.

"People ask me how long it takes to adjust to being blind and
mostly deaf and I tell them, 'Exactly one lifetime,' " she said.

She's not looking to get rich off this book. In fact, she's
donating royalties to the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons.

Inspiration to write
She wrote it because she wants people to see her - and all others
with disabilities - as they are: full, three-dimensional human
beings who laugh and cry and get angry.

"I'm just a person," she said. "I love ice cream, I'm a good
cook, but I'll confess something right now."

She leans forward and whispers, "I hate to clean."

More than anything, Silver hopes that her book will encourage
readers to look past disability and into the hearts and minds of
others.

"I'm a normal person," she said, "who just happens not to be able
to see or hear very well."

Book signings
Ruth Silver will sign and talk about her book, "Invisible: My
Journey through Vision and Hearing Loss," at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at
St. John's on the Lake, 1840 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee; 2 p.m.
Sept. 8 at Boswell Books, 2559 N.. Downer Ave., Milwaukee; and
from 3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons,
3195 S. Superior St., Milwaukee.

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