Helen Keller
The Story of My Life
Book Review by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony

After immensely enjoying Helen Keller's Optimism, I set out to read this, her first book.

At slightly over 200 pages in the paperback form, her autobiographical narrative takes up only the first 100 pages. The rest of the book is comprised of a collection of her letters (from the very first she'd written as a student of the language, to those of a mature woman).

The book opens strong. The writing is excellent. It's absolutely exciting to read her in her own words, describe how it was that she'd come to understand words, and how she was taken from her lonely darkness into a world full of books and experiences that she could understand and communicate, and interact with intellectually. This is the book's strength and fascination.

However, Helen will, at times, spend a great many paragraphs describing nature, often using sight words. I personally don't know what to think about that. Her sight words must have come through her understanding of language and usage by her sighted friends or books she'd read. I.e.: "From the garden it looked like an arbour." I wanted to know her honest thoughts. But as she says herself, "I have always accepted other people's experiences and observations as a matter of course." Or "I read without thought of authorship, and even now I cannot be quite sure of the boundary line between my ideas and those I find in books. I suppose that it because so many of my impressions come to me through the medium of others' eyes and ears." I'm a bit confused as to what phrases are her own making or simply the remarks of others she's commandeered. And this problem is one she addresses in her book as well. It's a struggle for her to determine which memories are hers and which are others. Such a dilemma is very interesting. But the pages and pages of nature experiences are not always interesting.

Also less than entertaining is the name dropping in the later chapters. She'd been fortunate enough to meet a great deal of famous people (Mark Twain, among others less famous). Helen gives each of their meetings about a paragraph and moves on to the next. It's a chapter of serial superficially described meetings that makes for dull reading.

On the whole, the book is still worth a read, even though the story part of the book toggles between fascinating and dull. Actually, the letters part does as well. It's interesting to note a very young Helen's education in words and writing, but many of the letters are sort of redundant in their interest level. That said, I enjoyed poking around from letter to letter.

Quotes from this book:
"I think I knew when I was naughty, for I knew that it hurt Ella, my nurse, to kick her, and when my fit of temper was over I had a feeling akin to regret. But I cannot remember any instance in which this feeling prevented me from repeating the naughtiness when I failed to get what I wanted."

"Meanwhile, the desire to express myself grew. The few signs I used became less and less adequate, and my failures to make myself understood were invariably followed by outbursts of passion. I felt as if invisible hands were holding me, and I made frantic efforts to free myself. I struggled -- not that struggling helped matters, but the spirit of resistance was strong within me; I generally broke down in tears and physical exhaustion. If my mother happened to be near I crept into her arms, too miserable even to remember the cause of the tempest. After awhile the need of some means of communication became so urgent that these outbursts occurred daily, sometimes hourly."

"Thus I came up out of Egypt and stood before Sinai, and a power divine touched my spirit and gave it sight, so that I beheld many wonders. And from the sacred mountain I heard a voice which said, "Knowledge in love and light and vision."

"Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding-line, and had no way of knowing how near the harbour was. "Light! Give me light!" was the wordless cry o my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour. "

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at HollywoodReportCard.com, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: www.RossAnthony.com or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Friday, 14-Jun-2013 12:38:14 PDT