Marie Younan was born in 1952 into a family of Assyrian refugees living in north-eastern Syria. Accidentally blinded by her grandmother as a baby, Marie was the quiet, ever-present listener within her large extended family. Locked out of school, play, and social gatherings, she lived a brave inner life of reflection and acceptance.
The family migrated to Beirut, and then, in the mid-seventies, to Melbourne, Australia to escape the Lebanese civil war. Being blind, Marie was denied a visa, and was forced to wait in Syria and Athens for three years before the family could sponsor her to Australia. Unable to speak English, dependent for everything on her family, Marie, in her words, was ‘only half alive’. Then, in 1985, aged 33, she attended the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind. There she became fluent in English, literate in braille, and physically mobile with the help of a cane. Educated, independent, and professionally qualified at last, her life began to take off.
‘Huge-hearted and inspiring. A book that literally makes us see the world in new ways.’
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‘A tale of dispossession, displacement, and remarkable resilience. Epic in scope, but always grounded in the domestic, it chronicles one woman’s struggle to live a fulfilling life, despite her blindness and lack of education. Marie Younan is an engaging storyteller: intimate, warm, direct, and honest. In Jill Sanguinetti she has a skilful writer who has worked with her to create a rich tapestry, interweaving ancient and contemporary Assyrian history and a vast gallery of family characters, teachers, friends, and support workers who have taken part in her journey.’
‘This is a simply told tale of an extraordinary life … In unadorned prose, this story is a window into both the unique and often overlooked difficulties facing people with vision impairment and the inherited impact of genocide. While it’s heartbreaking to read how much Younan was denied, it’s heartwarming to read about her thriving.’
Joanne Shiells, Books+Publishing