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Reviews of
Things No Longer There
A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision

Photo of birds rising against a brightening sky


"Even before Krieger began losing her vision to a rare condition known as birdshot retinochoroidopathy, she had become fascinated by the idea that nothing remains as we recall it. When revisiting places long remembered, everyone, she says, sees that those places look vastly different. Trees have grown, burned, or been cut down. People are older. Structures have been built, remodeled, or demolished. Birds that once flocked to a place have flown to new, more hospitable locales. She began compiling written snapshots, word pictures that captured exactly how things appeared to her at selected moments in time. Her verbal imagery borders on the poetic as she recollects, among other things, her childhood summer camp, saving a neighborhood tree, and witnessing the aftermath of a forest fire. That she is lesbian is more than an overriding leitmotif in her reminiscences, which incorporate a novella-length memoir about a special relationship. Her sexual identity becomes a presence, as fleshed-out as those other presences, the national park, the Pacific seashore, and the New Mexico desert." --Donna Chavez

Disability Studies Quarterly

"Moving from seeing her eye condition as a 'loss of sight' to a condition that actually affords her valuable new ways of seeing and living, these chapters enact a useful praxis of disability theory. Krieger, in the tradition of Nancy Mairs or Lennard Davis, usefully personalizes disability in a way that does not problematically champion individual 'survival,' but rather opens out new ideas of how we define the body, its abilities, its visions, its loves. Refusing to succumb to a medicalized version of her loss of eyesight as failure, Krieger instead details her journey to see herself as "a whole person" rather than "as a set of failed eyes." ....Krieger's personalized account of her own coming to terms with finding vision while losing sight is a moving, unique account of 'overcoming' not so much disability, but rather the ways in which our culture and its landscapes define disability as loss. Further, by equating the 'othered' category of lesbianism with disability, the book suggests how anything outside of the norm in American culture is pathologized." --Natalie Wilson

Books to Watch Out For

"Susan Krieger wrote the first essays in Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision before she consciously understood that her vision was failing. Originally interested in the differences between internal vision and "reality" (the cherished memories of a girls' camp that, when sought years later, has been bulldozed into suburban homes; the vivid memory of a post-forest-fire landscape contrasted with the same land a year and two years later, as new growth softens, then obliterates, the charred past), Krieger's ability to hold inner vision serves her well as her visual acuity diminishes, due to a rare condition known as birdshot retinochoroidopathy. But much more important -- and essential to us all -- is her ability to cultivate new vision -- whether that's learning to read the different kinds of space beside and between buildings while learning to see her way with a cane, finding other lesbians in different locales, or looking back at the past with new eyes in the book's concluding novella.... [Krieger is] always insisting that we acknowledge complexities where simpler visions might be easier to savor." --Carol Seajay

Favorites and Bests for '05:
What Lesbian Writers and Editors are Reading
(from Books to Watch Out For)

"Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision by Susan Krieger is a series of poetic meditations/essays and a novella on the changing nature of the outer world - landscapes, relationships, and perhaps most importantly, the author's shifting, diminishing sight due to a rare condition known as birdshot retinochoroidopathy. Only our inner experiences--memories and emotions, for instance, have a crystalline stability. As someone who has also lost my own sight recently, I was inspired by Krieger's ability to enjoy her present, to re-evaluate her past, and to connect both to her lesbianism." --Karla Jay, Vice President of the Lambda Literary Foundation, lesbian author/editor

The Noe Valley Voice (San Francisco)

"The 11 tales that make up her current memoir--which concludes with an intimate novella about a relationship from the late 1970s--navigate exterior landscapes as well as interior heartscapes....Sometimes, as with the summer camp story, physical changes to the land have taken place. Other times, it's Krieger's own perceptions that have changed--as when the avid walker she once was goes from being able to discern the trim on a Victorian [house] to not being able to spot dirt on the sidewalk. She also covers the way her dimming vision plays tricks on her--as when, for example, she taps her foot against what looks like a flat sidewalk and finds out it's actually a curb. Then with a twist of the kaleidoscope, Krieger turns the focus on her self, sharing her fears of being invisible to others because of her physical condition, and also because of her lesbianism." --Suzanne Herel

Read the full Voice article and an excerpt from the book.

Curve Magazine

"Krieger, who previously penned the seminal The Mirror Dance: Identity in a Women's Community, offers up a moving collection of stories about her struggle to become a whole woman and, at the same time, losing her eyesight. From finding the summer camp of her childhood to finding her inner child in the arms of her reluctant therapist lover, Things is a vivid and sometimes jarring read." --Diane Anderson-Minshall

The Half Moon Bay Review

"Reflective and touching, it follows Krieger's struggle for enlightenment while losing her sight and finding that outer landscapes change while inner ones persist and are redefined." --Stacy Trevenon

Midwest Book Review

"These are personal stories of the author Susan Krieger's slow loss of sight and provides ten brief reflections and one novella-length drama which follows Susan's birdwatching in a New Mexico desert, learning to use a white cane, and final enjoyment of life's visions before losing her sight. Outer landscapes may change, but inner vision persists - and Susan Krieger faces disability and a changed life with renewed vision. Things No Longer There is very highly recommended reading." --Reviewer's Choice

Feature Coverage

The Stanford Magazine

'Losing Sight and Finding Vision'
A memoir about going blind and more.

Last winter, Susan Krieger got on the phone to a florist in Wisconsin. "I said, 'I want flowers-big, dramatic flowers.'" Sent to? The compositor and managing editor of the University of Wisconsin Press.

For Krieger, a lecturer in the program in feminist studies, Humanities and Sciences Fellow at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and author of four previous books, having another book published typically wouldn't have been such a huge event. But this title was different. Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision includes an account of how Krieger lost her sight over a period of five years to a rare disease called birdshot retinochoroidopathy. She had worked with the press for months to ensure that a digital version for blind readers would be published simultaneously with the print book. "For me, the book came out when I got the e-book," she says. "I felt like I could navigate it, and I was elated."

Krieger's new work is at home on several bookstore shelves: memoir, disability studies, or gay and lesbian studies. Personal stories about a former summer camp, birdwatching and lesbian lovers are collected with essays that address the nature of blindness and sight. Krieger's loss of vision began after she'd written some of the pieces, but not before she'd settled on the title. "I was writing very pictorially," she recalls. "I was looking for clarity." Then she was diagnosed. "And I thought, 'Well, that fits with my theme.' "

Photo of the author with her guide dog.

For the past three years, Krieger has taught a course called Seminar in Women's Health: Women and Disabilities. She says teaching and writing about her loss of vision have given her an outlet that many blind people don't have. "I feel fortunate that in the past I've had to deal with so many emotional things that I'm prepared for this. Losing my vision is not the worst thing in the world, and I'm going to be fine."

Krieger's next book will explore issues of mobility without sight, including stories about navigating with a guide dog. (Photo by Linda A. Cicero.)

Visit the Stanford Magazine article.