I am very pleased to have as a guest on my blog today a woman for whom I have great respect and admiration. Please meet Anastasia Charalabakos, Ana for short. Ana has written a memoir titled From Darkness to Triumph, describing the challenges she has had to overcome due to being blind from birth, growing up in a Greek-speaking household so that when she started school she had to overcome both the handicap of blindness and of speaking almost no English, and of suffering emotional trauma from her parents’ fights, both verbal and physical.
Ana, please tell us what persuaded you to write From Darkness to Triumph, despite the pain it must have caused you to describe the difficulties you have faced from early childhood throughout your life.
ANA: The reasons for writing my book are several. First, living life with blindness often means facing challenges such as difficulty finding employment or encountering skeptical individuals in relation to my abilities despite my intelligence. While persons with sight face challenges such as these as well, I face them more frequently as one with blindness. This is because regardless of the immense progress that has been made in computer technology and in the attitudes about mainstreaming persons with blindness into sighted classrooms and into the workforce, a significant lack of awareness and understanding about blindness continue to exist. With that in mind, I wanted to write a book that would answer many of the questions that people have asked me over the years about blindness and to dispel many of the myths, stereotypes, and prejudices about blindness. Additionally, I wanted a book that would provide insightful information to parents, teachers, and to others about raising blind children and ways of enabling them to become contributing members of society.
The second reason for writing my book is to bring to light issues concerning raising children, not just with blindness but those with sight as well. Coming from a family where domestic violence occurred often, my brother and I were greatly impacted by it emotionally, mentally, and physically. The anguish we experienced can be felt by any child, blind or sighted, in a home where domestic violence occurs frequently. Again, with that in mind, I wanted a book that would provide insightful information based on my own experiences and scholarly research to parents, teachers, and other human service professionals about the impact that domestic violence can have on children and how parents can strive to minimize that pain on children.
The third reason for writing my book is to encourage readers to become more understanding concerning issues regarding blindness and the impact of domestic violence on the family as a whole. Through such understanding, readers can think more deeply about these issues and how they, themselves, can become agents for change in an area of relevance to them.
The fourth reason for writing my book is to promote increased awareness and understanding of the many issues I address in my book, particularly blindness, through public speaking. I want the text to help serve as the basis for promoting that awareness and understanding in addition to speaking to audiences. Becoming an advocate is very important to me, since my life has, in many respects, been affected by the limitations imposed upon me by others due to their misconceptions of blindness.
What obstacles in addition to your blindness have you had to overcome, and how do you deal with these in your book?
ANA: In addition to the barriers I have had to overcome in relation to blindness, I have had to overcome the effects of frequent moving to four different states as a child, the impact on me of constant arguing between my parents, and the effects of my father’s gambling on my family. Cumulatively, all these effects were so immense that I was at risk of performing poorly in school and not going on to pursue higher education. Yet I knew that only through education could I achieve important goals and break the cycle of abuse for myself. Through my own determination and with the help of good mentors, I overcame the challenges and went on to receive a college education.
In my book, I speak about these challenges not with shame or with blame, but in a manner that seeks to inform of their effects. In my final chapter, I reflect on what I have learned as a result and offer possible solutions to readers who might be experiencing similar challenges today.
What obstacle has been the most difficult to overcome?
ANA: My most difficult challenge today is dealing with the continued misconceptions that others have about me as a result of my blindness. I work with this barrier by openly answering any questions others might have, and I explain about the computer programs I use to perform tasks such as reading and responding to emails.
You’ve titled the book From Darkness to Triumph. Tell about your triumphs. What accomplishment are you proudest of and why?
ANA: My greatest triumphs have been overcoming the impact of domestic violence as a child, receiving a college education, and traveling abroad to study Arabic. I am proud of these triumphs for many reasons.
First, overcoming the effects of domestic violence of my childhood is significant to me because I am now aware of how to recognize patterns of abuse and as a result, the cycle will never continue in my home. It is also significant because, by overcoming the effects of the domestic violence, I became very resilient, which ultimately helped me to earn my masters degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of South Florida.
Second, receiving my college education is a very significant triumph because it has enabled me to expand my knowledge in a variety of areas and to gain skills I could not have without it. My education has given me the tools I need to live in a world that is fast-paced and difficult. I became independent not only academically, but in my daily living skills as a blind person in terms of cooking, cleaning, and shopping.
Third, my language study abroad program to Morocco through the National Council on U. S. Arab Relations in Washington D. C. challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways I never anticipated. It forced me to expand my understanding of my culture and theirs and to become an even more tolerant person. Most of all, it enabled me to gain friendships that have lasted until now.
How do you hope to reach readers, especially those to whom the book is aimed?
ANA: My hope is to reach a wide range of readers such as human service professionals, teachers, parents, and high school students through blogs, interviews, and speaking engagements. Possible venues are schools, centers for the blind, and centers for domestic violence.
Do you plan to write other books? Can you tell us anything about those plans?.
ANA: Currently, I am planning to write more books that would further expand upon many of the topics in my book. In addition, I am planning to write several children’s stories that would inspire children to become hard working and good, creative thinkers now and in the future.
Buy Ana’s book on Amazon in trade paperback or Kindle edition. Click here
1. Remember to sign up for the Author Kindle Fire Giveaway that runs from Nov. 1 – Dec. 7.
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2. Get ready for a Book Blast Announcement and Giveaway from Nov. 17-19 to celebrate the release of the paperback edition and the update of the Kindle edition of A Mix of Magics. Check back next week for more information on this in next week’s blog.