It’s not hard to see why Belo Miguel Cipriani’s debut book, Blind: A Memoir, has already established him as one of literature’s most exciting new voices. The 34-year-old’s essays and fiction offer deeply compelling evocations of love, loss and embracing change, while taking the reader to exotic and unique places.
“I’ve always been a storyteller,” Cipriani says. “As a kid, I used to stare at the people on packages and make up stories about them. I would fabricate tales about where they grew up, things they liked, and things they didn’t like. Cereal boxes, tags on clothing, it didn’t matter. I would create narratives for each strange face.”
Blind: A Memoir received an Honorable Mention for Best Debut Book by the Rainbow Book Awards in 2011, Honorable Mention for Best Book on Culture from the Eric Hoffer Award in 2012 and was a finalist for the New Horizon Award in 2012. Blind also received a blurb from Amy Tan and is being adapted into a play by Circle of Life Theatre in San Francisco. Cipriani has been awarded artist residencies by Yaddo, one of the country’s most prestigious artist’s colonies, and Lambda Literary. Additionally, he was a featured guest lecturer at Yale University in 2012.
“As a blind writer,” Cipriani explains, “I depend a lot on technology to do my writing. I use a screen reader for the blind called Jaws that sounds like an old Speak & Spell toy, a talking dictionary and a refreshable braille display.”
In the spring of 2007, Cipriani was brutally beaten by a group of former friends in San Francisco. Kicks to the head caused his retinas to detach -- leaving him completely blind. He shares, “I’m a total and people who are totally blind only make up about 7% of the blind community. So, when I hang out with my blind friends, I am usually the only one without light or movement perception.”
Cipriani’s writing has appeared in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Times Union, Connecticut News, Business Insider, Yahoo and elsewhere. Currently, he is the Writer-in-Residence at Holy Names University, the career blogger for The San Francisco Chronicle and a spokesperson for Guide Dogs for the Blind. His monthly column “Seeing in the Dark” is published by The Bay Area Reporter and South Florida Gay News. Learn more at www.belocipriani.com, or follow him on Twitter @beloism and like him on Facebook.