Author(s): Marie Younan; Jill Sanguinetti
The story of the courage and resilience of an extraordinary woman, and the transformative power of language, friendship, education, and the kindness of strangers.
Marie Younan was born in 1952 into a family of Assyrian refugees living in north-eastern Syria. Accidentally blinded by her grandmother when she was a baby, Marie was the quiet, ever-present listener among her eleven siblings and within her large extended family. Locked out of school, play, and social gatherings, she lived a brave inner life of reflection and acceptance.
In 1978, after fleeing persecution and violence several times -- first to Beirut, then to Athens -- Marie finally migrated to Melbourne, Australia, to join the rest of her family who had gone on ahead. Unable to speak English, dependent for everything on her family, and having undergone three failed operations to restore her sight, Marie, in her words, was 'only half alive'. Then, in 1985, aged 33, she attended the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind. There she formed a close bond with her Braille teacher, Ben, became fluent in English, learned to read and write in Braille and to walk with a cane. Marie's world opened and expanded forever.