An Interview with: Michael Hingson

What are some of the “teachable” moments in your book that make it work well for a Community Reads program?

In one sensMichael Hingsone, the whole book is a teachable moment. I wrote  Thunderdog: The True Story of a Blind Man, his Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zeroto teach people about blindness and blind people, what happened to me on 9/11, and to show people that we can survive in the most extreme circumstances. One of my favorite chapters to teach people about blindness is Chapter 4: “Hearing the Coffee Table,” in which I describe how I listen to navigate and get around. People are especially fascinated to learn that a blind person can ride a bicycle. Recently I created a short video for meeting planners that includes a segment showing me riding a bike.

One of my favorite sections of Thunderdog is a section near the end of the book titled “Guide Dog Wisdom.” Many people have asked permission to reprint this section of the book, and audiences love it when I read this section near the end of many of the speeches I give.

What do you think of the Community Reads structure as a literary event format?

It works! I have spoken to many schools, libraries and other organizations. I usually read a bit of Thunderdog during every speech that I give. While people seem to enjoy the reading part of the book, they seem to much more prefer me telling stories and interacting with them during what usually turns out to be long Q&A sessions.

Would you share some notable experiences you’ve had at some of the events you’ve participated in?

Last fall I spoke at a school in Palm Beach, Florida. I actually conducted several presentations in which I discussed and read parts of Thunderdog. I told appropriate detail (depending on the age group involved) about my 9/11 story. The younger audiences wanted me to read Braille so they could see a blind person actually reading. The younger kids especially seem to be fascinated by Braille.

I once spoke to a group of blind youth and their parents in Lincoln, Nebraska. While there, I talked about technology and read segments of Thunderdog about some of the technology I used. The most fascinating thing that happened to me that evening was that most of the youth had never seen a Braille watch. Most of them had talking watches or use devices like iPhones to tell time. They had never seen the advantages of a Braille watch, which allow them to tell the time without having a voice speak aloud and possibly disturb others in the room.

Of course, lots of people want to know about guide dogs since I always have my guide dog, Africa, with me. I read and talk about guide dogs whenever I speak. Two memorable occasions involving guide dogs included me speaking in Phoenix, Arizona where Africa simply fell over on her side and went to sleep as I began reading; and a time when Africa was obviously bored and began snoring while I was reading Guide Dog Wisdom at an event in Marin County, California.

Many of your younger audience members are at an age where they don’t remember 9/11.  How do you find a way to connect with them?

ThunderdogIt really isn’t all that hard to do. My story is more about inspiration and survival, especially the survival of someone who is different than most of my younger readers. For youth especially, I talk about many of the capabilities of blind people and discuss some of the tech-niques I use on a daily basis. I talk about 9/11 in a general way describin
g Tower One, what happened on that day, and how Roselle (my guide dog at that time) and I escaped. I’ve learned to tell the story in such a way that the children become fascinated and tend to ask lots of questions.

This entry was posted in All Campus Reads Programs, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, author events, author speaker, Common Reads Programs, his Guide Dog, Issue #15, Michael Hingson, Thunderdog: The True Story of a Blind Man. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Garth Stein: A SUDDEN LIGHT