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"Ryan Knighton can't see, true. But his capacity to look inward, to create a landscape of what it is to be
a blind parent, is nothing short of profound. He's also hilarious, and I'm warning you, you're going to cry, too.
C'mon Papa is a memoir like no other, about a life like no other."
-Alicia Erian, author of
c'mon papa

The Vancouver Sun
A brave true story about life as a blind father
Rebecca Wigod • May 8, 2010

'Jesus, that's gotta be tricky," muttered a woman walking by as Ryan Knighton, a blind Vancouverite, ventured out alone for the first time with his baby daughter, Tess, strapped to his chest.

"I stepped cautiously, deliberately, as if carrying a sack of sweaty dynamite. I swept my cane with the care of a mine detector," he writes in his new memoir, C'mon Papa.

"Twenty minutes later we'd made it to the corner of our street."

Knighton is a cool tattooed bald dude who teaches English at Capilano University and writes gracefully about his circumscribed life. In his late teens he learned he had a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which would not only keep him from getting behind the wheel of a car but also cause him to keep losing his sight, bit by bit.

His predicament and the upbeat way he deals with it -- it helps to have a great wife like Tracy Rawa -- have touched people around the world. His first memoir, Cockeyed (2006), has been sold in a half-dozen countries and is in development as a movie with Jodie Foster directing. His journalism gets published in places like Esquire.

In C'mon Papa, he describes going to childbirth classes with Tracy, becoming the parent of a newborn he couldn't see ("The sliver of sight I had left in my right eye wasn't enough to let me glimpse her face") and taking Tess out for a walk while Tracy gets a massage at a spa.

Readers who either haven't reached that stage of life or have passed it may be bored by some of the detail, since memoirs about new parenthood are thick on the ground these days. But you can't help but admire Knighton's frankness when he admits he didn't give much thought to whether his offspring stood a chance of inheriting his condition.

In the chapter called "Needling," in which Tracy goes for amniocentesis, he writes:

It's hard to believe that I'd never considered the effect of passing blindness to my own child .... Now as the baby grew more and more real every day, I could feel myself on the precipice of guilt .... Even more peculiar was the fact that Tracy hadn't asked. Maybe because she fell in love with a blind man, she felt she couldn't turn heel on the idea of having a blind child. His blind child. Ours. Why hadn't we talked about this before?

Knighton has an unusual story and tells it attractively. C'mon Papa is honest, funny in places, and touching. You can't help but wish him, Tracy and Tess the brightest of futures.

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