WAMU 88.5 : The Diane Rehm Show

Laurie Rubin: "Do You Dream in Color? Insights From A Girl Without Sight"

Laurie Rubin was born blind, unable to see anything except white light. But that did not stop her from learning to ski, studying at Yale University, handcrafting jewelry and enjoying a successful career in opera. She is also the author of a new memoir and CD, both titled “Do You Dream In Color?” She answers that question when she joins Diane in studio to discuss how she and her family refused to let her disability define her.

Poem: "Do You Dream in Color?"

Original poetry from "Do You Dream in Color?" by Laurie Rubin. Copyright 2012 by Laurie Rubin. Reprinted here by permission of Seven Stories Press. All rights reserved.

“Do you dream in color?” she asks.
watching me apply my makeup.
Her question gives me pause
as I fumble in my bag
for that perfect shade of silvery purple
that matches the dress I'm about to wear,
the one that fades from a dark plumb to white.
"I dream
what I experience,” I say simply.
"I dream
the smell of flowers,
or the taste of chocolate,
or about an argument my subconscious devised between my mom and me,
the kind where you wake up just before you say the perfect thing.
Do I dream in color
or black and white?
I'm not sure
as my eyes have only seen dark and light."
"Do you dream in color?” he asks,
watching me choose from his wall covered with strands of beads.
There are perfectly smooth round pearls in a midnight blue.
There are raw nuggets of turquoise
whose veins of brown running through each stone
can be detected by my fingers as I feel the beautiful imperfections.
Then my fingers find the stick pearls in an iridescent bronze and green.
"That's it!” I cry.
"That's the necklace!"
I seize the beads, and envision how they will fit a woman's neck.
"How do you know?" he asks.
He really desires to know.
“Because I just dreamed it!" I say,
not knowing how my world of color differs from his.

"Do you dream in color?” asks the little girl,
holding the program she wants me to sign.
I sense her hands in front of my face
and take the glossy book from her.
"I don't know," I tell her.
"Why don't you explain colors to me,
and I'll tell you if I dream them."
"Well," she begins.
"Blue
is like the ocean in the morning when the sun is out.
Green
is like the trees when it's spring.
Yellow,
yellow,
yellow
is the color of my hair.
Pink
is the color of cotton candy.
White
is the color of marshmallows.
Red
is the color of fire engines,
and rubies,
and blood."
"Well then,
I guess I do dream in color
because I dream of all those things.
Just last night, I dreamed I was in a swimming pool
full of pillows the texture of marshmallows,
and once I had a dream
that I was sitting by the ocean,
and the sun was out,
and the waves were making a rhythmic music."
She seemed satisfied as she watched me print my initials.
I wish that I could have written,
"To the girl who gave the colors of my dreams
their proper names."

"The question is,
‘Do you have realistic dreams?’”
he asks me.
I answer,
"I hate to answer your question with another question.
Shouldn't you be asking me
if I dream in color?"
I sense his unease.
It was hard for him
to do what he felt he must do,
to tell the girl who is more than admirable for getting out of bed in the morning,
endearing to have dreams of singing on stage,
to tell this girl
that she must be
"REALISTIC."
"Dream in color?"
He is confused.
"Yes!" I say.
"I dream
of the red gown that I'll wear on stage,
that is striking against my fair skin and dark brown hair.
I dream
of my lover's black hair.
I dream
in all the colors of the rainbow.
You didn't ask me if I dream in color
because you don't believe I can.
You imagine my world
a dark place.
You are afraid to know
that I walk the streets of New York with purpose.
That I come home to a family I have cultivated,
that my life is full of dreams,
and my dreams are full of colors,
and my dreams are real,
because they come true every day."
He says,
"I see."
I ask,
"May I ask you a question?
‘Do you dream in color?’”

Read An Excerpt

Excerpted from "Do You Dream in Color?: Insights from a Girl Without Sight" by Laurie Rubin. Copyright 2012 by Laurie Rubin. Reprinted here by permission of Seven Stories Press. All rights reserved.

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