Girl with Glasses: My Optic History by Marissa Walsh is the cheeky, charming, light-hearted type of read that only a certain type of young woman can appreciate. Having serious visual impairment myself, with ever-thickening frames and glasses from a young age, I can totally relate to the rites and rituals recounted here. Walsh tells her coming-of-age story through the lenses of each pair of glasses she wore, from her first, to her dalliance with those maddening contact lenses, into the pair she now wears with pride.
When I talk with the non-glasses-wearing crowd, I’m constantly baffled at how the other half lives. Some of my friends have never (!) visited an eye doctor, and are confused by my yearly appointments for vision checks and blurriness-inducing dilation. I still remember, even though I’m not sure how young I was, how much my view of the world changed after I got my first pair of glasses. My mom says I was in kindergarten, but I think surely it has to be more around 3rd grade. Wearing those glasses for the first time on the way home, I gained access to a world far outside what I thought was meant to be viewed by one little person. It seemed like I had these crisp new laser-like eyes, beaming directly to store signs bordering the street as I peered out the car window, causing me to exclaim about every sign I could see. All these new layers of the world I had previously dismissed as a blur of haze and fuzz, now transformed into something speaking just to me.
This is the fun of Girl with Glasses, the ridiculous memories of being coached by an ophthalmologist’s assistant to put in contacts, the frustration of glasses in the rain, the impossibility of trying on a new pair of glasses when you can’t see what they look like on your face because you need your real glasses to see, and other common commiserations only GWG’s can really understand. I could see this being especially appreciated by middle school and teenage girls who are waffling between glasses and contacts, trying to pick between the two.
Those looking for a deep, contemplative memoir should look elsewhere. This isn’t that kind of book. Girl with Glasses is a fast and silly read, full of witty one-liners that aren’t afraid to border on cheesy. A few reviewers complain about the generalizations–as GWG’s, they don’t fit the stereotypes here. I don’t think the author fits all the stereotypes of a GWG either, and I don’t think she’s making a case here for stereotypes being accurate. I think she’s trying to have fun with the stereotypes, and use them to describe herself when she’s able. I see this as a statement about the stereotypes around glasses, rather than a statement about the accuracy of those stereotypes. That being said, I don’t think there’s too much deep stuff here. This is meant to be fun and funny. I suspect Walsh just wanted to talk about this unique aspect of her childhood, which she knew many others out there must be going through as well. And what better way to discuss all the absurdities of life with glasses, then through humor.
If you pick up Girl with Glasses, make sure you grab a printed version. The audiobook narrator is alarmingly overemphatic to the point she sounds like she’s trying to amp up a kindergarten class up for playtime. Great for a quick commercial selling something, but horrible for hours of narration where the cheese becomes tiring.
- INTERVIEW: Marissa Walsh, author of Girl With Glasses (smithmag.net)