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Letter by Letter, Steve Gleason Typed His Memoir With His Eyes

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

I have always loved to read, and I read nearly anywhere. Journalists used to get a kick out of the fact that in the midst of the chaotic joy of the [New Orleans] Saints locker room, I would lie on the floor reading books.

These days, while I’m not so good at flipping pages, I still tear through books. I listen on Audible, or read on Kindle, and for the books I’d like to pass on, I buy the book for the shelves in our house.

The ideal reading experience? For me, there is nothing more glorious than sitting outside under the shade of an oak tree with my wife, Michel, or our 12-year-old son, Rivers, listening on Audible or hearing them read the hard copy. (Rivers and I just finished the young readers adaptation of “The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown.) Our 5-year-old daughter, Gray, is just learning to read, so I look forward to continuing this tradition in nature, my sanctuary, for many years.

What book do you turn to during hard times?

Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” There were a couple years, as I was losing the ability to move, talk and breathe, that I felt so lonely, ashamed and weary that I was ready to give up and die. His words helped me choose life.

What did it take to write a nearly 300-page book?

In a word … everything. I type with my eyes, letter by letter, so to write this, it took a physical toll to write for several hours each day for two years. It took patience and discipline. People often talk about “writer’s block,” but I think I experienced something of the opposite thousands of times over the past couple years. Ordinary writers may have a wonderful idea to get on the page, then they quickly write it down. But I type so slowly that the wonderful idea that was so vivid and clear eventually slipped into the fog as I trudged and typed.

It also took an emotional toll. To relive the most lacerating and vulnerable times of my life, then to share those experiences in a raw, truthful human way, rather than a heroic way, took an extraordinary amount of trust. It’s clear to me that sharing our shortcomings and weaknesses with each other is our greatest strength. Our salvation.

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