November 8, 2012 | by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Singing and sharing
Opera, Laurie Rubin, gay news, Washington Blade

Opera singer and lesbian Laurie Rubin shares her life story in a new memoir. (Photo courtesy Cadenza Artists)

‘Do You Dream in Color? Insights from a Girl Without Sight’
By Laurie Rubin
Seven Stories Press
400 pages

In the new book “Do You Dream in Color?,” author Laurie Rubin says she has a lot to sing about.

Within months of her birth, Rubin’s parents knew there was something unusual about their daughter. Baby Laurie didn’t look at people the way other infants did and it took several doctor visits to learn why: her retinas never developed. She could see light, but nothing more.

And yet that was never an obstacle for Laurie.

“Can’t” wasn’t an option. When she expressed frustration at not being able to read, her parents found someone to teach her Braille. She camped, skied and, after being taught some basics in mobility, was eventually mainstreamed into public school. She learned that she loved to sing and was very good at it — even landing a small gig on an album with her friend and mentor, Kenny Loggins.

High school changed a lot of things, though. Laurie struggled with math and with friendship. Mean girls lived up to their sobriquet and Laurie was often left out of conversations and cliques. Boys didn’t avoid her, but they didn’t interest her much, either.

For Laurie, music was solace.

She took voice lessons and entered contests. She practiced and performed in front of peers. When it came time to go to college, she chose Oberlin in Ohio, aiming at a career in opera. Later, she was accepted for graduate school at Yale Opera.

It was there that she gained a furry guide and met the love of her life, Jenny.

Today, Rubin lives in New York with Jenny and their dogs. Rubin, a mezzo-soprano, performs as often as possible and her dreams, she says, are like those of anybody else’s. It’s the daydreams that are most important.

“Do You Dream in Color?” has a wonderful message in it. There’s empowerment here, and perseverance. It’s inspiring, but also very clunky.

Part of the problem, I think, is that much of this book consists of quoted conversation, which feels inauthentic. It moves Rubin’s story along, but not very well. I also noticed times when a name occurred in the narrative without prelude, making me guess at who the individual was and how (s)he was relevant. The mystery was usually solved, but not always quickly. Add the fact that Rubin’s story jumps around and, well, I had a hard time here.

Overall, the message in this book is great but the delivery method, not so much. You might like it more if you’re an opera fan, but for most readers, “Do You Dream in Color?” is slightly out of tune.

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