Laura Bridgman was the first deaf and blind person to learn language-fifty years before Helen Keller. Laura also couldn't taste or smell; she lost all senses but touch from a bout with scarlet fever at age two. Not since The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has a book so illuminated the challenges of living in a completely unique inner world. WHAT IS VISIBLE moves among multiple voices, with Laura as the book's primary narrator; the founder of Perkins Institute, with whom Laura was in love; his wife, a famous writer, abolitionist and suffragist; Laura's beloved teacher, who married a missionary and died insane from syphilis; an orphaned Irish girl with whom Laura had a tumultuous affair; and even the young Helen Keller. At the center of it all is the breathtaking experiment that Laura Bridgman embodied and its links to the great philosophical, theological, educational and social changes taking place between 1840 and 1890. Since Laura was considered the second most famous woman in the world in the nineteenth century (second only to Queen Victoria), it is astonishing that she has been virtually erased from history. WHAT IS VISIBLE will set the record straight.
Kimberly Elkins' fiction and nonfiction have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Best New American Voices, The Iowa Review, The Village Voice, Maisonneuve, Glamour, Prevention and McGraw-Hill's college textbook Arguing Through Literature, among others. She was a finalist for the 2004 National Magazine Award and has received fellowships from the Edward Albee and William Randolph Hearst foundations, the SLS fellowship in Nonfiction to St. Petersburg, Russia, the St. Botolph Emerging Artist Award, and a joint research fellowship from the Houghton Library at Harvard, the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe, and the Massachusetts Historical Society for research on her novel. Residencies include the Millay Colony and Blue Mountain Center, and she was also the 2009 Kerouac Writer in Residence. Kimberly has had five plays produced Off-Off Broadway and been the wiinner of a New York Moth Slam and the Boston Book Festival Writer Idol. She has taught at Florida State University and Boston University, and is currently a Visiting Lecturer and Advisor for the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Hong Kong, the first MFA in Asia. Previous jobs include Executive Assistant to Harvey Weinstein at Miramax, and Assistant to Elia Kazan at the Actors' Studio Playwrights' Unit. She has a BA from Duke University, an MA in Creative Writing from Florida State, and an MFA in Fiction from Boston University. Kimberly currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.