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A writer’s humorous and often-heartbreaking tale of losing his sight—and how he hid it from the world.

At age sixteen, James Tate Hill was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy, a condition that left him legally blind. When high-school friends stopped calling and a disability counselor advised him to aim for C’s in his classes, he tried to escape the stigma by pretending he could still see.

In this unfailingly candid yet humorous memoir, Hill discloses the tricks he employed to pass for sighted, from displaying shelves of paperbacks he read on tape to arriving early on first dates so women would have to find him. He risked his life every time he crossed a street, doing his best to listen for approaching cars. A good memory and pop culture obsessions like Tom Cruise, Prince, and all things 1980s allowed him to steer conversations toward common experiences.

For fifteen years, Hill hid his blindness from friends, colleagues, and lovers, even convincing himself that if he stared long enough, his blurry peripheral vision would bring the world into focus. At thirty, faced with a stalled writing career, a crumbling marriage, and a growing fear of leaving his apartment, he began to wonder if there was a better way.

Book no.1



It’s been a long time since I met such a thoroughly normal guy in a memoir…I’d buy him a beer anytime.

— Dwight Garner, New York Times

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, The Liars' Club by Mary Karr, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou are among the memoirs that leave you breathless; they're books you keep and don't pawn off on your neighbor's yard sale. Now comes another keeper: Blind Man's Bluff by James Tate Hill.

― Kitty Kelley, Washington Independent Review of Books

Hill sketches these scenes in a spare, fuss-free way…[Y]ou root for him to hold on to the little bit of joy he's found―the colors in his life, for once, sharp and bright.

― Tommy Tomlinson, New York Times Book Review

Disarmingly honest and funny… An inspiring, often incredible story that reminds us of the strength that comes from vulnerability.

― Bookpage

Stirring…This moving account doesn't disappoint.

Publishers Weekly

A coming-of-age story worthy of its hero’s stellar VHS collection of ’80s and ’90s movies. Hill’s journey toward learning to live with his blindness will have you wincing, crying, sighing, and cheering right along with him—not to mention sharing in his love of Molly Ringwald, The Golden Girls, Prince, and Tom Cruise.

— Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, best-selling author of Seinfeldia

Told with humor and grace, Blind Man’s Bluff is a story of reinventions—ones both enormous and minute, ones both forced and earned. It’s also an education, and an illumination.

— Rebecca Makkai, Pulitzer Prize finalist for
The Great Believers

Compelling and honest, James Tate Hill writes of the isolation, confusion, and longing for connection, which is what it means to be human. A gripping and unflinching journey of love, acceptance, and finding the courage to tell your own story.

— Alison Stine, author of Road Out of Winter

Reading Blind Man’s Bluff is like going out for coffee with your funniest friend. It’s also about which Golden Girl you’d most want your doctor to resemble, assuming that your doctor must resemble a Golden Girl. (The answer is Dorothy. Obviously.) It’s a smart, thoughtful, and hilarious book, and it will engage you from the first page to the last.

—Carolyn Parkhurst, best-selling author of Harmony

Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Hill’s narratives on disability, pop culture, and just getting through life are filled with heartbreak, humor, and hope.

— Beth (Bich Minh) Nguyen, author of Stealing Buddha’s Dinner

Book no.2

Read sample chapters at
The Nervous Breakdown



Hardboiled noir meets academic satire in Academy Gothic.


Tate Cowlishaw is late for another faculty meeting when he discovers the body of Scoot Simkins, dean of Parshall College. Cowlishaw might be legally blind but sees that a man with three bullets in his head didn't put them there himself. The police disagree. When Cowlishaw investigates, he is told his teaching contract won't be renewed. Suspects aren't hard to come by at the college annually ranked "Worst Value" by U.S. News & World Report.


While the faculty brace for a visit from the accreditation board, Cowlishaw's investigation leads him to another colleague on eternal sabbatical. Before long, his efforts to save his job become efforts to stay alive. A farcical tale of incompetence and corruption, Academy Gothic scathingly redefines higher education as it chronicles the last days of a dying college.


"In attempt to describe the experience of reading this novel, I am compelled for the first time in my life to use the term 'uproarious.' Smartly funny, wildly paced, tonally perfect, it's also blisteringly honest—especially on the subject of our decrepit institutions. Academy Gothic combines the wit of Kingsley Amis with the absurdist vision of Nathanael West. It's far more than a boilerplate who-done-it, though it is everywhere and always concerned with the mysteries that both define and forever fail to explain us."

—Michael Parker, author of All I Have in This World


"Academy Gothic is a fast-paced, hilarious, who-done-it noir jammed with jaw-dropping similes even Raymond Chandler would envy. Infused with impeccably timed, deadpan humor, the robust prose between these pages is crafted by a true wordsmith."

—Marie Manilla, author of The Patron Saint of Ugly

"Half murder mystery, half ghost story, and half satire of higher education in America, Academy Gothic rollicks from start to finish. It is a joy to read. James Tate Hill writes with genuine charm and a keen eye for the absurd."

—Andrew Ervin, author of Burning Down George Orwell's House

"A murder mystery set in a dismal, crumbling college, Academy Gothic is both dark and delightfully funny. Stubborn, jaded, legally blind Tate Cowlishaw is a compelling amateur hardboiled detective, navigating the murk of office politics thickened by bloody murder."

—Steph Cha, author of Follow Her Home

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