“Laura Bridgman” Was Helen Keller before Helen Keller

For three minutes of a haunting and brilliant writing listen to Kimberly Elkins’ “Laura Bridgman” on The Drum, an audio literary magazine.

Her flash fiction “Laura Bridgman, the First Famous Blind Deaf-Mute, Aged 59, Upon Meeting Helen Keller, Aged 8” was recorded at The Drum’s Open Mic session at the 2011 Boston Book Festival and appears in the November 2011 issue of The Drum.

Kimberly Elkins’ “Laura Bridgman” offers a fascinating fictionalized account of an actual historical moment. It’s from her newly completed first draft of the novel (Yay, Kim!). As Laura meets the young girl (Keller) who is being groomed to take her place as a celebrity, Bridgman muses on the vagaries of fame and reputation. Elkins’ piece raises interesting questions about the rivalry among the senses (or their loss), and the strange power that can be wielded by disability.

This piece from her novel may either be part of a preface to the novel, part of the last page, or a bit of both. In any case it’s one look at the most significant point of the plot of this historical novel.

Kimberly Elkins’ fiction and nonfiction have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, Best New American Voices, The Iowa Review,The Village Voice, Glamour, and Prevention, 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 taught at Florida State University and Boston University, and is currently a Visiting Lecturer and Advisor for the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing at the University of Hong Kong.

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