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Interview with Deana Gasperson

Gasperson, Deana
Kim, Jia
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Stories and Storytellers
Deana Gasperson, a teacher for the visually impaired, talks about stories she read as a child, one of her favorites being Follow My Leader, the story of a child who has lost his eyesight. She also talks about books she has read in order to prepare for traveling to Jerusalem and China.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Jia Kim interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
JK (Jia Kim): Hi, Deana.
DG (Deana Gasperson): Hi, Jia.
JK: It's good to see you.
DG: It's good to see you.
JK: Hum, we have a project for one my, one of my classes at UNCC and um, uh, I need to interview you and ask questions about stories you remember as a child, any story. Would you please talk slowly, because it is easier for me to understand? Um, is it OK to record your story and transcribe it for this class?
DG: Yeah, that's fine.
JK: I really appreciate you helping me this project. Do you remember any stories from your childhood?
DG: I don't remember any stories right now that I can think of.
JK: Um, or do you remember any books your parents read to you when your a child?
DG: I really wasn't read to as a child. Both of my parents, they worked and I don't remember them reading to us a lot.
JK: Hum.
DG: They read the daily newspaper and shared things from the paper they read and the Reader's Digest we got that usually once a month. And my dad always liked to share jokes with us. He enjoyed the jokes about the military. He was a veteran and I think it brought back some memories from when he was in, the, the time there and he loved to tell those jokes and he would just laugh.
JK: [Laugh] Have a great time.
DG: Great memories I remember about him doing that.
JK: So could you tell me any jokes about the military?
DG: Oh, I wish I could but I can't think of anything right now. It's almost like I have to have it in front of me, but if I picked up a Reader's Digest and looked in that section I might be able to think of some.
JK: And um, do you like to read books? Honestly?
DG: I use to not, like to read books and I can remember in school not reading really at all or ever going to the library but I can remember [pause] must have been like in about the 7th grade that we could get Scholastic Books, those little paper back books. Do they have those scholastic books in, in uh, Korea?
JK: Yeah, I think so.
DG: So it is the small little paperback books that we would get. And I bought three books that summer and I read those books over and over and over again, I mean I almost had them memorized and uh, two of them I can remember; one was Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine. That was such [laugh] a funny book it was just that I guess, the guy was my age at that time and it was about him make, building a homework machine and I thought it was so neat because he had built this machine that could do his homework and he didn't have to do it at all so I thought that was really a great idea and I wish I could develop one myself but never did but that, that was of interest to me. The other was Follow My Leader. It was about a young boy who lost his vision in an accident one summer it was through a firecracker and he lost his vision he was like 10 or 11 years old--.
JK: That, that young.
DG: That young, very young and it sort of talked about the struggles he had adjusting to blindness, how his friends had to adjust to the blindness. And he got a dog guide, which was real unusual cause he was probably, 13, maybe l4, 14 when he got a dog guide. So it talked about him doing that and the struggles and also the triumphs of him being able to travel independently using the dog guide to go to school. I think its interesting, at that point I knew nothing about blindness and I knew nothing about working with the visually impaired and then it was years later, that, that is what I do now, I work with the visually impaired and teach mobility and had even forgotten about that book until I looked in the library at the school, at one of the schools I teach at and they have that book in the school library. It is an old book I think written in l952, but I read it to some of my students and they have enjoyed reading about another young boy and they always ask me if they can get a dog guide and I tell them that's just a story and that today they don't give dog guides until [laugh] they're 18 years old and you have to acquire one at that age because of all the, guess the distractions it would be that they couldn't have one in the elementary school. I think they want the students to be mature enough to take care of one. So really they must be out of high school before they can get a dog guide and those are some memorable stories that I remember reading
JK: Oh, it sounds a very good story. Are there any other books you like to read?
DG: Oh. After college I began reading more for pleasure. I enjoy reading autobiographies and biographies. I also got involved in Bible studies and I really began to appreciate the Bible in, in so many ways. And, I began reading in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament and looking at the history of the nation of Israel and all this was new to me and I saw how it all related to us today. By studying the Bible I then had a great desire to travel to the Middle East and also to Europe and Asia and to see the locations of all the events that I read about in the Bible.
JK: What else do you like to read?
DG: Oh. As an adult I have come to appreciate children's stories and fairy tales as well. I've always read to my nieces and nephews.
JK: How many nieces and nephews do you have?
DG: I have one, two nephews and two nieces and my one nephew I was very close to. In fact, he lived with my mom and dad, so he was the one I read to a lot and he liked to read the C.S. Lewis books. So that's something that I had never read any of C.S. Lewis's, so I enjoyed reading them to myself and learning about them myself.
JK: Excuse me, who is C. S. Lewis?
DG: OK, C.S. Lewis, he was born in England and I don't know exactly the, the year but uh, he became a Christian later on in his life he wrote stories for children as well as adults. And, he's sort of a modern, I don't know if he would be classified as a theologian, but yet he had a great grasp of the philosophy, not really the philosophy but the teachings in the Bible. And so his books for children were mainly fantasy but they also had a real moral to the story and they paralleled the Bible in a lot of ways.
JK: Have you read any books recently?
DG: Oh well, taking classes at UNCC [laugh] doesn't give me any time for pleasure reading at this point--.
JK: That's right.
DG: But in the past I have enjoyed reading a series of books called The Zion Chronicles. Once again they are set in the Middle East, you can tell I like the Middle East, and I usually don't enjoy reading novels but these are historical fiction and I really got hooked on them.
JK: Could you tell me about that story more?
DG: OK. There are five books in this series and they are all set in Israel around the year l947, just before the 1948 war when Israel became a state. The same characters run throughout the books and you share in their triumphs and their tragedies. And I like them because there is mystery, intrigue, there's romance and history and it's all tied into a great plot and I could hardly put one down. I read probably about a book a week until I completed the series. I think one thing the reason I like it because it brought back many memories of my time in Israel and the setting was real close to where I lived, when I was in Jerusalem.
JK: Wow. When did you live in Israel?
DG: I lived there in l983.
JK: Wow. It's long time.
DG: Yeah. That's been a long time ago. Yeah.
JK: I would like to see your pictures sometime.
DG: I hope that I can find them, but I would love to show them to you sometime.
JK: OK. Do you think reading is important?
DG: Oh, yes, I really feel and know that reading is such a valuable tool. That it just helps to enrich our lives and you know we have the opportunities to learn from other people experiences, to travel to different places that none of us could get to maybe physically but you can travel there by reading and I really enjoy reading about other countries and other cultures. [Long pause] Oh yeah, Jia one thing I was thinking one book that helped me to prepare for my travels [pause] Peter Jenkins. I read that book right before I went to China in 1989 and as Peter shared from his journal it gave me a whole lot of insights into the country where I would soon be spending my summer. The pictures in the book were, were beautiful and they really opened my eyes to a part of the world that I was not familiar with at all, this part of the middle east, not the Middle East, but Asia was very foreign to me I had traveled to the Middle East before and was familiar with it but China and that area of Asia was very, very new to me so I tried to read as much as I could about the country at that point. And so as Peter shared, he talked about the food and the sights and the sounds and the smells and the people. He was on an expedition with a group who would be attempting to climb Mount Everest. Have you heard of Mount Everest?
JK: Yeah, that's famous mountain.
DG: Yes. That is very famous mountain. So the photography was, was just awesome and as I looked at the pictures.
JK: So you mean [pause] there, is there are pictures on the book?
DG: Right there are pictures in the book. He shared from his journal, so they were very colorful and the pictures just were, they really were awesome. To see Mount Everest with the snow and the light and to imagine that people would be climbing that. When I saw the picture in the book, I wondered how any one could think about climbing a mountain so high or how they could endure the pain and danger, just to say that they had climbed that mountain.
JK: Yeah. It might be very dangerous
DG: Yes, very dangerous and many people died, lost their lives trying to climb that mountain. I think just the whole aspect of altitude and just how much energy it took and because it was so high that you couldn't breath that well that it just totally affected you physically.
JK: Yeah. I, I watched one movie about that, but I wondered why people do that [laugh].
DG: I know [laugh]. I wondered after reading the book, I wondered and so he shared really to the step by step the preparation that people had to take and why they needed to stay at the base camp for a certain period of time so that they could acclimate to the climate and then very slowly climb up to the next level--
JK: \\ That's very um, wise thought. \\
DG: \\ Oh it is. \\ And then after acclimating to the next level they went to the another base camp and had to acclimate and some went on ahead I guess to set up camps so he only went to I think to the two base camps he never made it he wasn't wanting to go all the way to the top his goal was to just talk to some climbers and a sense experience something of what they were experiencing and a sort of get an understanding I think of why these men and women, but no women were on this specific, but why they would want to attempt to even climb Mount Everest. So it did amaze me and I came away when I read the book and thought how could any one endure such pain and danger to say they climbed a mountain. OK, and Peter shared you know from his insights some of the people that had lost their lives that you know that as climbers go up you see many flags where people had been buried and because they didn't make it to the top of the mountain. Then that book really prepared me in a lot of ways because when I was in China I was located in the city of Chengdu.
JK: What is Chengdu? How long have you been there?
DG: Chengdu. That was in '89.
JK: 89 year old.
DG: 1989. Not 89 years old, but in 1989[laugh].
JK: So how long, I mean how long have you stayed there?
DG: OK. We were there in Chengdu for six weeks.
JK: Wow, summer.
DG: It was the summer and the interesting thing is that in Chengdu was one of the last cities that hikers come to before they fly out to Tibet. So it is the city that we saw no Americans other than us because it was a city very far west sort of south west where it's almost like where Dallas, Texas is in the US except it's on the other side of the world. So that is where Chengdu is in relation to China. OK.
JK: Oh, OK.
DG: So hikers would come through, mostly Americans, some Europeans and uh, on the way to Mount Everest and one group specifically was from Texas, they were about six or seven men who were there and they were an interesting group and as we shared I wondered if they had read about Mount Everest and really knew what they would be facing and the struggles that lie ahead and the cost they would have to pay and some may even have to pay with their lives. But, I surely hope not, I know it takes a while for them to, I'm sure when they leave Chengdu to get to Tibet then I guess they fly out of Tibet back to I don't know, India or where they go to China, but so we never heard. I hope they all made it, but uh, reading that book gave me, gave me really a greater awareness for anyone who said they were going to climb up that mountain and the cost they would have to pay and I've even seen on PBS now many specials dealing with uh, climbing Mount Everest so it is of interest to me when I see uh movies or last year I was in Colorado and saw a movie about uh, climbing, climbing Mount Everest so books can be very important.
JK: Wow, your, your story is so, so great. Uh. Thank you for your story, I really enjoyed it.
DG: Thank you for listening.