Tessa Pascall, author of Through the Eyes of Innocence, is the subject of this week's profile. Pascall is legally blind. She was born with congenital cataract and has underdeveloped optic nerves. Her retinas are also scarred. And during her adolescence, she developed glaucoma. Given Tessa's disability, authorship would seem an impossible feat. But not so for this young woman of an unremitting determination! "Disabled persons don't have disabilities; society makes them disabled," Pascall told me during my interview with her at her book launch in the Normandie on December 3, International Day for Persons with Disabilities. It is this attitude that has enabled Pascall, undoubtedly, to achieve all that she has, and that will take her further.
Pascall's life has been a series of challenges from the day of her birth. She was born in Laventille in the late 80s (she likes to think of herself as 25+, so she did not reveal her actual age) into challenging familial circumstances. She did not, however, want to talk about it much. But, she did say that her family circumstances have a lot to do with her writing poetry. "I fell into writing… I began writing poetry out of a need to voice my opinion in a house where I couldn't. My parents come from the 'children should be seen and not heard' school." Writing poetry, therefore, became a way of escape, a form of refuge for Pascall.
Writing as a career had not become a prospect, however, until Pascall received an A+ in a poem that she had written on the environment for her English Literature class while in form one at Success Laventille Composite School. Thus, throughout her teens into her early adulthood, around the age of 22 or 23, she had been writing poetry. In fact, Pascall's book is a compilation of poems written during that period of her life and is her impression of life at the time. But around her early adulthood as well, she had stopped. She stated that, "When I left their house, there was no need to write poetry. Now, I'll tell it to you plain. People either love me or they hate me." Pascall referred here to her parents' house.
And mind you, Pascall has been described as and describes herself as eloquent when it comes to "waterfront" language. "The professional waterfront language would have come out of society's reaction to my visual impairment…They would tease me about my eyes and I would cuss them about their mother…That continued into secondary school," stated Pascall as she recounted her harrowing tale of survival in the midst of teasing at primary and secondary school. Her eloquence in "waterfront" language is balanced out by her eloquence in actual English, nonetheless.
At present, Pascall works as a research assistant at the disability affairs unit of the Ministry of People and Social Development, and this after having spent over one and a half years unemployed and in spite of the fact that she holds a certificate, a diploma, advanced diploma and a bachelor of science degree with honours in business administration. "Living with a disability in this country, if you are lucky, you are treated like a third class citizen and if you are bad lucky, you are treated like a dog. So education is not necessarily a ticket to employment as a disabled person," noted Pascall who is somewhat frustrated at the unfriendliness of Trinidad and Tobago to the disabled. "That is one of the reasons why I chose to launch the book today. Today is International Day for Persons with Disabilities. It is time that Trinidad and Tobago recognises the functionality, talent and abilities of persons with disabilities." In a sense, Pascall is an advocate for the disabled. Her strong will and her feats serve as an inspiration to other disabled individuals.
Pascall does not have any more writing projects planned right this moment, but stated that, "there is always going to be something to write about. I will always have an opinion and I will always express it. Therefore, I will always be writing." So one can expect to hear from her further in the future.
Pascall's experiences and accomplishments suggests that human beings are the ones who put limits on themselves; for when one sits down and ponders carefully the challenges of leading a life like hers, it becomes clear that nothing is unreachable unless the individual thinks it is so and in thinking so, makes it so.
Author's note: Through the Eyes of Innocence is available at The Book Source, I-95 compound on Tragarete Road, P-O-S; Nigel Khan and Ishmael M. Khan, P-O-S. It may also be found at the Paper Based bookstore at the Normandie Hotel, St. Anns.
Author's e-mail: email@example.com