Our nine-year-old friend Sasha and our six-and-a-half-year-old friend Katya invited their third-grade and first-grade friends at Dewey Elementary School to gather in the multi-purpose room yesterday morning to meet Whitney and me.
I talked with them about Seeing Eye dogs, Braille, and about how I manage to write books without being able to see. It’s important to me that kids understand that a disability does not necessarily prevent a person from working and doing interesting things. we just use different tools — and ways — to do them, and just like everyone else, we need help sometimes, too.
”I get all over the city with Whitney, I teach writing classes, I interview people for stories, “ I told the kids at Dewey. “One thing I can’t do, though? See if you’re raising your hands to ask a question.” I asked if Sasha and Katya would be willing to come in front and call on classmates who had their hands raised, and they jumped at the chance.
I have Sasha and Katya’s dad, Dmitry Karpeev, to thank for introducing us to his two bright and beautiful daughters and arranging our visit to their school. Dmitry was born in Russia, and his accent makes him easy to differentiate from the cast of other colorful characters I’ve met at Hackney’s, our local tavern. His command of the English language is impeccable – he’s corrected my grammar more than once — but he speaks to his daughters only in Russian, so they are bilingual. Sasha and Katya spend summers with their grandparents in Montenegro, which helps their command of their second language, too.
Dmitry began his mathematics education at Voronezh State University in Russia and wrote his doctoral thesis while a Lab Graduate at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago. Dmitry holds joint appointments at the University of Chicago/Argonne Computation Institute and at Rush Medical Center, but he talks more about films and art and language when we’re together than he talks about work, so I used Google to find out exactly what he does. You should hear my speech synthesizer try to pronounce words like “stochastic” or “homogenization analysis of suspensions of interacting protein polymers”! But who needs Google? Our visit to Dewey Elementary School yesterday confirmed what Dmitry specializes in: being a great dad.