Mary Roach with a broad smile

Author Mary Roach Visits LightHouse for the Blind [Photos]

Author Mary Roach’s bibliography looks a bit like a laundry list of corporeal functions – Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and Packing for Mars among them – but Roach’s books have been widely lauded for not only their fascinating and humorous take on very human issues, but for the deep research that goes into them. This month, she released Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, an exploration of the ins and outs of this integral industry which many Americans would prefer to ignore. And along the journey of her research, she arrived at our doorstep.

Mary Roach stands in front of giant paper rolls, smiling

Many people don’t know, but the blindness community benefits greatly from legislation which allows agencies with blind workers to bid for federal government contracts. The Javits Wagner O’Day Act provides jobs for several thousand and still is the largest single employer of blind workers across the country.

LightHouse Industries’ Sirkin Center, located in San Leandro, is the light manufacturing division of our organization which serves a very specific and crucial need for the American military and for numerous humanitarian and emergency organizations: toilet paper. Though it’s not something most people consider, individual tissue packets are provided in every Meal Ready to Eat box consumed by every soldier, disaster survivor or relief personnel. For more than 25 years the sole provider of these individual packets has been the LightHouse.

Which brings us back to Mary Roach. In the process of researching Grunt, Roach stumbled upon the LightHouse. There are other LightHouses (unaffiliated) which make airplane parts, clocks, and other goods for the federal government, but she was most interested in our plant for its very real and physical connection to our troops.

Mary Roach taking notes at LHI

As part of the promotion of her book, she asked if she could use these packets of tissue, branded with our name, to give out at book signings and on tour. She dropped into LightHouse Industries last month (Roach lives in Oakland) to get a tour of the Center and pick up some souvenirs. Afterwards, Roach wrote a bit for us about her interest in the LightHouse:

“The MRE toilet paper packets are my guerrilla marketing campaign for the new book, GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War. I plan to leave then in airport bathroom stalls while on book tour, and to give them away to people who buy a book.

Having read the US military specs for toilet paper, I know that this is some quality TP that LightHouse for the Blind is cranking out (at a rate of 1000 per minute!). It was great to meet some of the people who work the operation – Skip and Pablo and David and Mike. Decent toilet paper is important to the morale of fighting men and women overseas, so the work these folks do at the LightHouse plays a more vital role than many might imagine!”

tissue packets with the word "Grunt" on them

You can pick up Roach’s novel Grunt anywhere books are sold, or if you’re a Bookshare subscriber, read it for free here.

5 thoughts on “Author Mary Roach Visits LightHouse for the Blind [Photos]”

  1. What a wonderful article!! We have read many of Mary’s books and had just started Grunt. Especially terrific to put the spotlight on the Lighthouse for it’s contributions to the ever enduring MRE and the morale of emergency workers/survivors and our troops!
    Lori Slicton

  2. It’s wonderful to see this article via the Lighthouse newsletter giving attention to the people who work at this East Bay Lighthouse site and acknowledging the importance of the work that they do.
    Thank you to Mary Roach!

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