March 30, 2021 by Speakers' Spotlight
In Her New Memoir, Perdita Felicien Honours Her Mother’s Struggle
In a new memoir, Perdita Felicien offers a raw, emotionally honest, and ultimately uplifting story of her family’s struggles and tells of how her mother, Catherine Felicien Browne, worked tirelessly to help them triumph. The book, My Mother’s Daughter, was born from an epiphany that Perdita, a World Champion hurdler and Olympian, had as an adult.
“Who I was and who I am as a woman, as a world-class athlete, was only because of my mother’s story and because of who my mother is. And I had to tell that,” Perdita said, during an interview with As It Happens for the CBC. She went on to explain that not only did her mother overcome numerous challenges to support her family and give them opportunities, but also how Catherine carried her tireless support into the stands as Perdita began to compete.
“You would have to have ear plugs in your ear whenever my mom showed up at the stadium,” she said. “In high school, I was so embarrassed by it that I banned her. I said, ‘You cannot scream this loud for me in the stands. It’s embarrassing,'” Perdita told the CBC.
Below is the publisher’s summary of the memoir, which is out today and is already a bestseller on Amazon:
In 1974, Catherine is determined and tenacious, but she’s also pregnant with her second child and just scraping by in St. Lucia. When she meets a wealthy white Canadian family vacationing on the island, she knows it’s her chance. They ask her to come to Canada to be their nanny—and she accepts.
This was the beginning of Catherine’s new life: a life of opportunity, but also suffering. Within a few years, she would find herself pregnant a third time—this time in her new country with no family to support her, and this time, with Perdita. Together, in the years to come, mother and daughter would experience racism, domestic abuse, and even homelessness, but Catherine’s will would always pull them through.
As Perdita grew and began to discover her preternatural athletic gifts, she was edged onward by her mother’s love, grit, and faith. Facing literal and figurative hurdles, she learned to leap and pick herself back up when she stumbled. This book is a daughter’s memoir—a book about the power of a parent’s love to transform their child’s life.
Further on the subject of self-reflection, Perdita was also featured recently alongside several eminent Canadians—including fellow speaker Chris Hadfield—in a piece for the Globe and Mail about what impacts they foresee from the coronavirus pandemic. Perdita had this to say:
“When the pandemic is over, I will no longer rush through the current phase of my life, which seems ironic, I know, because we all want to fast-forward through this time in human history. But the pandemic has caused me to slow down. As an Olympian and former world-class fast person, I’m not used to this. I got used to visiting up to a dozen countries in a year, on 50-plus flights. My senses got used to feasting on all that life had to offer beyond the walls of my home. But I’ve come to enjoy being in one place, and grateful for this lesson and chance to reflect. The latter, I’ll continue.”
Perdita Felicien is a two-time Olympian, 10-time National Champion, two-time World silver medalist, and the only Canadian woman to win a World Championship gold medal in track and field. During her career as a 100-metre hurdler she earned numerous honours, including Canada’s Athlete of the Year and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal. In her inspiring talks, Perdita explores what it means to chase a dream and overcome the “hurdles” life can put before you.