Perdita Felicien’s masterful, must-read memoir

Why Perdita Felicien's memoir is worth reading, and why we need more books like it.

Perdita Felicien’s masterful, must-read memoir

The Canadian is a world champion and Olympic hurdler who competed collegiately at Illinois, before becoming a decorated professional.

Now, she is a media star, working as an analyst, TV host and now author, telling stories in a new format. Her memoir, My Mother's Daughter, was released on March 30, 2021.

Today, I'm going to share my review of the book, and why I think it's a book worth reading. On Thursday, I'm going to share a Q&A with the author about the writing process, what she's up to, and more.

I have two priorities here at The Black Sportswoman, and I aim to do them through a historic lens: share Black women's sports contributions/stories/voices on public platform and share the realities of Black women through sports.

The latter, Felicien does in her book.

By the way, we are not related but we did discuss how we share the same last name, which comes from St. Lucia.

Now, onto the review.

Perdita Felicien’s book, My Mother’s Daughter, is both a memoir about Felicien’s life as well as her journey of her mother, Catherine.

This book reads like fiction – I could not put it down. (I also spent an entire day thinking and talking about it.) It's an emotional and honest story. Even through the hard parts, I couldn’t look away. Felicien wrote the book herself, and we’ll talk Thursday about why and what’s next for her as an author.

But as for her memoir, it chronicles Catherine’s journey from St. Lucia to Canada as well as her struggle to find stability once she arrived in the country and gave birth to Perdita.

Then, Felicien writes about how her childhood influenced her and eventually her career as a sprinter and world champion. Throughout the book, we get Catherine’s story, which helps us better understand the person inside the hurdler.

We understand why Catherine decides to leave St. Lucia, and the impact it has on all her children. We learn about the imbalance of power in employer sponsorship, and how much impact one person's sometimes thoughtless decision can change the course of a life. We see the Feliciens move often – sometimes without a home or place to stay – and we see the ways this impacts Perdita and Catherine, for example when Perdita is deciding if she should turn professional while at an NCAA institution, when education is such a family priority.

This was a moving read – she narrates the audiobook as well – that touches on migration, immigration, racism, domestic violence, motherhood and other social issues.

The immigration struggles and domestic violence were the hardest to read. She isn’t graphic, but Felicien is a great storyteller and immerses us into her story. If you’ve experienced any trauma related to immigration or domestic violence, this book may be a difficult read for you.

I genuinely felt like I was there as she grew up.

Now, the book does discuss track & field, and I found the way she viewed the sport hilarious – and laughed out loud – when she first started out and in high school. She didn’t really care, but she’s always been a competitor. She also talks about moments we’ve heard or seen, and discusses how she really felt in the moment, why this decision was made, etc.

Felicien is a storyteller – this is her craft. But in a way, she uses her prominence as an Olympian and world champion to shed light on tough situations others go through (and some book proceeds go to the women’s shelter her family stayed in).

Through Felicien’s story, we can understand the stories of the many other Black women from the Caribbean specifically who went through the things Catherine and Perdita lived through simply for better opportunities. It’s a similar story to those who have migrated to countries around the world.

Felicien could have focused on her credentials – though she did make it clear what she had accomplished – but she chose to tell a story that is eye-opening for some and relatable to others.

I definitely consider this a must-read memoir.

Related: Check out Sugar Rodgers' book, which is also a must-read.