Victoria Freeman was only four when her parents followed medical advice and sent her sister away to a distant, overcrowded institution. Martha was not yet two, but in 1960s Ontario there was little community acceptance or support for raising children with intellectual disabilities at home. In this frank and moving memoir, Victoria describes growing up in a world that excluded and dehumanized her sister, and how society’s insistence that only a “normal” life was worth living affected her sister, her family, and herself, until changing attitudes to disability and difference offered both sisters new possibilities for healing and self-discovery.
Victoria Freeman is a writer, theatre artist, educator, and public historian. She is the co-creator, with L’Arche Toronto Sol Express, of Birds Make Me Think about Freedom, a play about the experiences of peoples institutionalized for intellectual disability, which won a Patron’s Pick award at the 2018 Toronto Fringe Festival. She serves on the advisory board of Uncovering the People’s History, which documents the stories of institutional survivors and their families for Family Alliance Ontario. She also co-wrote the Talking Treaties Spectacle with Ange Loft of Jumblies Theatre, which was performed in 2017 and 2018 at Fort York in Toronto. Her previous book, Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America, was shortlisted for the 2000 Writers’ Trust Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. She teaches in the Canadian Studies Program at Glendon College, and in the History Department at York University, in Toronto.