Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

My Mother's Daughter

A Memoir of Struggle and Triumph

by (author) Perdita Felicien

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Mar 2021
Personal Memoirs, Motherhood, Sports
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2022
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


"A phenomenal, human story. . . . I could not put this book down." —CLARA HUGHES
An instant national bestseller, this raw and affecting memoir is the story of a mother and daughter who beat the odds together.
Decades before Perdita Felicien became a World Champion hurdler running the biggest race of her life at the 2004 Olympics, she carried more than a nation's hopes—she carried her mother Catherine's dreams.
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.

About the author

Contributor Notes

PERDITA FELICIEN is an author, television host, sports broadcaster, two-time Olympian, ten-time National Champion, and the first 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 II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Felicien retired from professional sports in 2013 and is now a broadcast journalist. She was part of CBC's broadcast team at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, and was inducted into Athletics Canada's Hall of Fame. My Mother's Daughter is her first book.

Excerpt: My Mother's Daughter: A Memoir of Struggle and Triumph (by (author) Perdita Felicien)


Olympic Games, Athens, Greece
August 2004

I know I am supposed to be here, this is more than a race to me.
I know she is watching the baby she chose not to throw away.
Maybe this will finally make her see that everything that happened before tonight was worth it. That she is worth it, that I am worth it, and so are all the other mothers and children like us.
The eight of us had only a few moments left to warm up over the hurdles before we would be introduced to the thousands in the Olympic Stadium. It was loud before the start of the 100 metres hurdles final. People were shouting, and flags from around the world were being waved in the air by hopeful fans. Everything happened in slow motion, as if I were in a trance. The officials putting down hurdles, then scurrying out of our way, teammates watching nearby from the stands with Canadian flags wrapped around their shoulders, the other runners grunting and slapping their thick quads into submission—or was it an act of intimidation? None of us finalists made eye contact. It was as though the others were just bodies floating about. But we could see the tension around the corners of our mouths; our faces mean, expressionless corks that prevented all our emotions from spilling out.

I walked back to my lane marker after practising a start and knew there was nothing left to do. I was ready. Every cell in my body felt electric, as if I could shock the life out of anything I touched. I pulled in a deep breath, held it for five thumping heartbeats, then let it rush out of me with any microscopic remnants of doubt. I enjoyed this feeling and this moment despite the magnitude of it. I’d never felt anything so encompassing, so kinetic. I recognized it as that perfect edge. The one all of us athletes try to recreate hundreds of times in practice, in our dreams, in our journals—but never can. Because nothing can replicate the biggest day of our lives. No imagining can ever be real enough.

The fuzzy haze I saw before big races blurred everything: the crowd, the outside lanes, Melissa the American to my left, and Irina the Russian to my right. Everything but my ten waist-high barriers, out in front, which were crisp and clear. The starter commanded us to take our marks, and the customary ritual began as we made our way into our blocks.

Think of all the work you’ve done, Perdita. You can do this.
We were two Americans, two Russians, one Jamaican, a Ukrainian, and two Canadians. The fastest and most fearless sprint hurdlers left standing in the world. I was the world champion and the youngest among us, unbeaten in a string of races leading up to the Olympics, including my heat and semifinal rounds in Athens. Even though I had welcomed the eyes of my entire country on me and understood I was the favourite, remarkably I had arrived at the start line carrying only the weight of my own expectations. “If you want it, you can’t be afraid to go for it” is a mantra a hurdler must adopt before even starting her climb to the top of the world.

“Set!” the starter yelled. I raised my hips. The riotous crowd was suddenly silent, I was alone, and my Olympic dream was before me.

Editorial Reviews

"[A] beautifully written and compelling memoir." —Toronto Star

"So captivating is the story of Cathy Felicien Browne's life . . . that by the time her daughter Perdita runs her first sprint halfway through the book, you might have forgotten all about the fact that the author is former World Champion hurdler Perdita Felicien. . . . In this inspiring memoir, Felicien . . . recounts the despair and the triumphs like a champion." —The Globe and Mail

"Perdita Felicien takes on the ambitious feat of chronicling an intergenerational story of resilience and succeeds with unflinching clarity. Her controlled and poised prose details raw and often messy emotions with intelligence and compassion, while the fierce honesty with which she writes emphasizes the magnitude of maternal love and the bonds of family. A memoir with a commanding voice, My Mother’s Daughter is a love letter to mother-daughter relationships." —Zalika Reid-Benta, Giller Prize-nominated author of Frying Plantain

"We are not defined by when we fall; rather, it's the journey of where we come from that holds the deepest definition of self. Perdita Felicien is so much more than a champion athlete. This phenomenal, human story shows a Canada many people will never know, the power of a mother's love for her daughter, and the indefatigable resilience in the face of so much struggle. I could not put this book down." —Clara Hughes, six-time Olympic medalist and author of Open Heart, Open Mind
"A book about the most important team any of us plays on—our family—by one of the greatest athletes Canada has ever produced. Perdita Felicien reminds us that the accomplishments you see out on the track, field or rink are the result not just of talent and practice, but of someone's love." —Cathal Kelly, author of Boy Wonders ?
"Perdita Felicien first stole our hearts as a world champion, but now she takes us behind the scenes to the heartache of her tumultuous childhood and to the grit she needed to triumph over adversity. Her story is for everyone who dreams big. This book made me laugh and cry and cheer out loud. It's a winner—like Perdita herself." —Sally Armstrong, journalist

Related lists

Related blog posts