Asmussen | Felicien is a hit with debut book – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

Asmussen | Felicien is a hit with debut book – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

Perdita Felicien has all sorts of titles: Olympian, world champion hurdler, Illinois Hall of Famer, mother, TV host.

Time to add another: best-selling author.

The pride of Canada just released her first book: “My Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir of Struggle and Triumph.”

Published by Penguin Random House Canada, the book is receiving rave reviews.

“Basically, this is a story that I’ve never discussed as an athlete,” Felicien told me this week. “Not on campus. Not on the Olympic level.”

Part of the book is set in Champaign-Urbana, where Felicien starred for coach Gary Winckler.

Now 40, Felicien tells her mother Catherine’s immigration story to Canada. Catherine was living in the small Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.

“The way she immigrates here (to Canada) is pretty incredible,” Felicien said.

Catherine was a teen mother who had dropped out of school years earlier. She met a rich couple from Canada, who were vacationing in the area.

Catherine volunteered to babysit for them and eventually the couple brought her to Canada.

In Canada, Catherine got pregnant with Perdita. Catherine had to decide whether to keep her child, which the book details.

“She doesn’t have any legal status (in Canada),” Felicien said.

Other challenges presented themselves. Including finding shelter for the family.

“I’m with my mother, experiencing these figurative hurdles of homelessness, of poverty, of displacement, of abuse, as my mother’s trying to get traction in this country,” Felicien said.

The many hurdles Catherine had to clear became symbolic as her daughter turned into a world class hurdler.

“The book weaves our story together as mother and
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