Falling for Myself
Wolsak & Wynn Publishers Ltd.
320 pages | ISBN 978-1-989496-03-9
**Finalist for the 2021 Hamilton Literary Award for Non-fiction**
In this searing and seriously funny memoir, Dorothy Ellen Palmer falls down, a lot, and spends a lifetime learning to appreciate her disability. Born with two very different, very tiny feet, she was adopted as a toddler by an already wounded 1950s family. From childhood surgeries to decades as a feminist teacher, mom, improv coach and unionist, she tried to hide being different. But now, standing proud with her walker, she’s sharing her journey. Navigating abandonment, abuse and ableism, she finds her birth parents and a new chosen family in the disability community.
“Fierce and uncompromising, filled with empathy and wit, Falling for Myself is a rallying cry for all of us. Dorothy Ellen Palmer takes a long hard look at the realities of the disabled life – and the ableism that pervades the world we live in today – and pushes us ever onward into a space that calls for change. In its humour and gentleness, and its refusal to acknowledge anything less than the extraordinarily complex, difficult joys and sorrows of the disabled life, Falling for Myself is a work of great galvanizing power. It is nothing short of incandescent.” – Amanda Leduc, author of The Miracles of Ordinary Men
“In Falling for Myself, Dorothy Palmer unflinchingly looks back at her childhood growing up as an adopted disabled girl filled with shame, pain and confusion. Brutally honest, Palmer reveals the messy realness of internalized ableism and the ways disabled girls and women are made to feel small by society. An important story for anyone who has yet to discover their self-love and pride.” – Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project
“Not since reading Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl as a child have I been so utterly undone and yet, at the same time, encouraged about the will of the human spirit to not only survive but thrive.
“Not one to placate, like so many of my Métis aunties, Dorothy hits you up the side of the head. Her story is a wake-up call to us all re: ableism and what it means to be a child, a teenager, a woman and mother making her way in this ableist society. Her way with words, her honesty and humour enter your psyche, leaving you forever changed. There is a fierceness to this story, the kind of fierceness that is humbling and can make you question your own beliefs and subsequent choices. It is my deepest hope that this is a book that will travel far.” – Jónína Kirton, author of An Honest Woman
Falling For Myself: A Memoir (Monica Miller, SubTerrain, Summer 2020)
"A highly readable, sharp memoir that will hopefully clear a wide trail for more disabled voices to shine."
REVIEWS: vol 7, issue 2 (Neil Price, Humber Literary Review, 28/12/2019)
"While memoirs that present stories of overcoming odds often slip into maudlin predictability, Falling for Myself never feels contrived or set up to induce what Palmer calls 'inspiration porn.' Instead, her story is really about a personal journey of learning and never becomes overly preachy or didactic."
Dorothy Ellen Palmer’s new extraordinary memoir, Falling for Myself, is a tale of an ordinary girl (K. J. Aiello, The Globe and Mail, 17/12/2019)
A review of Dorothy's memoir.
Episode 3 | Dorothy Palmer (Claire Tacon, "Parallel Careers," The New Quarterly, 29/03/2021)
"I think the idea of an emerging writer only being someone barely emerged from puberty is a problem. Some 25% of Canada is over 65. Where are our first time senior writers?"
Managing Spoons in 2020, featuring Dorothy Ellen Palmer (Spoonie Authors Network blog, 08/10/2020)
Dorothy discusses how she manages her time and energy in 2020.
How Dorothy Ellen Palmer wrote a memoir about being in love with herself and her abilities (The Next Chapter, 13/03/2020)
"I wasn't the problem, ableism was the problem, inaccessibility was the problem and that I didn't have to be ashamed anymore."
E169 with DOROTHY ELLEN PALMER (Jamie Tennant, Get Lit, 13/02/2020)
An extremely passionate and eye-opening interview with Dorothy.
Dorothy Ellen Palmer is disabled, but don’t call her new book inspiration porn (Sue Carter, the Toronto Star, 28/11/2019)
A wonderful interview with Dorothy Palmer.
"Setting the Secrets Free, Set Me Free of Them" Dorothy Ellen Palmer Finds Liberation Through Humour in Her New Memoir (Open Book, 12/11/2019)
"In the end, I came to the conclusion that what has hurt me the most is secrets."
12 Reads for Disability Pride Month (All Lit Up, 05/07/2023)
Dorothy's memoir is included in this roundup for Disability Pride Month.
Books for International Women's Day (All Lit Up, 08/03/2021)
Dorothy's book makes All Lit Up's list of Books for International Women's Day
What my scooter taught me about barriers (Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Broadview Magazine, 10/07/2020)
Dorothy pens another thoughtful, funny and challenging article about how social justice for disabled people is tied to their ability to move through the world.
The CBC Books summer reading list: 40 Canadian books to read this season (CBC Books, 30/06/2020)
Dorothy's memoir makes the list of 40 Canadian books to read this summer.
20 moving Canadian memoirs to read right now (CBC Books, 30/04/2020)
Dorothy's book is listed on 20 moving Canadian memoirs to read right now.
Amid COVID-19, making end-of-life decisions lessened my fears (Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Broadview Magazine, 21/04/2020)
Another wise and deeply thoughtful column from Dorothy Ellen Palmer on making end-of-life decisions during COVID-19.
How I’m practicing community care in isolation (Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Broadview Magazine, 02/04/2020)
"To save the most lives, we will need to replace self-reliance with relying on each other."
Kept Out is Kept Down: Writing Retreats and the Indefensible Retreat of Canlit (Dorothy Ellen Palmer, All Lit Up, 04/03/2020)
Dorothy shares some fierce truths in this piece on the inaccessibility of writing retreats.
There is no excuse for taking the life of a disabled person (Dorothy Ellen Palmer, Broadview, 02/03/2020)
Dorothy pens an article raising awareness about filicide.
Memoirs of love: Six-Minute Memoir features nine speakers riffing on subject of love (Jeff Mahoney, the Hamilton Spectator, 21/02/2020)
Dorothy participates in the six-minute memoir.
Alumna explores life’s journey in 'Falling' (Kathryn Kinahan, Western News, 21/01/2020)
"Once I had set myself free of the secrets, they couldn’t hurt me any longer."
New titles from Hamilton authors (Jeff Mahoney, The Hamilton Spectator, 21/01/2020)
"An enormously powerful, often harrowing, just as often hilarious, odyssey through the experiences of remarkable woman and her adaptation to and coming to terms with a congenital anomaly in her both her feet."
A Grateful, Pay-it-Forward Diverse Booklist (Dorothy Ellen Palmer, 49th Shelf, 12/12/2019)
Dorothy puts together a pay-it-forward list of diverse books and authors.
Pro bookworms share their favourite biographies and memoirs of 2019 (Truc Nguyen, CBC Books, 12/12/2019)
"Everyone should read this book and get inspired to help make space for vulnerable communities so that each of us is treated with dignity and respect."
Other Dives into Other Lives (Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This, 11/12/2019)
"Palmer is fierce, and she is furious, justifiably so, but she is also witty, generous, a born storyteller, and she has created a fascinating and most compelling book."
Dorothy Ellen Palmer is disabled, but don’t call her new book inspiration porn (Sue Carter, The Toronto Star, 28/11/2019)
"[The title] serve[s] a double purpose. It refers to a succession of skinned, bloody knees and constant tumbles, but also to a woman finding her place in the world"
Another Story Bookshop 2019 Holiday Gift List (Another Story Bookshop newsletter, November 2019)
Dorothy's memoir makes Another Story's holiday gift guide list!
Great Companions: Because Two Books Are Better than One (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 05/09/2019)
Dorothy's book is chosen as a great companion read for In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott.
Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Nonfiction Preview (49th Shelf, 29/08/2019)
Dorothy's memoir makes the list of most anticipated fall titles.
About the Author
Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, accessibility consultant, and retired high school drama teacher and union activist. She grew up in suburban Toronto, and spent childhood summers at a three-generation cottage near Fenelon Falls.
For three decades, she worked in three provinces as a high school English/Drama teacher, teaching on a Mennonite Colony, a four-room schoolhouse, an adult learning centre attached to a prison, and a highly diverse new high school in Pickering. Elected to her union executive each year for fifteen years, she created staff and student workshops to fight bullying, racism, sexism, sexual harassment, and homophobia.
Dorothy sits on the Accessibility Advisory Board of the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) and is an executive board member for the Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (CCWWP) where she writes a monthly column on disability in CanLit for the newsletter.
Her work has appeared in: REFUSE, Wordgathering, Alt-Minds, All Lit Up, Don't Talk to Me About Love, Little Fiction Big Truths, 49th Shelf and Open Book. Her first novel, When Fenelon Falls, features a disabled teen protagonist in the Woodstock-Moonwalk summer of 1969. She lives in Burlington, Ontario, and can always be found tweeting @depalm.