Friday 8 March 2024

Life Stories Written by Remarkable Women {Book Reviews}

In the last few years, I have read a lot of books. Most of them have been written by remarkable women who I greatly admire. Most of what I've read is not fiction, but real, true life stories that include an aspect of difference. I didn't have a lot of time for reading when my girls were young and needed a lot of attention, but I feel I'm making up for lost time now!

For International Womens Day, following so closely after World Book Day this year, I wanted to highlight a handful of the books I've read that were written by women who I greatly admire. 

(*Underlined text and the pictures in this post are affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases but it won't cost you any extra!)

Seven Brilliant Books

What these books have in common is that they are all written by women who are sharing the parenting aspect of having children who are different to the majority in some way. All have been open and honest about their experiences and the emotions involved.

Anything for my child?

Anything for my child is a book written by Stephanie Nimmo, whose daughter, Daisy, was diagnosed with a life–limiting condition as a baby. This book looks at the complex world of medical ethics and paediatric healthcare in a sensitive manner. Stephanie considers the difficult questions that some parents have to face, such as what happens when things don’t go according to plan? Or who decides what is in a child’s ‘best interests’?

There are 25 chapters in the book, with titles including Don’t Call Me Mum, Unwittingly Becoming a Nurse, Alone in the Crowd, Palliative Care is Not Giving Up, Father’s Responses to Conflict, Demystifying Ethics and more. Stephanie has been through so many tough times and so the book is likely to prompt some tears but it is also a well-balanced, honest account of life with a medically complex child, in a world that is not always welcoming and situations that often lead to battles for resources and understanding.

Young carers also share their views in this book, and some chapters also touch on some of the 'big' cases (i.e. well-known in the media) about children whose parents were fighting for them to live, such as Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Jaymee Bowen. Stephanie introduces the thought early on that "there are no right or wrong decisions when caring and advocating for a child who is not expected to reach adulthood." One quote I wanted to share to give a flavour of the book is:
It didn't always work, but I needed everyone that met Daisy to see her as a little girl, not just a patient or a diagnosis. It wasn't about fixing her; it was about enhancing and optimising her quality of life. Seeing beyond the individual bits that were broken to the little girl who just wanted to be at home, or school, with her family and friends and her dog.
Just like parents, professionals are human too, and that means that just like us they come in all shapes and sizes. Some just get it, and some have a hard time engaging and empathising.
Stephanie's brilliant book can be found on Amazon here: Anything For My Child

Our Altered Life

Our Altered Life tells the true story of one family’s life after the birth of their twin boys. Author Charlie Beswick and her husband were shocked to be told that one of their boys had been born with half of his face undeveloped. The happy family future they had been planning was instantly scrambled, and they had to find a new way forward.

The book covers all of the emotions felt - grief and anger, loss and acceptance – in a searingly honest, but also surprisingly upbeat manner. Charlie writes about the hospital appointments and surgeries, an autism diagnosis, the sibling relationship, the reactions from society to her boys and much more. She shares her own personal feelings and it's clear her positive attitude has helped her not only to embrace her own life but to raise others' too.

Charlie is a powerhouse of a woman who not only writes for her blog of the same name, at, but who has also founded the More Than A Face charity. She gives talks at school assemblies for children and young people, and she works with various organisations to support parent carers in the workplace. She also runs the SEND Gin and Cheese group to support parents and carers of children with SEND.

Charlie's book is available from Amazon: Our Altered Life.

Your Child is Not Broken

Your Child is Not Broken is the Sunday Times bestseller book by Heidi Mavir. A late-identified neurodivergent adult, Heidi is parent to an Autistic/ADHD teenager, and has trained as a SEN Advocate to help other families navigate their way round the EHCP process. 

The story of Heidi's fight for support for her child who began to struggle with attending secondary school is woven throughout the book, and other families' experiences with the system are shared. It includes examples of the kind of judgement from professionals that families like ours face on a regular basis. Heidi writes about how neurodivergent children find themselves in a world that is not built for them, a world full of sensory overwhelm and unwritten social rules. They are constantly being told that they are getting wrong and punished for it, when they don't instinctively know what the 'right' way is.

This book is an honest, straight-talking, easy read that so many parents and carers can relate to, especially those whose children fall into the 'Not Fine in School' bracket. Available from Amazon here: Your Child is Not Broken.

My Daughter is Not Naughty

The My Daughter Is Not Naughty book evolved from a blog written by mum of two, Jane Sherwin. Her daughter was diagnosed with PDA at the age of seven and the book covers life before and after that diagnosis up until around the age of ten. Published in 2015, it includes a lot of in-depth detail about the challenges the family faced. The pre-conceived ideas of what parenting should be like are explored, along with the use of language such as naughty. 

This book is a comprehensive account of their family's experiences of living with PDA, and whilst her daughter and my daughter differed in some characteristics, the overall PDA aspects were something I strongly related to. Although I hadn't seen Jane's blog when I started mine, I very quickly found it after our lightbulb moment and I was immensely grateful to her for openly sharing their story too.

This book can be purchased on Amazon here: Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome - My Daughter is Not Naughty.

A Very Modern Family

A Very Modern Family is written by both Carrie and David Grant, but I'm going to say mostly by Carrie (with apologies to David, I did love his thoughts and they definitely added even more to the book!). It tells us about their family experiences with their four children, one of whom is adopted, and the variety of different situations and challenges faced, from mental health issues and neurodivergence to trans non-binary identities, various sexualities and the added factor of being a mixed race family. 

The introduction shares the Grant's feelings about an autism diagnosis for two of their children initially, and then goes on to explain that although they knew then that things were about to change, they didn't see the fights and battles with inflexible systems that were to come - a sentiment that I am sure is shared by many SEND families. Their book goes on to discuss deeply personal aspects of their family life, such as school refusal, self-harm, hospital beds and suicide watch, child-on-parent violence and gender dysphoria - issues that we all know affect many families but are rarely talked about openly. This book is thoughtful and thought-provoking; the authors are respectfully honest about how they have navigated parenting life with children who are not fitting into those widely accepted ideas of the 'norm'. And there's a real sense of having wanted to share this story in order to help other families facing difficult situations.

What shines through this book is the love from both parents for all of their children. Buy this now from Amazon: A Very Modern Family.

For the Love of Oscar

For the Love of Oscar is written by Sarah Roberts, a mum whose first son was diagnosed at birth with Down syndrome. Sarah writes candidly but also with great humour about the ups and downs of parenting a child who happens to have additional needs.

I first came across Sarah when she was writing a blog about their family life and I was drawn to how personable and positive she was. Life was certainly full of challenges such as hospital appointments and therapy sessions, coupled with facing ridiculous attitudes and comments from various members of the public, but there is an overall sense that Sarah has taken it all in her stride. This positivity will have both educated others and given support to other parents who maybe needed a hand along the way. Sarah included many of the comments shared by other readers of her blog throughout this book.

For the Love of Oscar takes us up to the time shortly after he started school. Sarah also published a second book, called Don't Be Sorry, following on from this one up until Oscar reached the age of nine. These can both be found on Amazon at the links below:

The Skies I’m Under

The Skies I’m Under is written in a style that almost makes it feel like a novel, but it is actually a true life account from a mum of a son born with complex disabilities and life-limiting epilepsy.

Rachel Wright is a nurse who began her blog 'Born At The Right Time' back in 2014. This book is her story of living an unexpected life - all the thoughts and feelings that came along with that and how they impacted all the following situations. Rachel has won awards for her writing and it is easy to see why when you read this book. Emotions are described vividly throughout the book and a determination to help others understand the challenges faced emanates from the pages.

Rachel now helps run specialist healthcare training to bridge the gap between families of people with disabilities and the many practitioners who support them. She also hosts the popular podcast: The Skies We're Under. Her book is available from Amazon here: The Skies I'm Under.

PDA in the Family

PDA in the Family is our recently published book telling the story of our experiences of living with a PDA daughter. I honestly can't call myself a remarkable woman because I don't think I've done as much with my life as so many other women I know and see online. But I am proud of me for finding the confidence to share our story honestly, in the hope that it will help other families. That's my cheeky reason for including this book at the bottom of this post!
To find out more about what's in our book, please visit my post 'PDA in the Family (Book)'

Please consider supporting all of the awesome women I've mentioned above - and if you know of other books in this category, please email me the details!

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