Douglas & McIntyre
Writing with Grace

Book details:

April 2014
ISBN 978-1-77162-025-3
Paperback - Trade
5 1/2" x 8 1/2"
208 pages
Biography & Autobiography
$22.95 CAD


  • 2015 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities
  • Shortlisted for the 2015 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

Douglas & McIntyre

Writing with Grace

A Journey beyond Down Syndrome

2015 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities

Shortlisted for the 2015 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

“I don’t know how to describe me as a real person.”—From “My Real Truth,” a poem by Grace Chen

“Put her away and forget about her.” This was the blunt advice Grace Chen’s grandfather gave Grace’s parents when she was born with Down syndrome.

Twenty-four years later, Grace writes, “I always dream to be a famous writer.” When Judy McFarlane is asked if she will help Grace, she realizes she holds deep, unacknowledged fears—that Grace will be a dull-eyed young woman who can’t read, let alone write, that she might become agitated, even lash out. But the idea that Grace wants to be a writer, a dream McFarlane gave up when she was young, captures McFarlane. She helps Grace write her book and travels with Grace when she gives a copy of it to her grandfather.

Writing with Grace is the inspiring and informative story of the journey Grace and Judy have taken together. It relates the often dark history of Down syndrome, something the Canadian Down Syndrome Society maintains is “not a birth defect or illness” but “a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has always been part of the human condition.” It also tells a universal story of moving from a deep fear of the ‘other,’ to seeing the world through the eyes of the ‘other’, to Judy truly understanding when Grace says, “my real truth is too scary. I like to hide my real truth.”

With honest introspection and keen insight, McFarlane delves into what it takes to face one’s own prejudice, what it means to live a full life and believe you are worthy. From a young woman who is marginalized by society, McFarlane learns how much courage it takes to follow a dream when everyone tells you it’s impossible.

Advance Praise:

“There is as much thinking as feeling in this clear and brilliant book—and that’s what make it so exceptional. It is also full of enlightenment at every level. One of the many deep and important questions McFarlane poses is: who is more enlightened, the needy or the needed? This book is the antidote to a culture that promotes success at all costs without ever asking what success is.” —Ian Brown, author of The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for his Disabled Son

“When Judy McFarlane met Grace Chen, she discovered a young writer with the fierce desire for creative expression she felt in herself. What transpired was a gift to both of them. Informative, absorbing, and moving, Writing with Grace is a delight.”

—Joan Thomas, author of Curiosity

Writing with Grace is a deeply moving and breathtakingly honest exploration of one woman’s journey to understand and ultimately embrace the humanity we share with “the other” —in this case, a young writer named Grace with Down syndrome. It is also a memoir of the author's own struggle to become a writer. McFarlane’s writing is accomplished, intimate and brimming with insight that inspires us to reexamine our attitudes towards both ourselves and those we deem to be different. The result is an evocative and inspiring book that teaches us important lessons about compassion, inclusivity and ultimately, finding the courage to overcome fear and follow our dreams.”

—Carol Shaben, author of Into the Abyss

“This is a small story, a local story, an intimate story that McFarlane, with her honesty, clarity and intelligence, opens into a narrative that will widen your world, stretch your heart, and spark your curiosity, not just for people you meet with Down Syndrome, but for everyone you meet. Writing With Grace makes you want to tear down walls and embrace life.”

—Claudia Casper, author of The Reconstruction

“This is a beautiful book about a very human story. In learning to embrace the Real Truth in the other, we learn to embrace our own Real Truth. With simple honesty, Grace and Judy have shared the Real Truth of their journey together. And if we accept it, we are challenged to make that journey our own.” — Jean Vanier, author of Becoming Human, founder of L’Arche

About the Author

Judy McFarlane

Judy McFarlane is a Vancouver writer, graduate of UBC’s MFA Creative Writing program and former lawyer. Her fiction and non-fiction stories, one of which ...

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