Praise for Transcending the Legacy...
"BACK IN THE DAYS when a varied group of people used to gather in City Park in late afternoon to socialize their dogs and clear the classroom cobwebs from their heads, I looked forward to spending time with my friend, Nancy Brown and her dog, Digger. As Nancy and I meandered the asphalt pathways of the park she helped me immensely with her frank and truthful assessment of what I was dealing with—understanding of the alcoholic dysfunction I had been married to and with which I had grown up; discrimination as a mature woman student; uncertainty about who I was and what I was supposed to be doing; learning to stand up for myself, and how to gain wisdom and confidence from the situations I had come through. Without Nancy's faithful friendship, love and unwavering belief in my abilities, laced with doses of delightful humour, I never would have achieved all that I have. The sages are correct—when the student is ready the teacher appears. Nancy has been the finest teacher I've ever had."
—Marney Simmons [originally posted on the Ban Righ Foundation website in October of 2010]
"IT HAS BEEN several years since I wrote the postscript for Facing Life. The journey of life continues on for all of us, yet Nancy's memoir remains a stark reminder of how important it is to learn and grow from the challenges in life rather than be burdened down with them. The attitude of gratitude and a focus on recovery action go a lot further than fighting things that are beyond one's control. I continue to recommend Facing Life to my colleagues and patients, with steady feedback and reflections about how Nancy's relation of her story remains intimately inspirational."
—Dr. Raju Hajela
"IN TRANSCENDING THE LEGACY, Nancy Brown continues the impassioned and eloquent search for self-understanding that she began in her memoir Facing Life. Her subject is once again the life-long effects of the sexual abuse that she suffered as a very young child, the decades of addictive behaviour that nearly destroyed her, and the recovery process that has been the central project of her life in recent years. Her impulse is again autobiographical, but instead of a chronological narrative we are given incident-based meditations in which she analyzes the strategies, many of them futile and counterproductive, but the most recent of them hearteningly effective, by which her cruelly damaged self has struggled to find a way to live."
—Douglas Campbell, Editor, Penumbra Press
On Writing, with Nancy Brown
You can read an interview with Nancy by Open Book's Clelia Scala at: www.openbooktoronto.com/news/writing_with_nancy_brown
NANCY BROWN WAS born in Kingston, Ontario. She grew up in a nice house in a good neighborhood. Her parents were decent people, there were locks on the doors, her father was a policeman—yet as a child and young adult she endured horrific sexual abuse. After moving to Toronto in the 1960s, her life continued on its tumultuous course as she tried to cope with her demons through increasing alcohol and drug use.
For her first and second husbands, Nancy chose violent and abusive men—thus continuing the pattern of abuse so familiar and deeply ingrained in her. Between marriages, she looked to doomed relationships to disguise her pain, and used food to comfort herself when the alcohol and prescription drugs ran out.
She went though a revolving cycle of addiction and recovery, facing increasing dangers because of the people she associated with and the lengths to which she would go to feed her addiction and numb her pain.
She suffered injuries from sexual assaults, a stabbing, car accidents, falls, and beatings from angry partners. She endured it because she felt she deserved no better.
Nancy became clean and sober in 1998 after being an active addict for forty-four years. Since then she has struggled with mental health issues relating to the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder she acquired as a child. Today she is actively involved in recovery circles, sharing her experience, strengths, and hopes with others.
Nancy has been nominated for the CAMH 2009 Transforming Lives Award, sponsored by Canada's leading research centre in the area of addiction and mental health. This award honors people across Canada who have come back from mental illness and addictions to inspire others through their writing, art, and other talents.
In 2001, Nancy began writing her first memoir, Facing Life, which focuses on her harrowing recovery from addiction. It was published in 2007 by Penumbra Press and is available for purchase online at the Penumbra website.
Nancy's second book, Transcending the Legacy, is a series of stories dealing with her recovery from childhood sexual trauma. Also published by Penumbra, it is now available for purchase online as of the fall of 2009.
Nancy lives in Kingston, Ontario. You may contact her via email.
Praise for Facing Life...
"NANCY BROWN'S ASTONISHING debut is a testament to the power of human resilience. With a startling elegance and rare honesty, Brown recounts the abuse she suffered as a young girl at the hands of a sexual predator, the scarring and the pain she endured, and the deadly refuge she found in prescription drugs and alcohol.
The road to her recovery is long and serpentine, riddled with detours, traps, and diversions; but it is a road Brown learns to savour, to see for what it is. Looking back, she sees a pattern of abuse, guilt, self-loathing, addiction, and co-dependence, as well as the devastating effects this pattern has on her loved ones.
Facing Life is at once a painful, searing journey of remembrance and an eyes-wide-open embrace of life and its vicissitudes.
It is the story of a woman who refuses to surrender, who transform her suffering into a life-affirming revolt against despair."
—Dennis Choquette, Penumbra Press
"MOST OF US have either complained about the bad deal life has handed to us, or have heard others utter such a complaint. We wish we could have a ready answer, an anti-complaint potion. I found one. It is Nancy Brown's book, Facing Life. After reading this book, you are left wondering how Nancy Brown could still be alive, never mind vibrant enough to write inspirational books. And you are also left with a most powerful and resounding message—what, me complain?!"
—Rabbi Reuven P. Bulka, Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa, Host of Sunday Night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA, author of more than thirty books, and regular columnist for the Ottawa Citizen
"IT IS A WONDERFUL achievement to have written an honest, absorbing, sensitive, and civilized account of a life that, for much of its time, has been marked by unspeakable suffering and degradation. This is what Nancy Brown has done. Horribly abused between the ages of five and twelve by an unspeakably brutal neighbour and his tenants, she reacted by abusing herself in turn, attempting to deal with her feelings of disgust and shame and self-loathing by at first stuffing herself with candy, and then, over the course of many years, by using other much more dangerous substances and behaviours, each of which seemed, for a while at least, to block out her memories and silence the unbearable noise of her past. From the beginning it is clear to the reader that this will be the story of Brown's triumph, that we will see her emerge from the hell of addiction and discover the person she was meant to be. As she tells us of the pain of her past, we see the ambiguous complexities of her troubled family, and come to know the various worlds in which she lived. She presents her story in a spirit of thankfulness."