The Shape of Normal: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability and Embracing a Different Kind of Perfect


Product Details

Vine Leaves Press
Publish Date
5.5 X 8.5 X 0.57 inches | 0.53 pounds

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About the Author

Catherine Shields, M.S. Ed., is a retired early childhood teacher. She writes about parenting, disabilities, and self-discovery. In her debut memoir, The Shape of Normal, Cathy explores the truths and lies parents tell themselves. Her stories and essays have appeared in NBC Today, Newsweek, Bacopa Literary Review, Grown and Flown, Brevity Blog, Write City Magazine, The Manifest-Station, and elsewhere. Cathy lives in Miami, Florida. In her free time, Cathy likes to hike, kayak, and explore the Everglades National Park with her husband, to whom she's been married forever.


"A beautifully honest memoir of motherhood and a powerful testament to how our children challenge us to accept them for who they are." Monica Wesolowska, author of Leo + Lea

"I did not look up from Shields's bold, funny, heartbreaking new memoir until I turned the last page... It's filled with laughs and grit and unforgettable stories and unstoppable love. Everyone should have a mother like Shields, who probably did not realize her magnificent mettle until she was asked by the universe to raise her "magnificent but imperfect child," Jessica. While it's impossible to not wish that everything were easier for Jessica and for Cathy, sometimes things aren't and sometimes, there is wonder in that fact." Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

"Raw, compelling, and brutally honest, this page-turner is a tender exploration of the nuances of raising a child with cerebral palsy that focuses on the often-overlooked emotions of the love, fear, guilt, and loneliness caregivers struggle with as they navigate a life they never imagined. Filled with beauty and insight... impossible to put down." Aileen Weintraub, author of Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir

"This brave and heartbreaking, beautifully written account examines motherhood and the challenges of raising a child with special needs. In a world that does not welcome differences, The Shape of Normal will resonate with all parents. It is a thought-provoking memoir that will show readers how beauty can be found in the necessary imperfections of life." Jen Pastiloff, author of On Being Human

"An honest telling of the author's journey raising a special needs child! Following Ms. Shield's experience, filled with frustration, fear, laughter and tears certainly provoke empathy and joy in the reader." Wendy Nottoli, M.A., CCC, BCaBA, Speech-Language Pathologist

"Shields provides a beautifully crafted and unvarnished portrayal of parenting a child with a disability and the effects it has on relationships within the family dynamic. It is a deeply personal voyage of self-discovery that offers a roadmap for every parent who is struggling with feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy to move beyond the conventional definition of normal by learning how to accept differences and embrace the diversity of the human experience." Lisa Armstrong, Managing Editor of Kaleidoscope: Exploring the Experience of Disability through Literature and the Fine Arts

"Raw. Honest. Shields shares the challenging journey of parenting a child with special needs, while balancing the needs of her family and herself. Shields candidly reveals the confusion, frustration, and anger she felt and the mistakes she made as she doggedly charts a path forward learning to accept what she can and can't control. With unflinching prose, Shields shows us how to embrace the truth and beauty of what lies outside the middle. A compelling read for anyone who seeks to become the best version of themself." Andrea A. Firth, writer, educator, editor of Brevity Blog

"A masterstroke of opposites - a psychologically complex story narrated in a pure and transparent voice. Shields doesn't wear disguises. She is authentic and strikingly candid in her retelling of motherhood. She didn't just automatically become a disability advocate when her daughter Jessica was born, but rather - and more truthfully - Shields spent decades toiling in her own kind of special self-education, a curriculum guided by instinct and mother love. The final chapters of this memoir lift up mothers to children with disabilities, and quite frankly, The Shape of Normal celebrates anybody who has ever mothered in the margins." Laura Jean Baker, author of The Motherhood Affidavits