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Victoria Freeman was only four when her parents followed medical advice and sent her sister away to a distant, overcrowded institution. Martha was not yet two, but in 1960s Ontario there was little community acceptance or support for raising children with intellectual disabilities at home.
In this frank and moving memoir, Victoria describes growing up in a world that excluded and dehumanized her sister. She writes too of her own journey to understand the policies and assumptions about disability that profoundly affected her entire family. Despite society’s long insistence that that only a “normal” life was worth living, changing attitudes to both disability and difference would eventually offer both sisters new possibilities for healing and self-discovery.
A World Without Martha documents the collateral damage of institutionalization on families, as well as the ties, both traumatic and loving, that bind family members to one another over the course of a lifetime.