Poem of living with dwarfism spurs Battleford author's memoir, 'That is Not Me'

Linda Nelson has achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder that causes disproportionate dwarfism. She’s written a memoir entitled That is Not Me: A Journey of Perception, that launches this Saturday afternoon, in her home community of the Battlefords.

Linda Nelson has faced surgeries, been hit by a vehicle, and faced teasing as a little person

Linda Nelson has achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder that causes disproportionate dwarfism. (Submitted)

Linda Nelson has never considered herself less capable or different from anyone else in any way that mattered. Her family expected her to learn to drive, to go to university and to start work, and so she met each milestone and kept going forward.

Nelson has achondroplasia, a bone growth disorder that causes disproportionate dwarfism.

She's written a memoir entitled That is Not Me: A Journey of Perception, that launches this Saturday afternoon, in her home community of the Battlefords.

But throughout a lifetime of growing up in Saskatchewan, the 57-year-old has faced a lot of reactions from those around her, whether it's people staring, treating her like an object to be hugged or handled, or teasing with rude comments, and what she describes as the dreaded "m-word."

I had to get out of the hole, so I had to figure a way to change.- Author Linda Nelson

"It took me a long time to figure out, 'this problem isn't my problem,'" she said of such reactions from people. "This problem is within the person and how they're reacting."

The book sprung from a moment more than a decade ago, when Nelson came across a poem she had written in her 20s. It was a tough period for her, as her friends were getting married and she was alone away from her home community.

She read the line, "Life would be different if I was not me," and was struck by how young and naive she seemed in writing it.

Linda Nelson, whose author name is LJ Nelson, has written a memoir detailing her experiences and a lifetime of growing up with achondroplasia. (Submitted photo)

"It was just a really dark time in my life that I think other people go through as well. But it's an immature view as well, thinking that life sucks because this is the way I am."

She couldn't change the fact of her height, but she saw she could change herself and her perceptions.

"I had to get out of the hole, so I had to figure a way to change," she said.

There have been setbacks, including a couple years ago when she was hit by a vehicle as a pedestrian, but she said her outlook has been to take one day at a time, and enjoy the good ones.

"All we can wish for is a good day."

A perfect world 

In the memoir, she writes about her childhood and life as a teacher, working with kids who came to see her as just their teacher, and who opened up to her about their own experiences of feeling different. 

Those who have read it have told her they found it absorbing, with others telling Nelson they couldn't put it down. Those words have been touching for her, and she describes the interest as "overwhelming."

She hopes the book will create more acceptance and understanding in society for people's differences.

"In a perfect world, for me, personally, when people quit patting me on the head. It's my little joke," she said, explaining it doesn't happen as often as it used to, but every so often, someone will still pat her head.

"When it happens, I think, the world's not perfect yet," she said with a chuckle.