Former elite swimmer Kim Fairley smashed national records, competed in the Olympic Trials, was the second woman ever to receive a full scholarship for swimming at USC, and trained alongside some of the greatest swimmers of her time. But at what cost?
In her new memoir Swimming for My Life (She Writes Press, October 11, 2022), Fairley tells the riveting true story of what she—and many other elite and female swimmers—endured on their teams. From abusive coaches and workouts that stretched the limits of what the body could endure to daily weigh-ins and extreme dieting, her journey brought not only triumph but also trauma. And the trauma was not limited to the pool: at home, Fairley and her four younger siblings were often left alone to fend for themselves, without even money for food, as their neglectful and emotionally immature parents traveled the Midwest selling imported wooden ornaments from their motorhome.
A peek into the dark side of elite swimming as well as a tale of family bonds, Swimming for My Life offers a rare, up-close look at struggles that are often obscured, and how the very events that scar us most deeply can also save our lives.
Praise for Swimming for My Life
“Swimming for My Life is a memoir of a childhood riddled with events most would never speak of. Fairley’s pure, raw honesty keeps you wanting to read, page after page, as she starts to question whether she is living her dream or someone else’s.”
—Dara Torres, twelve-time Olympic medalist in Swimming and author of Gold Medal Fitness and Age is Just a Number
“Swimming for My Life gripped me from the first chapter. Kim Fairley has an important story to tell, and she tells it beautifully as well as accurately. I am impressed by her willingness to revisit her life choices, seeking to understand, not justify, her decisions. The struggles she faced in the pool barely compare to the challenges she faced out of the water, and the lessons she learned are important ones for all of us.”
—John Naber, Olympic swimming champion, broadcaster, and author of Awaken the Olympian Within
“Thank goodness there is a writer like Kim Fairley who has the skills, talent, and heart to bring us into the world of ultra-competitive sports for children. . . Pulled along by her propulsive writing style, with an eye for emotionally evocative details, you experience her plight . . . Five stars and highest praise for this page-turning book, I couldn’t put it down!”
—Lindsay C. Gibson, Psy.D. Author of Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents and Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents.
About the Author
Kim Fairley is an artist and memoirist who writes about wrestling with secrets, healing from grief, and competitive swimming during the early years of Title IX. Her three books include Swimming for My Life, releasing in the fall of 2022, and Shooting Out the Lights: A Memoir, which was a finalist in the International Book Awards Parenting & Family category and was named a Distinguished Favorite Memoir by the Independent Press Awards. After attending USC, Fairley earned an MFA in mixed media from the University of Michigan. She lives in Ann Arbor.