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Local Paralympic medalist pens children's book

Jessica Long
Posted at 4:27 PM, Oct 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-05 18:22:32-04

BALTIMORE — Jessica Long is a 29-time Paralympic medalist and one of the winningest female athletes in U.S. history. But growing up, she always knew that people looked at her differently, as "The Girl With No Legs."

Now the prominent swimmer, who grew up in Middle River, has a new project, and hopes to inspire the next generation of champions.

"The Mermaid With No Tail" is Jessica's new children's book. It came out last week and recreates Jessica's life story through the tale of a unique mermaid.

I really wanted to teach kids that the thing that made them different is their gift, their superpower. And, growing up without my legs, I didn't really see many people that looked like me. It wasn't until the Paralympics that I saw athletes and younger people that looked like me.

The mermaid's name is Tatiana, which was Jessica's given name when she was born in Russia; she was adopted from an orphanage at 13 months. The mermaid was found in a clamshell and found by two turtles, who can't swim fast - similar to her parents, who didn't know anything about swimming and never swam. The mermaid also learns to swim with her arms, just like Jessica.

"She can't swim with the other mermaids, and even at a point she was bullied. And thankfully, I was homeschooled and I never really ever encountered too much bullying, but i always knew that people looked at me differently because I was missing legs, right? I was the girl with no legs," she said.

She said her dad came up with the idea of a children's book, and the story even features a swim coach named Phelpsy, in a nod to Michael Phelps.

"I swam with Michael a little bit, back before the Rio Olympics and Paralympics," she explained.

Now Jessica is touring to promote the book. She will be at the White Marsh Barnes & Noble at 11 a.m. Oct. 7. For more information, visitJessicaLong.com .