- Genre: Memoir
- Published by: Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book, MacMillian Audio
- Publish date: June 1, 2021
- Number of pages: 242 pages
- Author’s website: http://www.ashleycford.net/
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For as long as she could remember, Ashley has put her father on a pedestal. Despite having only vague memories of seeing him face-to-face, she believes he’s the only person in the entire world who understands her. She thinks she understands him too. He’s sensitive like her, an artist, and maybe even just as afraid of the dark. She’s certain that one day they’ll be reunited again, and she’ll finally feel complete. There are just a few problems: he’s in prison, and she doesn’t know what he did to end up there.
Through poverty, puberty, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley returns to her image of her father for hope and encouragement. She doesn’t know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates; when the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that’s where the story really begins.
Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she provides a poignant coming-of-age recollection that speaks to finding the threads between who you are and what you were born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.
Memoirs have to be one of my favorite genres to read and Ashley C. Ford tells her story and her family’s story with grace and respect for the people and places she’s writing about. At the same time, she holds a critical lens to explore her experiences in a way to both heal from and honor the memories.
Although I did not grow up in Indiana, my father’s side of the family is from Muncie (where Ball State University is located) and Gary, Indiana. Many of them still live there and pre-COVID pandemic, I visited for “Back to Muncie” where families all come back for grilling and catching up. Driving through Muncie, you can feel the impact that the closing of auto companies had. There’s a sense of abandonment and poverty. At the same time, especially during the summer, you can drive slowly through the streets with your window down honking at, nodding at, or even stopping to chat to friendly neighbors. I could picture Ford’s upbringing in Fort Wayne and found some similarities between her family and mine.
As the title implies, the heart of this story is Ford as a daughter of a woman with a lot of love and fear that manifests in ways that aren’t typical to the “mother” as popular media portrays mothers to be and a father who has been incarcerated for most of Ford’s life. Throughout, the memoir, we learn about Ford’s sexual assault, finding her voice, and exploring her sexuality. This a stunning and powerful memoir that I hope others enjoy as much as I did.
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know!