Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir

by Ashley C. Ford

Hardcover, 2021




Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book (2021), Edition: First Edition, 224 pages


"One of the most prominent voices of her generation debuts with an extraordinarily powerful memoir: the story of a childhood defined by the ever looming absence of her incarcerated father and the path we must take to both honor and overcome our origins. 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. "Ashley Ford's prose is glass-so clear, sharp and smooth that the reader sees, in vivid focus, her complicated childhood, brilliant mind, and golden heart. The gravity and urgency of Somebody's Daughter anchored me to my chair and slowed my heartbeat-like no book has since Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Ashley Ford is a writer for the ages, and Somebody's Daughter will be a book of the year." -- Glennon Doyle, author of #1 New York Times bestseller Untamed and founder of Together Rising"--… (more)


½ (113 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Beth.Clarke
Ashley Ford's memoir is honest, heartbreaking, and written in such a way that the reader completely understands what she went through. Her life was not an easy one, but this story goes way beyond her pain. She shows us the blessings in her life as well. I read some of it, but mostly listened to the
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audio which is read by the author. It's fantastic.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
This is one of the finest, cut-to-the-bone memoirs you'll ever read and cherish. The author has truths to share with her family and with readers that seem almost too intimate to disclose. With a father in prison for violent crimes, Ashley is brought up by her stressed out and frequently angry mom
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but is surrounded by love for her siblings and her grandmother, who has strict standards but also overwhelming love for her favorite. The sense of fear and mistrust instilled by her mother is brought to life when she is assaulted at age 12 by a boyfriend, and the inner torment threatens to overwhelm her until she visits a local college and finds the strength to overcome all her obstacles, both self-created and societal, to leave her family and attend. But she's not out of the woods yet - there's still family issues and lack of confidence to defeat. Ashley's charged relationships with her present mother and her absent father are analyzed in painful depth, and it was gratifying to see her thanking them both in the acknowledgements. This is an enjoyable, complex, yet fully relatable autobiography. It’s in my top five reads for 2021.

Quotes: “The easiest way for a child to lose their seat at the adult table is to speak. Grownups seemed lighter at night, like their feet might hover an inch or two above the ground as soon as the sun went down. The later it got, the higher they flew. As good as I was at being invisible, there was nothing I liked better than being spoken to like an adult.”

“It doesn’t taken long for children to teach themselves not to want what they’ve already learned they won’t have.”
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LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
Unlike many memoirs today, Ford actually takes us through her whole life up until now with vulnerability and braver.
LibraryThing member bell7
Ashley recounts her experiences growing up in Indiana, and her relationship with her mother, grandmother, and incarcerated father.

This memoir has been getting a lot of press lately, where much of the focus is on the fact that her father was incarcerated. But... it's really so much more. It's about
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her relationships with family members that she loves but that are imperfect. Her mother was often angry, and Ashley was often afraid of being "bad". Her grandmother wanted to be her confidante but also could be critical. And her father was largely absent, in jail for reasons Ashley didn't know until she was a teenager. It's also about memories - those we want to forget and those we want to imprint indelibly. And it's all wrapped up in lyrical writing that was an absolute pleasure to read.
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LibraryThing member banjo123
These days it seems like young authors are writing memoir, instead of autobiographical first novels. I think that's good; being willing to be open and vulnerable about their own truths, instead of using fiction as a bit of a shield. (But it does lead to less involved plotting. )

This memoir tells
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about Ford's growing up, her relationships with extended family in Indiana, including a difficult relationship with her difficult mother, and the way that her father's absence (as he was in prison) shaped her childhood. She is an engaging writer, and I enjoyed the book. She is articulate about the ways that race and gender impacted her; and about her struggle to value herself.
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LibraryThing member Iira
An engaging autobiography, or more of a coming of age story, read by the author. Ford tells a story that is not perhaps a rare one, but definitely gripping. The way she describes her mother and the relationship between the two is heartbreaking. She gives a spot-on description of a child's
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perspective to an angry adult, and later on, as she grows older, we see Ford moving away from her mother both physically and mentally. I found the first half most gripping, but an interesting read through and through.
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LibraryThing member AngelaLam
Good, solid memoir about identity, family, and finding your way.
LibraryThing member Narshkite
I'll start with what is good. Ford is a very good writer. Her prose is natural and spare without being sloppy or terse. I particularly liked her dialogue which had a familiar and authentic flow. Lots of memoirists do this poorly, obviously there is no transcript, dialogue is recovered from scraps
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of memory and a feel for how people talk. Often memoirists fall down on the second part of that equation. but not Ford. Perhaps equally important, Ford is brutally honest. She has worked through some very complicated life experiences and is the product of some very complicated relationships. In recounting all of those I never doubted the truth of those experiences and relationships. I knew Ford believed she was baring her soul. Again, for me that is unusual even in memoirs and autofiction I have loved. Finally, there are many books I treasure with characters I don't like, but who are interesting so usually I don't talk in my reviews about liking the characters (or this case the storyteller) but I liked the Ashley Ford I met this this book. I do not actually know her, and so I can't say if I would be interested in better knowing the non-curated version of Ashley, but I think I probably would. She has taken an early life that lacked consistency in every possible way and built a life filled with committed friends, a loving and supportive partner, exciting experiences, good work, and professional respect. (In my mind consistency - which is not to say foolish consistency- is one of the most important parts of being a good parent. If children cannot identify what responses from parents behaviors are likely to yield they never learn to trust, or to build relationships. They just learn to resign themselves to constant uncertainty and that yields anxiety and fear and some other really crummy results. Ford seems to have mostly avoided that fate.)

Now on to the less good stuff. This book is not at all the book it is advertised as being. I get that the publisher might be to blame for this, but it still impacted my enjoyment. This is not about growing up with a father in prison or about how the mass-incarceration of Black men dangerously damaged the family structure for many Black Americans, especially those who are economically insecure. That is the book I expected to read based on the description. Ford did grow up with a father in prison and his absence appears to have had a mostly negative impact on her, but we don't learn much about that. Viewed from 10,000 feet one could say that the prison pipeline is what led to a one-income household led by a woman with little education and consequently limited earning potential, and that the stress brought on but that aloneness and financial strain made Ford's mother and grandmother the way they were. Again from a distance, you could say that her father's absence led Ford to look for male approval in unhealthy ways. And you can even argue that the bad men Ford's mother invited into her and her children's lives would have been rejected rather than embraced if non-incarcerated men were not so thin on the ground. You could say all that, but I think its a gross oversimplification and it would require you to assume facts Ford did not put into evidence. I can be imperious at times, but even I am not willing to substitute my assumptions for someone's truth. Ford's father raped two women, he would have and should have been in prison even if the US justice system was not a racist juggernaut in cahoots with the prison industrial complex. Ford could have addressed why she was nearly entirely out of communication with her father for 13 years despite having nothing but good memories of being with him, even on an early prison visit. That would have told me a lot. Ford never addresses her feelings about learning her father was a convicted rapist, though given her life experience there must be a lot of feelings. That discussion would have made such a difference here! Most of this book is about Ford's relationship with her mother and a good deal of the rest about her relationship with her grandmother. There are elements of those relationships which are fascinating and troubling, but they are rarely instructive or more broadly meaningful because Ford does nothing to help the reader know her mother and grandmother other than sharing who those women are in relation to her. Also, Ford doesn't tell us a lot about herself. She makes some terrible decisions, and most of her good decisions seem to be made only with the prodding of concerned and compassionate friends, teachers and mentors. I don't think Ford knows why she only makes bad decisions unless forced to do better. She is young, and some things that happened to her are tragic, but just recounting those things without analyzing the players and why they did what they did is just someone's diary, it is not a memoir. Ford is often sad or scared or anxious for reasons we can guess at, but they aren't educated guesses because Ford doesn't educate us.

There is a lot good here, we get access to the facts, but this is like watching the dailies on a movie shoot. All the stuff that gives us necessary context, character development, and a POV (so the skeleton upon which the storytelling must be placed) is not here.
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LibraryThing member Onnaday
Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl in Indiana with a family fragmented by incarceration, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she embarks on a powerful journey to find the threads between
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who she is and what she was born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.

Her memoir is about finding love, freedom, and finding herself. At times I thought it fell flat and contrite. Although it chronicles Ford’s complicated upbringing in Indiana, living in poverty with an emotionally unstable mother and incarcerated father, she seems to withhold some deeply revealing truths. Your looking into her journey from childhood into adolescence, and your witness to her romantic relationships that goes awry. Ford’s ex assaults her. She suffers in silence, opting to keep the truth from her family. But when Ford’s grandmother reveals the truth about her father, Ford has questions, however these questions from Ford or the reader are never answered. What was the relationship like between her parents before his incarceration? What are the details behind her father's incarceration? What was the perspective from her brother, RC? When did she discover her identity as queer?

Ford’s journey of self discovery is candid, inquisitive, and vulnerable, I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. This gave me a more dramatic effect and I highly recommend it. Her honesty is commendable, Ford certainly writes well, and her experiences are a testimony to her strength of character and will. but my expectations were that this would be more about her father. I felt the author tells a series of memories without any punch. Perhaps my head wasn’t in the right place after reading Tarana Burke’s memoir, “Unbound.”

This is a great read for a book club.
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LibraryThing member mcelhra
I first heard of Ashley Ford’s book when John Green featured it as one of his two favorite books of 2021. (The other was How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith.) Since I am the ultimate John Green fangirl, I put Somebody’s Daughter on my TBR list.

Ashley’s dad went to prison when she was very
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young and so she and her brother were raised by just her mother. Her mother was a volatile, abusive person, which made Ashley an anxious child with low self-esteem. In her search for unconditional love, she ends up dating a boy who turns out to be a horrible person. In addition, her mother ends up marrying a guy who is a complete jerk, to say the least and is not nice to Ashely either.

Listening to Ashely read her memoir was heartbreaking. She had no safe space as a child and kept going by imagining that if only her father wasn’t in prison, he would be her safe space and her life would be different. But one day her grandmother tells her the truth about what her father did to end up in prison and Ashley realizes this is probably not the case.

It’s amazing that Ashley persevered and is successful now. She figured out how to get into college and live on her own with almost no help. She’s impressively self-aware now and able to see clearly how the events of her childhood affected her psyche. Her writing is beautiful, even if what she wrote about is distressing. I’m very glad I chose to listen to this audiobook.
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LibraryThing member bookworm12
Ford’s deeply honest and intimate memoir is beautifully written. She had a rough childhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but never lost her passion for life. From abuse to a father in prison, her journey hasn’t been easy. I personally loved all the references to my home state and my alma mater, Ball
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State University.
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LibraryThing member Andy5185
Excellent. It doesn’t get any better than this. Ashley C. Ford’s voice is very much her own and still I felt I related to her feelings so many times despite having very different backgrounds. Some of the best writing I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommend.
LibraryThing member BibliophageOnCoffee
Ashley Ford's ability to forgive and grow is admirable.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

224 p.; 9.53 inches


1250305977 / 9781250305978

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