By Ashley C. Ford

My rating: 4 stars

Goodreads Rating: 4.15

Genre: Memoir

Date Published: June 1st, 2021

Format Read: Ebook

Goodreads Summary: 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. 

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Review

Somebody’s Daughter is a memoir by Ashley C. Ford about her life growing up as a poor Black girl in Indiana. The memoir is bookended by news about her father. For her entire life, Ford’s father was in jail, and in the first chapter we find out that he is getting out of prison. In the final chapter, we see her reaction to that. In the middle, we learn about her life as a child while she lived in her “mother’s home”.

This book did a fantastic job of letting the readers learn things as the author learned them in real life, without playing things up for shock appeal. This made the revelations feel more raw and honest and emotional than they would have otherwise. Every chapter was such an in depth look into Ford’s emotional state that I could not put the book down. Even when Ford was talking about the more mundane aspects of her life– for example, her relationship with her first boyfriend– the way she was able to psychoanalyze herself and get in touch with her own emotions made her story extraordinarily compelling.

Although in and of itself Ford’s story is interesting, what makes this book truly great is the honesty with which she writes. Ford is self aware enough to know this, even including passages about her being given “permission” to write the whole and honest truth. It feels like I have truly seen into her soul, and although I have never met Ford, I leave with the impression that I know her.

The way she explores her family trauma while still leaving us with mixed feelings towards her parents (the same mixed feelings that she herself feels) is impressive. I am the type of person that will read a memoir and feel strongly for/against the supporting cast of that person’s story, mostly because those are the details that the author has given us. Ford was able to give us both negative and positive details about her mother, grandmother, and father, in a way that truly delved into the complexity of each of those relationships.

At times in the middle of this book, I felt like it slowed down in weird moments, and occasional sections would become a bit dull. However, these moments were very rare, and I would always come to learn why she had done it. Whenever I had read a section I didn’t particularly love, it would come back to be relevant later and I would be grateful for the added knowledge.

Ford masterfully shared her life and trauma with all of us, and this book is a must read for anyone who enjoys memoirs.