Reviews for Somebody's Daughter

by Ashley C. Ford

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Popular blogger and podcaster Ford presents an affecting, no-holds-barred memoir. As a child, Ford knew her father was in prison, but sporadic visits and communications preserved him only as a gauzy presence in aging photos. “In the picture, we are frozen this way together, happy, sad, and afraid all at the same time. In the grass, where I made the memory I wanted to keep, we all dance out of the prison doors together, one family, with joy in our smiles and eyes.” Growing up with a distracted, frequently neglectful mother and her abusive boyfriends and “family friends,” Ford dreams about the perfect protective father, who will listen, understand, and validate her worth as his “favorite girl.” When she learns the reason for his incarceration and that he will soon be released, Ford must confront her fantasies and decide if she is willing to accept her father as he truly is. As she comes of age, she wrestles with grief, self-doubt, body image, and troubled relationships, eventually realizing that she deserves happiness, safety, and love. A remarkable debut.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A potent coming-of-age memoir from a popular podcaster and BuzzFeed host. Growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with an incarcerated father and a dangerously overburdened mother forced the author to develop effective pain management skills. In a book that shares a similar spirit with Tara Westover’s Educated, Ford tells the story of uniquely difficult circumstances with profound insight and detail about the tumults of childhood. “I seemed to have infinite patience for children,” she writes. “Unlike some adults, I never quit remembering what it was like to be one. Their small plights were familiar to me, as were their big feelings.” Readers may also see a connection to Tayari Jones' novel An American Marriage (2018), as both deal with the effect of a long prison sentence on a Black family, albeit from different angles. Ford begins her memoir with a letter from her father that reads, in part, "Ashley, don't take this the wrong way but come next year, I will have been incarcerated for twenty years, which means the letter that you wrote me was the first letter that you have written me in almost twenty years." In the next chapter, a few years later, the author learns that her father is getting out of prison. Because she was so young when he was incarcerated, her feelings about him were based mainly on the adoring letters she received over the years. Her father's unshakeable belief in her became her inner refuge from the tension, rage, and violence that dogged her childhood. As a child, she did not know what his crime was—and neither will readers for many chapters. Ford creates fully three-dimensional portraits of her mother, grandmother, and other key players, using a child's-eye view to show us their failings and the calculations, negotiations, and survival tactics she developed in response to them. Sure to be one of the best memoirs of 2021. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
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Journalist Ford debuts with a blistering yet tender account of growing up with an incarcerated father. She retraces her childhood in 1990s Fort Wayne, Ind., where she lived in a family anchored by her weary mother, whose anger bubbled over frequently, and a judgmental but loving grandmother. Felt throughout is the shadowy presence of her father, who was serving a 24-year sentence for rape. The moving narrative unfolds with tales of childhood misadventures with her younger brother, frequent library visits, and days spent anywhere but home: “I told myself being away was the only way we were going to make it out.” Ford writes vividly of having to weather her mother’s rage (which “drained the light from her eyes”) and rotating cast of boyfriends, while navigating her own sense of shame and abandonment as a teenager fighting to be “loved ferociously and completely” in a series of painful relationships. Though she rarely visited her father in prison, he wrote to her often, and “his letters were clues to where I’d come from.” When they finally reconnected before his release, Ford describes their tearful reunion and reconciliation with devastating clarity. “Somewhere, in the center of it all, was my father’s favorite girl.” This remarkable, heart-wrenching story of loss, hardship, and self-acceptance astounds. (June)


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Ford (host of the podcasts The Chronicles of Now and Lovecraft Country Radio) creates a tender portrait of her fractured family, which was impacted by her father's incarceration during her childhood. Ford was raised by a single mother in Indiana, with the intermittent and jarring presence of her mother's abusive boyfriend; she craved a protective paternal presence that never materialized. Ford recounts experiences in early adolescence that exemplify the ways in which Black girls have been sexualized at a young age; she was often left feeling preyed upon and vulnerable. She was raped by her first boyfriend at the age of 13 and kept silent about the assault, swallowing the pain and seeking sanctuary and affirmation from her teachers at school. When Ford learns that her father is himself in prison on rape charges, her conflicted feelings leave her reeling and confused. She does not excuse her father's crime, but refuses to give up on him. When she eventually visits him, after years of avoiding contact, the reunion is poignant and heartbreaking. Her father's pride in her and regret for missing so much of her life is palpable. VERDICT Moving testimony about the effect of incarceration on the lives of the children and families who live in its shadow. Ford's writing sets itself apart.—Barrie Olmstead, Lewiston P.L., ID


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Popular blogger and podcaster Ford presents an affecting, no-holds-barred memoir. As a child, Ford knew her father was in prison, but sporadic visits and communications preserved him only as a gauzy presence in aging photos. “In the picture, we are frozen this way together, happy, sad, and afraid all at the same time. In the grass, where I made the memory I wanted to keep, we all dance out of the prison doors together, one family, with joy in our smiles and eyes.” Growing up with a distracted, frequently neglectful mother and her abusive boyfriends and “family friends,” Ford dreams about the perfect protective father, who will listen, understand, and validate her worth as his “favorite girl.” When she learns the reason for his incarceration and that he will soon be released, Ford must confront her fantasies and decide if she is willing to accept her father as he truly is. As she comes of age, she wrestles with grief, self-doubt, body image, and troubled relationships, eventually realizing that she deserves happiness, safety, and love. A remarkable debut.

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