Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  242 ratings  ·  70 reviews
“When you eat soup every night, thoughts of bread get you through.” Ghostbread makes real for us the shifting homes and unending hunger that shape the life of a girl growing up in poverty during the 1970s.One of seven children brought up by a single mother, Sonja Livingston was raised in areas of western New York that remain relatively hidden from the rest of America. From...more
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by University of Georgia Press (first published 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Too Close to the Falls by Catherine GildinerName All the Animals by Alison SmithIn Jupiter's Shadow by Gregory GerardWe, the People by Edward J IndovinaThe House With the Wraparound Porch by Mary Pat Hyland
Western New York Memoirs
4th out of 15 books — 9 voters
Buy and Hope by Randall MauroRich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. KiyosakiNot Buying It by Judith LevineNickel and Dimed by Barbara EhrenreichPersonal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson
Show Me the Money
24th out of 24 books — 3 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 805)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Barb Johnson
Writing about a deprived childhood is tricky. Too stoic, and the reader fails to engage. Too emotional and the reader smells self-pity. So the fact that Sonja Livingston is able to punch right through the shame and ache and hunger to the truth of such a childhood marks her as an emotionally smart and technically gifted writer. Livingston is even-handed in her depictions. She celebrates the good times, the strengths of her family members, and turns an observant child's eye on the hard times. For...more
Memoirs are my favorite reads, and Ghostbread is easily going to be added as a favorite! Sonja Livingston pours her heart and soul into her story of growing up during the 1970's in the Rochester, NY area. Living with her single mother and siblings, life was tough. The family was poverty-stricken and times were hard. There was always church in Sonja's life...a bright spot for her to meet friends and neighbors. It took me back to a time when you knew everyone on your block, all of the neighborhood...more
Elizabeth Osta
This book tells with eloquent prose a tale of poverty, neglect and somehow magic of childhood that brings the author to survival and ultimately success. It's evocative where it needs to be and is told with a gentle touch that makes all the more real the stunning success of survival despite crushing circumstances.
I'm not given to 5 star ratings easily. They have to be earned and this young author, Sonja Livingston, has a way of writing that simply blows me away. Her style is clear and crisp - straight to the point. Yes, Ghostbread is non-fiction, so you could say this is a memoir. But it's also short stories - a mechanism Livingston uses brilliantly to present her childhood. And let me say now this is not a whining, self-pitying attempt at catharsis. Livingston's use of language is powerful and direct. S...more
Sonja Livingston wrote a very lyrical memoir of her childhood years in this book. The style of the book has very short snippets of things that had happened in her life. This made the book read very quickly. The stories she has to tell are very interesting and telling of them truly brings everything to life in this book. I could fully imagine the times, settings, feelings, and even aromas that would be in the air. Sonja did an excellent job with her descriptions that every sense is described and...more
Bob Hesselberth
This memoir about growing up dirt poor in western New York is a haunting, beautifully written testament to the resilience of the human spirit when love and caring shape the landscape. Born into a single mother's family of seven children, most of whom had different fathers, Livingston paints a picture of her mother's inability to control her own life while struggling to keep her brood of half-brothers and half-sisters together.

In a series of good-humored, vignette-style chapters, Livingston tells...more
Living in and through poverty intruigues me. I often wonder how some of my students manage to care about what I teach when I know they are living through a hell I cannot imagine. This woman's story is so poignant because she grew up in Rochester, in a neighborhood I am familiar with and also attended the church where my kids were baptised. Although I do not know her, I find myself craving more information about her and her family. This is not is a memoir and I highly recommend it.
I heard Sonja read at AWP (she was the non-fiction winner) and it was incredible. Her story is stunning, but it's the way that she tells it, in tantalizing, terrifying bites, like some kind of sweet bookish torture, that blew me away. All that yearning and loss and beauty and horror all mixed up together....mmmm...the very best kind of writing.
My cousin, who shares the same hometown as the author, shared this special book with me. IT was heartbreaking but vivid and candid, and explored and illuminated the life of a young girl living through tough times. beautifully written short chapters that could stand alone as essays.
This book was simple, but it was moving. Some times it is difficult to see that poverty is right where you live. Or you know it is there but don't know anything about it or ignore it. It was eye-opening. Our book club liked it.
Sonja Livingston's Ghostbread bears witness to the experience of childhood poverty and seeks, in its understated epilogue, to make sense of why some may escape while others do not.

This memoir is divided up into 122 very short chapters, each able to hold its own as a bit of flash nonfiction. What I enjoy most about this memoir is the poetic grace of Livingston's phrases and descriptions. You can turn to any page, pick any random sentence, and discover something to admire. For example, Livingston...more
Aaron Poorman
I won this book through a goodreads giveaway. This is a very short autobiographical memoir by Sonja Livingston. As one of seven children Sonja knows what is to be hungry. This look at poverty is in many ways not a typical one. Sonja lived in New York - yet it isn't quite the inner-city poverty most people probably think of when the imagine being poor. Of course that ins't saying this book doesn't have value, as it clearly does. Livingston writes simply. Her sentences and chapters are direct and...more
In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

And that I am not a very excellent review-writer!

That said, I loved it. Not because I won it, but because it was...well, I still haven't been able to think of a word! It was definitely different from what I expected and not my normal reading fare, at least by style, but it was still awesome. In a way, it reminded me of The Glass Castle, but again, completely different in writing style. Hardly any chapters...more
Lisa Gricius
I don't often read memoirs, preferring an escape from past and present instead. I read reviews of ghostbread by Sonja Livingston, a local author who inscribed this poignant work of non fiction to all the girls of Rochester, Buffalo, and places in between. Growing up in Rochester, Spencerport, Brockport and currently LeRoy, I was intrigued. The author barely graduated from East High, also my Mother's alma mater. I was not only transported to places and time periods I could relate to, but also to...more
Kristina Jo
As is ever the case with memoirs, mostly I thought two things while reading this book:

1) What is the point of this person telling me all of this?
and 2) Could I write memoirs/personal essays? These are short; I write short well. I have funny stories… 'Course everyone has funny stories…

I suspect the answer to my second question is, "You could try, but good luck selling it." And to the first, "Weren't you paying any attention!?" I'm not good at reading non-fiction, especially when it's this subset...more
A moving, poetic, entirely unsentimental evocation of growing up in Western New York. Livingston's depiction of poverty and Roman Catholicism told through the eyes of an intelligent and independent young girl makes your heart ache. This memoir, divided into chapters (and as another goodreads reviewer stated, each can be read on its own) depicts growing up in the slums of Rochester, New York and on the Tonawanda Indian reservation. Amid the lack of food and security, Livingston also describes wit...more
I breathe easier too when I finally get to know more about the author's father (her single mother withheld the information about each child's father until they turn 14 years old--yes, each child has a different father). I'm cheering too and letting the light pour in when the author does indeed graduate from high school. I so appreciate all Ms Livingston's well-chosen words about how she almost chose differently. For example: "...though I'd shaken my head from side to side and tsked those girls a...more
A wonderful memoir about poverty, class, and childhood in America. I teach a chapter from this in my undergraduate CNF class, and invariably at least two students ask to borrow my copy of the book (so I just give them new copies, because I'm not giving up mine, it's too good). I recommend this readers and teachers of writing alike.
I wanted to love this AWP award-winning book and was at first entranced with the promise of an examination of a childhood of poverty in short, concise chapters that ended on a strong image, like a prose poem. But then the book failed at self-contemplation, just plodded on through the houses and people trailing in and out of the author's life, people never drawn in more than just a sketch. The book then ends with her graduation from high school and transferring to her next, more educated life. If...more
Kathy Maher
I loved this book. It was a true story about a young girl growing up in New York. A very easy read and I really enjoyed the story. Of course growing up in Albion, NY and having the town mentioned was exciting..
Viejo Caballero
I think this book was interesting I really liked it it was a little you know like you wanted to cry..!
This is one of the most devastatingly beautiful pieces of writing I've ever encountered. Livingston has mined her childhood to create a piece of creative non-fiction second to none. I run the risk of hyperbolic and effusive praise, but Sonja's narrative and structure are pitch perfect, uncannily astute, and aesthetically brilliant. Memory vignettes, poetic in nature, propel the reader along a trajectory of transcendent beauty. In an assured and quiet way the theme of growing up under the grip of...more
Homeless in Rochester! Could really connect to plight working with Habitat For Humanity Families
Maureen Stanton
This book slowly built into a powerful, lyrical story of surviving poverty. It's structures as a series of short lyrical vignettes (122 numbered "chapters"), which are like islands you hop to as you move forward. It's almost pointillist in its structure, which means that its power hits you when you stand back from it. This happened as I became more and more engaged with the writing, and later, with moments of reflection (rather than just lyrical memory-vignettes found early in the book). The sto...more
I won a copy of this book on

I really enjoyed this book. I knew within the first ten pages that I would relate well to the author. I think I liked it, partly, because it seems like the kind of work that I would/could possibly write myself. The book made me comfortable, with its series of childhood memories and descriptions pieced into a logical and meaningful order.

Refreshingly, the book jacket is fairly representative of the story. This is often not the case these days, and I appr...more
This was a firstreads book. The author was one of seven children who grew up in poverty in western New York. I really like the way Sonja Livingston tells the story. Each chapter is a memory of her childhood so the book gives us an overall feel of what it was like for her growing up. It's easy to understand why people who are born in poverty usually stay trapped in a cycle of poverty. Sonja struggles to break out of this cycle and shows that she was able to make a better life for herself despite...more
Local writer. Awesome unique style. Great story. Glimpse of a lifestyle that's all around me, yet invisible in many ways. The story of white poverty, and single women raising too many kids without fathers around. Sonja Livingston draws you into her world, like ripping off a bandage, with no apologies, no regret and with no concern for any judgment the reader might have. She was absolutely correct in believing it was a story we all need to hear and appreciate.
I was hooked from page 1. Fascinating and completely absorbing creative nonfiction. Favorite quote of the novel: "Ideals and opportunities and social theorizing are just fine, but if you must understand only one thing, it is this: a warm hand and words whispered into the ear are what we want. Paths that can be seen and followed and walked upon are what we most need. ...And in the end, the thing that feeds us, no matter how tenuous, is what we will reach for."
Caroline Alicia
i think this is nonfic.
Not what i had expected. Think I read a review that is was about hunger in america. more of an expose.
this was good though. is it wrong to use the term white trash? it's kinda the feeling you got. I mean no racism intended. I think even the author uses it a couple of times. somehow i feel as if that is not pc. i guess i'll change it for the first person who comes bitching on my review because of the use of the term.
this was a great book. it's classified non-fiction and is autobiographical. each of the 122 chapters are vignettes of the author's life growing up poor with a questionably stable mother. i chose it because of its proximity to where i live. it brings home how much pain and suffering pass our notice every day.

sonja is an excellent writer. as you read these written photographs on her life, you feel and see thru her senses.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 26 27 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Win 1 of 3 copies of Ghostbread by Sonja Livingston 1 8 Jun 25, 2010 01:27PM  
  • You Wouldn't Want to Be a Roman Gladiator! (You Wouldn't Want To)
  • After the Falls
  • Ghosts (Magic Tree House Research Guide, #20)
  • The Horizontal World: Growing Up in the Middle of Nowhere: A Memoir
  • America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell
  • Hearts on a String
  • Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir
  • Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey
  • The Character
  • Where the Dog Star Never Glows
  • I'm Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted
  • Deal With It: A Whole New Approach to Your Body, Brain and Life as a gURL
  • Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
  • Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving
  • Feather in the Storm: A Childhood Lost in Chaos
  • Here All Along
  • Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words
  • Color Blind: A Memoir
Sonja Livingston's second book of memoir, "Queen of the Fall," is forthcoming. Her award-winning memoir, "Ghostbread," was widely adopted for classroom and book club use. Her writing has earned an AWP Book Award in Nonfiction, a NYFA Fellowship, an Iowa Review Award, and a Susan Atefat Essay Prize and appears in several textbooks on writing, as well as many literary journals. She splits her time b...more
More about Sonja Livingston...
You. An Anthology of Essays Devoted to the Second Person River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“I was hers in ways that those with loyalties of convenience cannot fathom. I loved her beyond words and clothes, and yes beyond even pain. The strangest of things is the way the hungry always return to the very same hand. The hand they know. The one that cannot give.” 2 likes
More quotes…