Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ghostbread” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  320 Ratings  ·  84 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 a
Paperback, 248 pages
Published September 1st 2010 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.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ghostbread, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ghostbread

Christine by Stephen KingGo, Dog. Go! by P.D. EastmanThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckThe Great Gatsby by Julian CowleyA Death in the Family by James Agee
Cars on Covers
53rd out of 139 books — 52 voters
Freakonomics by Steven D. LevittOutliers by Malcolm GladwellThe Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellNickel and Dimed by Barbara EhrenreichBlink by Malcolm Gladwell
Sociology Books
189th out of 359 books — 286 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,010)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Barb Johnson
Dec 10, 2009 Barb Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 29, 2010 Missy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 09, 2011 Kelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Elizabeth Osta
Mar 13, 2015 Elizabeth Osta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 24, 2010 Kathleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non_fiction, gfr
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
Jan 10, 2016 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a painful read at times. Sonja Livingston's honest portrayal of living in poverty in the Rochester area was eye opening. After reading about her life, and the many challenges children growing up in a poverty stricken environment face, I wonder how anyone can develop the self motivation to make it out. I can't really rate this book in the usual way - did I love reading it? No, honestly, it made me uncomfortable. But sometimes being uncomfortable, and learning about life outside your own ...more
Jul 06, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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
Feb 10, 2014 Bob Hesselberth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 18, 2010 Goldie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 21, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jen Knox
Mar 21, 2010 Jen Knox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an interesting format for a memoir; it's almost a hybrid of poetry and literary nonfiction. So far, I'm rather loving it.


This is the sort of memoir I will keep on my shelf, and return to for inspiration. It's lovely.
May 09, 2011 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 16, 2016 Franny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Ghostbread" is Sonja Livingston's account of an impoverished childhood in upstate New York. Her mother gave birth to 7 children by 5 different fathers, none of whom seemed to participate in raising their offspring. Meanwhile, their mother moved from one bad living situation to another, up and down western New York, back and forth between apartments in a Rochester slum, only sporadically employed. In spite of harsh beginnings and a few stumbles, Livingston managed to pull herself out of the well ...more
Dec 14, 2009 Shelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 23, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it
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
Lisa Gricius
Mar 18, 2012 Lisa Gricius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jan 30, 2011 Basslynn9 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 02, 2011 Dnicebear rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 24, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Wells
Jan 24, 2015 Sarah Wells rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Sonja writes with clarity, detail, and depth in this memoir that follows her childhood and teenage years of poverty, hope, and longing. She does not simplify, accuse, or apologize for the truths of her childhood but delivers life in all its messy complexity of need, love, pain, and hunger.
Morgan Allison
Aug 14, 2014 Morgan Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Living in Western New York it is hard to not notice the poverty that plagues our region. Livingston's account left me thankful that my family was not a victim of such circumstances but also inspired by her ability to persevere despite her many obstacles. She writes beautifully and really brings to life the individuals and places she grew up in and around. I would highly recommend this book.
Kathy Maher
Jun 17, 2014 Kathy Maher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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..
Robert Vaughan
A brilliant cross between breath-taking memoir and poetic prose. Lyrical lines fill up short chapters that will leave your heart reeling. The author, Sonja Livingston, grew up in and around the same city as I did, Rochester, N.Y. But the slant in which her tale begins (and I did NOT want this book to end, it's that great!) is so very personally revealed. The spaces in between our lives are all connected, and although this tale might seem at times grim, there is so much love infused as well. It's ...more
May 12, 2015 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a great read. The bonus was that she is from Rochester, NY (as am I), and I read about familiar (and not so, thank god) places. Amazing story. So true: "... in the end, the thing that feeds us, no matter how tenuous, is what we will reach for.". I am grateful that what fed Sonja resulted in who she became.
Aug 12, 2014 Aliz37 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-books
Ghostbread is a wonderful memoir about a girl growing up in poverty; the essays are short, but perhaps better for it. I really did have trouble putting it down!
Viejo Caballero
Mar 24, 2014 Viejo Caballero rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this book was interesting I really liked it it was a little you know like you wanted to cry..!
Jan 22, 2012 Trent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 33 34 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Win 1 of 3 copies of Ghostbread by Sonja Livingston 1 10 Jun 25, 2010 01:27PM  
  • You Wouldn't Want to Be a Roman Gladiator! (You Wouldn't Want To)
  • America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell
  • Ghosts (Magic Tree House Research Guide, #20)
  • The Blessing: A Memoir
  • Color Blind: A Memoir
  • Raising Ourselves: A Gwitch'in Coming of Age Story from the Yukon River
  • Jim Thorpe, Original All-American
  • Almost to Freedom
  • The Character
  • Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving
  • Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein
  • After the Falls
  • If You Knew Then What I Know Now
  • Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
  • Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir
  • Dizzy
  • When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother
  • Where the Dog Star Never Glows
Sonja Livingston's essay collection, "Ladies' Night at the Dreamland," combines memory, research and imagination to provide poetic profiles of historic women. Her collection, "Queen of the Fall," weaves together strands of memory with icons from 1980s/90s pop culture, religion and mythology to consider the lives of women, while exploring beauty, fertility and longing.

Her award-winning memoir, "Gh
More about Sonja Livingston...

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.” 3 likes
More quotes…