All That Is Bitter and Sweet: A Memoir
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All That Is Bitter and Sweet: A Memoir

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  2,609 ratings  ·  407 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In 2002, award-winning film and stage actor Ashley Judd found her true calling: as a humanitarian and voice for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. After her first trip to the notorious brothels, slums, and hospices of southeast Asia, Ashley knew immediately that she wanted to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable. During her travels, A...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Heather
This book is not a page turner. It is at points very hard to read because of the sheer hopelessness Ashley encounters in her work with those struggling in third-world countries. Her book opened my eyes to the many, many women who are forced into prostitution and sex slavery. However, I would highly recommend reading it because after processing what I read I realized there is hope and Ashley is just one of the very curageous and brave people who are doing the work to make change. Also, if you com...more
Caroline
You would never know this poised, beautiful and confident person was suffering nearly all the years we have seen her perform. This book is about her suffering and her from clinical depression (for which she was treated for in a 42 day clinic) and her generous spirit to people in dire need. I think her ability to give so much fills the void or attemps to, from her chaotic experience of growing up in the shadow of her mom and sister (The Judds.)

She managed to flip her fate around through her heal...more
Renee
Ashley Judd’s memoir is actually two books in one; a memoir of her highly dysfunctional childhood growing up as a Judd (but not at all part of her mother and sister’s singer duo), and walking away from her TV and acting career to travel the world as an ambassador for PSI and NGO. Personally, I was much more interested in the latter than the former.
I read a couple of reviews that say this book has a lot of clichés and is (over) emotional however, Judd longs to bring a voice to the voiceless and s...more
Connie Faull
I'm not sure how I feel about Ashley Judd after reading this memoir. I liked her before I read it and now, I'm not sure. Although I admire and give her credit for her work with PSI and other NGOs in raising awareness of gender inequality & HIV/AIDS around the world, she did reinforce my dislike of celebrities & causes. I somehow feel that they think we're all stupid and it's up to them to enlighten us on the ills of the world. Why someone like Bono or Ashley Judd should be able to secure...more
Rose
Yes, I am reading Ashley Judd's memoir. Whatever you may think of her acting(I happen to like her), she has devoted most of her adult life to aiding the poor and disenfranchised and using her celebrity status to bring awareness to topics like AIDS, African poverty, sex trade, etc. It's a sad state of affairs when a "celebrity" like Charlie Sheen gets more press for his behavior than a celebrity like Ashley Judd gets for hers.
Denise
This exquisite mixture of a deeply personal journey and a world-sized caring for the needs of women and children living in poverty, often drowning in disease, slavery and genocide. This book is a must read. While far too many actors waste their celebrity and their treasure, Ashley Judd has flung her gifts out to the world like a raft in an unspeakable storm.
Jennifer
Ugh. I went into this liking Ashley Judd a lot - I came out much less enthused. At one point in her book, Judd tells Bobby Shriver that her vocation is to make her life an act of worship - I'm sorry to say that she has succeeded in worshiping herself. I have never read a biography that was more full of self-love than this one. She is the supreme example of a person who pursues a life of "doing good" in order to be thought a saint.

Walk away very fast.
Courtney
I am a fan of Ashley Judd as an actress and of her mother and sister's music career, so I was intrigued to read the memoir of Ashley Judd. It wasn't really what I expected at all. There is a lot more heartache and pain, more strength and giving, more prayer and grace in this woman than I had previously believed.

Judd's volunteer work with a group that helps underprivileged women and children all over the world takes up a big portion of this book, as it ought to. It has really defined much of the...more
Terry
This book is about 1/3 Ashley Judd's personal memoir and about 2/3rds a non-fiction book about third world countries and their struggles with population control, sexual and physical abuse of women, and sexually-related commerce and its dangers.

So if you're looking for a juicy, gossipy memoir, THIS IS NOT IT.

However, if you are genuinely interested in Judd's work around the world, there is a LOT of information about what she experiences and what various NGOs do, with heavy end-notes directing r...more
Bex
I rarely read memoirs, let alone ones written by current celebrities but Ashley Judd has led a fairly fascinating life.

Of course she's an actress that comes from a famous (and famously dysfunctional) family but she has also spent a great many years as a feminist activist, quietly traveling the world with NGOs and coming face to face with the poorest, most exploited people on the planet.

And this memoir balances those two lives, providing insight on the tumultuous personal life that formed her d...more
Darcie
Apr 05, 2011 Darcie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I want to start a new book group dedicated to the celebrity bio. Who's in?
Tina
Couldn't even make myself finish this book! Went into it all admiring Ashley Judd for both her talent and her philanthropic work and found myself wanting to throw the book against the wall more than a couple of times until I finally gave up completely. I found her to be pretentious and totally self-absorbed. She really seems to like to play the role of the victim as well. Most of what I read had a real poor me tone to it. Very few of us have perfect childhoods, but unless she left a bunch out, h...more
Catherine
All That Is Bitter and Sweet is several stories in one: the story of Judd's commitment to social justice work among global, at-risk populations for HIV, malaria, TB, and infant mortality; the unpacking of the story of her childhood, the details of which fuel so much of her work; and the story of her continuing recovery from abuse, co-dependency, and depression.

There's a discomfiting truth at the heart of the book, of which Judd is articulately aware - that a white, American movie star has better...more
Julie
I really wanted to like Ashley Judd. I like some of her movies and I have always thought she was so pretty. She does a lot of good work for some very worthy causes. But I don't like her, in fact I'm totally turned off by her. She seems to be one of those people that thinks her opinions are right, always, and everyone who does not agree is just ignorant. Everybody else has messed up priorities, come on people don't we all know there is severe suffering out there! I am seriously put off by her and...more
Odette
Powerful memoir about a woman walking a wounded healer path. It shows the intersection of recovering from private trauma and addressing international human rights abuses, in this case sexual trafficking, slavery, and health issues.

The way Ms. Judd connects her own depression and wounds to those of the women and children she aims to help has an equalizing effect. She doesn't try to equate her life of great privilege with their lives of huge deprivation and abuse, but she steps out of the role of...more
Kelli
This book is actually two books in one. I don't mean for that to sound as complimentary as it comes across, by the way. When i say that this is two books in one I mean that this is one book that tells a good story and one book that should have remained in Ashley Judd's head, or at least in her therapist's head.

I could not figure out what this book was supposed to be. It's kind of like "My mom is a famous superstar but as a mom she is awful. I like kittens. My entire family is dysfunctional. I li...more
Yoonmee
Eh, this book is okay. Sadly, I think I liked Ashley Judd more before I read the book than now after finishing it. By this I mean that I always thought she was an intelligent, passionate, strong woman (from my sorta home state of Kentucky, no less!). After reading this book I still think she is all those things but now I also think she's a bit of a hot mess, way too histrionic, overly sensitive, and still dealing with her pain. Then again, if I had her childhood, I'd probably be a hot mess too,...more
Elizabeth
The book is perfectly balanced. Alternating between stories of Ashley Judd's difficult work as a world ambassador and her childhood and rehab experiences, it was amazing how the two stories could be told hand in hand. Seeing the similarity of her sisters around the world is Ms. Judd's greatest gift. Holding them with compassion and sharing their stories is the best work she's ever done.

This was a difficult book to get through. Not because of the way it was written, but because it
covers such dif...more
Samineh
Ashley Judd has an incredible vocabulary so it came as no suprise that her book was well written. I felt her memoir was primarily about her activism and really shed light on the circumstances of women/children in poor countries, but it also included intimate details about her life. I really enjoyed reading it and honestly had some trouble sleeping after reading about some of her encounters. I completely empathized and found myself processing the information and pain right along with her (to me a...more
Heidi
I'm really enjoying this book. Don't judge me. I appreciate what she says about the roots of her depression being found in childhood - I can so relate to that - and how acting became a natural way to live other, more satisfying lives, if only for a time. What this book is really about, though, is her work with a nonprofit that seeks to educate women in the global South about HIV/AIDS prevention.
Lisa
I probably shouldn't mark this read considering I couldn't finish it. It jumped all over the place, especially in regard to the start of her career, and primarily spoke about her charity work. While her work is admirable, it gets boring reading about how she cuddled this group of people and snuggled that group of people, on and on. I found the tone a bit superior too.
Holyn
If you are looking for a salacious memoir which bares all the Judd family ghosts, this is NOT the book for you. If you are looking for a memoir which discusses a thoughtful search for meaning in a life whose beginnings were painful and potentially destructive, this book is for you.

Ashley Judd does discuss her family life and early childhood experiences but in a context of self-discovery, rehab, and using her life as a spiritual journey. I was most interested in her work with Population Services...more
Becca
I've disliked Ashley Judd for most of my life, probably due to internalized misogyny, but I loved this book and now I love her. It is so easy to criticize someone like Judd (or Bono, Angelina Jolie) for participating in this insane system that grants power, access, and respect to the famous regarding complicated, urgent issues like sex slavery or African debt, but ultimately they're doing the greatest possible good with their privileges in the screwily prioritized world we actually live in.

Judd...more
Abbe
Review

“All That Is Bitter and Sweet,” is, at its heart, the story of Ashley Judd’s awakening. In sharing the secrets of a childhood fraught with neglect, abuse and debilitating depression, she confronts the stigma of mental illness and celebrates the serenity that comes with the hard work of recovery. The reward is a new role on a new stage -- global advocate for HIV/AIDS sufferers. The humanitarian pursuit of social justice and gender equality is gritty work, but the people she meets in the s

...more
Juliette
Quite a few people are commenting on this book not being a celebrity tell-all type of memoir. I would argue that it is, but this celebrity is someone who is educated, self-reflective, and concerned about others. Ashley Judd is a talented actor and sibling to Wynonna Judd and daughter to Naomi Judd, and is married to race car driver Dario Franchitti.
However, the bulk of this memoir is focused on two elements: Ashley's work as a global ambassador for PSI's YouthAIDS program, and her recovery from...more
Sharon
I've always though Ashley was a beautiful, talented woman who lived in the shadow of her famous mom and sister. I was interested in finding out more about "her life" and as I read, I felt sad for her because of neglect by those who should have loved and provided for her. She was left to fend for herself a good portion of her childhood which left her suffering from depression and low-self esteem.

As she grew into a young woman, her acting career blossomed but she was also drawn to a need to reach...more
David
Desmond Tutu and Gloria Steinem gave her feedback on the draft, and she had to cancel out on the Dalai Lama for some school work during her midcareer masters program, but perhaps surprisingly it's not a name-droppy memoir. In fact, there's very little about her acting career or Hollywood. For the most part the book deals with (a) her international advocacy work (in India, Rwanda, and many other places) on behalf of sex slaves, in HIV prevention, malaria prevention, etc.; and (b) her childhood in...more
Amy
For some reason, I've always felt a kinship of sorts to Ashley Judd. I'm not really sure that I can explain it but when I'd hear her interviewed, she always reminded me a bit of myself. I've always wondered what it must like to be the daughter of Naomi Judd and the sister of Wynonna! When I heard that Ashley was coming out with a memoir, I was very intrigued to get her perspective on her life and all of the work I had heard she was doing all over the world.

Overall, her memoir tells two stories -...more
Robin
As surprised as I was to find myself reading Ashley Judd's memoir (it was immediately available at my digital library site), I was equally stunned to find myself enjoying it.

Though I've never really been a fan or her acting work, I vaguely was aware that she was an advocate for social justice, specifically women in poverty. People who spend their time resources helping those in adverse circumstances always have my respect. But, Ashley is deeply engaged in the work she does around the world to ad...more
Kat Asharya
This is one of those random reads that I pick up at the library when I'm wandering around and I want something different from my usual steez, as they say. I am neutral on Judd as an actress herself; liked some of her films, not others, so I've never really had a strong opinion on her as a celebrity in either way, so I approached the book with a sense of openmindedness and curiosity. As many people mentioned, it's rather like two books in one: a memoir of a childhood full of neglect and how it re...more
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Ashley Tyler Judd, nee Ciminella, is an at least 8th generation Eastern Kentuckian. She currently resides on a farm in rural middle Tennessee and maintains close kinship and cultural ties with Appalachia.

A celebrated and acclaimed actor, she has starred in 20 films, both box office hits and independent treasures, and on Broadway. Titles include, Ruby in Paradise, her debut, which won the Sundance...more
More about Ashley Judd...
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“My vocation is to make my life an act of worship” 7 likes
“I recall looking out the window at Redbuds,Dogwoods, daffodils, irises and pom-pom bushes, knowing exactly what Heaven must look like: a spring day in Kentucky.” 7 likes
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