Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story” as Want to Read:
The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  909 ratings  ·  148 reviews
"I Love You Better Than I Love Life..."

...Donald Thornton told his six daughters. "But I'm not always gonna be around to look after you, and no man's gonna come along and offer to take care of you because you ain't light-skinned. That's why you gotta be able to look after yourselves. And for that you gotta be smart."
The Ditchdigger's Daughters is an inspiring portrait by
...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Dafina (first published April 1st 1995)
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 The Ditchdigger's Daughters, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Ditchdigger's Daughters

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.15  · 
Rating details
 ·  909 ratings  ·  148 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story
D.G.
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever want to give up, please read this book. After reading what this family accomplished after suffering both racial and gender discrimination most of their lives, I know I will be thinking of them anytime I want to complain or feel like I quit without trying.

The story reads quickly and is both touching and engaging. I agree with other reviewers that the first part when the family was together and Mr. Thornton was at the realm - was more interesting but I liked how Dr. Thornton talked
...more
Jessica
Okay. This is tricky to review. The story is astounding: a black ditchdigger has a goal of all 5 of his daugthers becoming doctors--in the 1950s. Yvonne and her father are amazing people, who deserve a lot of credit for what they did in their lives and are exemplary in lots of ways.

However--I really had a problem with the father's SUPER controlling methods. Sometimes I was disturbed as Yvonne praises his parenting techniques and behaviors that seem damaging to me, in lots of ways. I kept
...more
Nandi Crawford
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all pursuing their own dreams.
Recommended to Nandi by: saw the book in the store and bought it;
I got to read this book some years back and it was one of the most inspiring books I have read in some time. I wish I had kept it because I probably would have gone the distance now. Nevertheless, it's about a regular laborer who had six daughters, no boys in the plan whatsoever. Yet, he would tell his coworkers that though he wished he had a boy, he still wanted the best for his daughters and told them that they ALL would be doctors. They didn't believe him, but astonishingly, they all became ...more
Crystal Starr Light
I read this as a young girl, and I loved it. I loved how the dad wanted so badly for something better for his daughters. I loved how the girls worked together to get themselves through college. And I love how in the end, each daughter found her passion - whether or not it was being a doctor.
Molly Gickling
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved everything about this book . . .it was so well written and inspirational! It was amazing to read how much strength and determination the family had. . . Loved it!
Patty
Always enter a room with your head up. Right away that tells people you're your own person. If your head is down, that lets people feel they can do anything they want with you. When you talk to somebody, white or colored, always look him straight in the eye. First of all, it's honesty. Second, he knows he can beat up on you if you don't make eye contact.

It is hard to know exactly who the main character of this book is. Thornton says she is telling the story of her whole family. The personality
...more
Darcie
Mar 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read about the life of an uneducated, yet overly determined black man, and his dreams for his five daughters. Though I didn't always agree with his parenting strategies, and didn't always agree with the views of the Yvonne (one of the daughters and author of the book), their story is a great tribute to the power of hard work, education and the success that follows. There were so many great one-liners in this book, I wish I'd read with a highlighter. Some favorites... "once you've got ...more
Elizabeth
Jun 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspirational! Exceptional! I had the privilege of hearing this author speak at a recent conference. It is an amazing story of how this woman and her sister's made it from the projects of Long Branch, NJ to medical doctor through the determination of their dad - the ditch digger. It gives me a renewed renewed for physicians particularly many of those that I work with.

I highly recommend this book.
serena
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Not particularly well-written, but what a message.
Ashley-Dior Thomas
Loved this book! Father was a hard working man who had his daughters's interest at hand.
Christina
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young adults
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kirstin
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
after a few pages in i had to grab my highlighter because there were so many little sayings that i didn't want to forget (i.e. "the only time it makes any sense to get pregnant is when you can tell yourself thet if you died the next day, you've already done most everything you wanted to do" p. 42; I owe you three hots and a cot" p. 44; "when what you got goin' inside your head, that's something nobody can take away from you" p. 35; "pick out a rabbit" p. 19; "never ask of a person what you can't ...more
Shanda
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this book. Well written with so many anecdotes and inspirational quotes that can apply to my life. Donald Thornton was a special man, blessed with an innate sense of wisdom that came true time and again. Some of my favorites:

*Do it with enthusiasm instead of whining. Nothin's gonna come from whining
*You waste more time dreading. Whatever ever happens, happens. Just go ahead and do it.
*Get the job done.
*Everybody says it can't be done until somebody goes ahead and does it.
*There
...more
Laurie
Dec 14, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part memoir, part biography of her father and mother, The Ditchdigger's Daughters is the true story of a black family and their struggle for success. I read Yvonne Thornton's books backwards. A few months ago I read her second memoir, all about her struggles as a black woman in the medical field. In that book she referenced The Ditchdigger's Daughters, and I knew I should probably read that to get the whole story of how Yvonne became Dr. Thornton. It's an interesting story about two parents, ...more
Kristen
I would give the first half of the book four stars and the last half three.

This is the true story of a black couple who didn't have an education beyond high school but saw the value in it and were determined that their 5 daughters were going to be doctors. Their father is strict and controlling, but likable and repeated some of the best edicts I've had the pleasure to read. I fluctuated between liking the parenting style and cringing at some of the ways he wouldn't let his daughters have a
...more
Arni Vidar Bjorgvinsson
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle, audio, amazon
This book chronicles the lives of the Thornton family, a black family living in a transitional time in US history. It is very interesting and obviously focuses a lot on racial integration and the monumental issues that black people had to face at the time, but it's not preachy or overbearing in the telling. Just the simple facts of life at the time. As a story, therefore, I really enjoyed it.

The reading, however... well, it's not good, let's put it like that.
Not only does the narrator seem to
...more
Luann
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was another (audio) book I just happened upon as I was searching for drive time listening. I appreciate most books that entertain or educate me. This memoir did both. I learned a bit about black family culture that was new to me. I was entertained by the questions it provoked. I will admit that I had some difficulty slugging through the author's description of her wedding and all the preparation leading up to it. It felt a bit like an ego trip for the author to describe such and elaborate ...more
Susan
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love to sprinkle a variety of books among my usual fiction...some non-fiction and fiction about other cultures is one of my digressions. I thank my friend Char for rating this book 5 stars and leading me to this black non-fiction fabulous book. I wish I had read this before my daughter was born...there is so much wisdom about parenting and families in this story of a family of girls raised to work hard, have fun together and strive for success. WOW! But even if you have no kids to raise it is ...more
Tina
Apr 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I keep going back and forth between 4 and 3 1/2 stars. I loved the first 3/4ths of the story the most. There are many great bits of wisdom from her dad that I want to re-read. I only wished that she could have related the story of her own marriage and having children with the same depth that the rest of the story seemed to have. All of the things that I thought should have been most gratifying in her life, like marriage and motherhood, seemed to be skimmed over and rushed through as she ...more
Renee
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yvonne Thornton herself objected to the subtitle. I was uncertain about the phrasing too. However, I came to learn that the barriers to success were astonishing. This included barriers such as white supremacists, legalized racism, the cost of schooling, and distractions from career goals. Yvonne and her sisters were in a band called the Thornton Sisters in order to earn money for medical school. During that long journey for Yvonne Thornton to become an OBGYN, she describes her father's many ...more
Courtney Smith
I loved this story! It was an interesting read about an amazing family. This true story was engaging and kept me turning pages. The father was the heart and soul of this family. I don't know how he could have held down a minimum of two 8-hour jobs while building a house, being a father, and managing/traveling with the family band. He is amazing! What a good example of work ethic. I did find him to be controlling and sometimes almost mean, though. He raised amazing and successful women in his ...more
andthenjennsays
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this incredible story of crazy amounts of struggles and obstacles being thrown every which way and then to see someone navigate through it all and then succeed.... Man do I fee like a complete whiny soiled little sh*t. But honestly, puts everything into perspective and makes me want to work that much harder to come out on top because if she can move mountains in here world, I should at least be able to wake up on time to get to work, I mean sheesh. Amazing book and very ...more
Linda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hiker04
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is an inspirational book demonstrating the value of perserverance in pursuing one's dream. The story needs to be read through the lens of the times of the 1950's and the lack of civil rights not only for people of color but women as well. Dr. Thorton's father was no helicopter parent. Although at times he could be considered abusive, his goal for his girls was for them all to become doctors. He worked hard to provide opportunities for his daughters. They, in turn, worked equally hard to ...more
Theresa
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this book 4 1/2 stars.
Interesting read about the life of an uneducated, yet overly determined black man, and his dreams for his five daughters. Their story is a great tribute to the power of hard work, education and the success that follows. There were so many great one-liners in this book, I wish I'd read with a highlighter.
What an amazing story. Mr. Thornton taught his girls some great life lessons. Not only did I lean a lot from this book, but it was really entertaining
...more
Chris
May 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful story of a black family's amazing success as their father, a ditchdigger who worked two jobs, inspired his six daughters to value education, discipline themselves to study hard and learn effectively, and to set high academic goals and then work to achieve them. Several of his daughters are now physicians or have Ph.D.s and each of them has admirable moral and family values which began with a father and mother who inspired them to live good lives and to serve others well.
Rev. Linda
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author of this book, Yvonne S. Thornton, presents an inspiring daughter of her Dad and Mom, who dreamed that his six daughters would become doctors, despite facing the challenges of being black, female, and coming from working class roots.The descriptions of their parenting wisdom and vigilance to ensure that the daughters excelled in their education painted a portrait of love that illustrated drams can be achieved when a family pulls together. This is a feel-good read.
Tiffany
Feb 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is one of my favorite books, ever. It is an incredibly inspiring autobiography of a black woman who became a doctor despite incredible odds (I think in the 60's or 70's). Her father did not finish high school; her mother went to college but wasn't able to finish since they wouldn't let her continue work-study her senior year. If you are trying to accomplish something that seems out of your grasp, read this book, and be inspired :)
Mary Fahnlander
Apr 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Mary by: MPR
Heard the author on MPR. An amazing story of her father who had definite goals for his family and worked amazingly hard to accomplish them in spite of the racial prejudice of that period, not much education, and certainly not a model home life in his own childhood.
Not really a guide to best practices in child rearing in my mind but this man's daughters are all very successful and I think happy.
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect book title 3 13 Jul 27, 2019 09:03AM  
General Discussion concerning reality/entertainment 2 2 Mar 14, 2019 10:56AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves
  • Get Rich, Lucky Bitch: Release Your Money Blocks and Live a First Class Life
  • Knockout (House Arrest, #2)
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
  • Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations
  • Your House Will Pay
  • The Adventures of Bentley Hippo: Inspiring Children to Share
  • What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Idlewild, #1)
  • Huddle With Me Tonight (New York Sabers Football, #1)
  • Back Talk
  • 79 Short Essays on Design
  • Pretty Face (London Celebrities, #2)
  • Dragons Love Tacos (2 Book Series)
  • Grumpy Monkey
  • Syncopation (Twisted Wishes, #1)
  • Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America's National Parks
  • Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
  • The Shortest Day
See similar books…
DR. THORNTON is a national bestselling author and a double-Board certified specialist in obstetrics, gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine and is the former Vice Chair of the Department of OB/GYN at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in New York City. She is now a consultant in perinatology.

Dr. Thornton is the first black woman in the United States to be Board-certified in High-Risk Obstetrics.

She
...more

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our list,...
30 likes · 20 comments
“Always enter a room with your head up. Right away that tells people you're your own person. If your head is down, that lets people feel they can do anything they want with you. When you talk to somebody, white or colored, always look him straight in the eye. First of all, it's honesty. Second, he knows he can beat up on you if you don't make eye contact.” 6 likes
“One morning Jeanette, bucking Daddy on some point, hit on the argument probably every child in the world has used against his or her parents: 'I didn't ask to be born'.
Daddy had an answer for it. 'I know you didn't ask to be born, honey, and as your father responsible for gettin' you into the world, I owe you something'. I owe you three hots and a cots, which is to say, I owe you three meals a day and a place to sleep. That's what I'm obliged for, and that's what I'm lookin' to see you get.' He nodded several times, overcome by the seriousness of this obligation, then leaned back in his chair with a curl to his mouth like a villain's mustache. ''Course, nobody says the meals has got to be chicken. S'pose I just give you bread and water? An' s'pose I let you sleep on the floor'?
'No, Daddy'!
'That's all I'm obliged for, honey. Everything else is gratis. Everything else I do for you is 'cause I want to, not 'cause I have to'.
For days afterward, because Daddy had a tenacious mind of the sort that doesn't easily turn loose one idea and go on to another, he would set a plate in front of Jeanette with, 'See, I ain't obliged to give you this. I could give you bread and water and soup with just a little bit of fat floatin' in it, just to keep you alive. That's all I'm asked to give you. But you get more, right? You get this nice plateful, and I imagine when it comes to dessert, you'll have some of that, will you? All right, dessert, and all the other good stuff. But just remember, the good stuff I do for you is because I want to, because I'm your daddy and I love you and I want to, not because I have to'.
The subtext to this was that it was not enough for us, the children, to behave in minimal ways either, that filial respect and dutifulness might be all that was basically required of us, but the good stuff, like doing well in school and sticking together as a family and paying attention to what Mommy and Daddy were trying to each us, we would do because we loved them and wanted them to love us.”
4 likes
More quotes…