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Somebody's Daughter

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One of the most prominent voices of her generation debuts with an extraordinarily powerful memoir: the story of a childhood defined by the ever looming absence of her incarcerated father and the path we must take to both honor and overcome our origins.

For as long as she could remember, Ashley has put her father on a pedestal. Despite having only vague memories of seeing him face-to-face, she believes he's the only person in the entire world who understands her. She thinks she understands him too. He's sensitive like her, an artist, and maybe even just as afraid of the dark. She's certain that one day they'll be reunited again, and she'll finally feel complete. There are just a few problems: he's in prison, and she doesn't know what he did to end up there.

Through poverty, puberty, and a fraught relationship with her mother, Ashley returns to her image of her father for hope and encouragement. She doesn't know how to deal with the incessant worries that keep her up at night, or how to handle the changes in her body that draw unwanted attention from men. In her search for unconditional love, Ashley begins dating a boy her mother hates; when the relationship turns sour, he assaults her. Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that's where the story really begins.

Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she provides a poignant coming-of-age recollection that speaks to finding the threads between who you are and what you were born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 2021

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About the author

Ashley C. Ford

4 books1,252 followers
Ashley C. Ford lives in Brooklyn by way of Indiana. She is currently writing her memoir, Somebody's Daughter, which will be published by Flatiron Books under the imprint An Oprah Book. Ford currently hosts PROFILE by BuzzFeed News, and is the former host of Brooklyn-based news & culture TV show (and podcast!), 112BK. She is also working on a collection of interviews (B-Side Chats) with her husband, Kelly Stacy.

Ford has written or guest-edited for The Guardian, ELLE, BuzzFeed, OUT Magazine, Slate, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, Lenny Letter, INTO and various other web and print publications. She's taught creative nonfiction writing at The New School and Catapult.Co, and also had her work listed among Longform & Longread's Best of 2017. She also contributed to CupOfJo.Com & hosted Fortune Favors The Bold, a collaboration between Gimlet Creative and Mastercard.

While working as a development executive for Matter Studios, Ford focused on web series and documentaries. She was also the host of the first season of Audible.Com's literary interview series, Authorized. She has been named among Forbes Magazine's 30 Under 30 in Media (2017), Brooklyn Magazine's Brooklyn 100 (2016), and Time Out New York's New Yorkers of The Year (2017).

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5 stars
18,439 (33%)
4 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,094 reviews
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 120 books154k followers
May 24, 2021
I've known Ashley for a long time and it has been wonderful to watch her career evolve. Her debut memoir is sublime. It is beautifully written, searingly honest, and deeply affecting. There is a real grace with which she writes about the people in her life and those who have harmed her. Her ability to see people for who they are without looking away is powerful. There are passages throughout this memoir that are simply perfect and I do not say that lightly. I found myself holding my breath at times, aching for the young girl Ashley was, and marveling at the woman she has become. When the book ended, I only wanted more. I hope readers embrace this book and engage with its complexities. You won't regret it.
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
375 reviews2,778 followers
January 4, 2023
A perfect depiction of growing up in the 80's and 90's.

As far back as Ashley Ford can remember, her father has been in prison. He writes her letters and sends her words of affirmation and encouragement. While her father has been doing his bid, her mother delves into a series of relationships and additional children. How will Ashley navigate this life without a father and with a mother reeling from betrayal and heartbreak who is also now charged with being the sole provider of her family?

Somebody's Daughter is perfect for fans of The Glass Castle or The Mother. Ms. Ford perfectly nailed the sentiments of the 80's and 90's where it was perfectly acceptable for parents to kick, slap, and whip their children, all in the name of "love". It gave unstable people a free pass to take out their frustrations on those most vulnerable, leaving many children afraid to inadvertently trigger their parents.

When I started to read this book, I had no idea what it was about. However, the author wrote in such a way that the experiences seemed real. Then, I noticed that the main character's name was actually the same as the author's. Then, I discovered that this is actually a memoir. It is a true story! (Note to Self: Need to read the cover a bit better next time)

Somebody's Daughter is truly the author's thoughts and feelings as well as her own experiences. However, that being said and not trying to invalidate those thoughts and feelings, I was questioning the love of Ashley's father. Ashely puts him on a pedestal because he never criticizes her and offers a blitz of kind words, "I love you. You are beautiful." But (sorry all of my reading friends) when it comes to love, words are cheap. Ashley's mother could have very well said the exact same things, but I don't think that it would have changed Ashley's mind about her mother. It is so easy to spout off how much you love someone, and it is a completely different thing to make sure that your daughter is clean, fed, getting to school regularly, providing a safe, stable environment. Love is rarely about romantic grand gestures and is often more about consistently showing up day-to-day.

Overall, a deeply moving true story about a young woman growing into adulthood.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews2,676 followers
June 14, 2021
When you pick up a memoir by someone you’ve never heard of and end up finishing it all in one go, you know you’ve found a winner.

People who live above rocks and not under them like me may already know Ashley C. Ford from her podcasts, hosting gigs, or writings for outlets such as BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Slate, and The New York Times. In her first book, Somebody’s Daughter, she set out to convey her experience growing up as a poor, Black girl with a father incarcerated for rape. Turns out, she couldn’t do that without focusing on what life was like with the one parent left to raise her - an emotionally detached and often physically abusive mother.

The power of this memoir comes from Ford’s commitment to her truth. These were her experiences, seen through her eyes, and felt by her body. The end result is a self-reflective and unapologetic look at coming of age feeling both drawn to and repelled by your lineage.

The audiobook includes a bonus conversation between Ford and one of her contemporaries, author/poet Clint Smith. This alone is worth the price of admission, as the two discuss fascinating topics like what it takes to write an honest memoir without compromising your reality for the sake of your relationships. For aspiring nonfiction writers in particular, I highly recommend listening. But humans interested in building empathy for others will be greatly served as well.

I received an advance review copy of the audiobook courtesy of Macmillan Audio through NetGalley.

Blog: https://www.confettibookshelf.com/
IG: @confettibookshelf
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews109k followers
December 30, 2021
I saw the author give a talk at a work event last year and really enjoyed her. She's charismatic and funny while clearly emotionally intelligent, and its always those types of people who you know have been through some shit. I enjoyed learning about her life in this memoir, along with how she shows the complexities of loving family when they're so flawed and sometimes even abusive. Due to how short the book is, I wish she went more in-depth with some of the events she recalls or the different stages in her life she went through. There is also so much more to explore with her relationships with her parents and I feel like we’ve only glossed it over (especially when it comes to her incarcerated father). I think a narrative thread would have made the book stronger and more cohesive.
Profile Image for Taylor Reid.
Author 18 books124k followers
February 17, 2022
In her powerful and poignant memoir, Ashley shares her memories, feelings, and experiences—from growing up in poverty to experiencing trauma to her complicated relationship with her mother and incarcerated father—with unflinching honesty, courage, and grace. This book grabbed me from the very first pages.
Profile Image for Ebony Rose.
309 reviews120 followers
June 10, 2021
This will be a tough one to review, because it just did not quite work for me, and there are a couple reasons why. For specific reasons, I am choosing not to give this one a star rating.

I've admired Ashley C. Ford's writing and social media presence for a while, and I was very excited about this book. I'll start with the good: the writing here is strong, and compelling. Ashley writes unflinchingly about her experiences, and there is an emotional quality to the writing that I found brave.

In terms of what didn't work, there were two major issues for me. Firstly, I think this book is inaccurately advertised. The description/synopsis of the book leads you to believe the book is mostly about Ashley's relationship with her absent father, who is incarcerated for a crime that she doesn't learn the details of until she's a near-adult. However, the book actually *barely* skims that topic. Ashley's father, and her relationship to him, takes up maybe 15% of the book. Somebody's Daughter is actually much more about Ashley's childhood, her fraught relationship with her mother, and her experience with rape/sexual violence. All of that is fine - and interesting on its own, but the book's marketing is misleading, and that's what my issue is. If the book was more accurately described and marketed, I'm not sure I would have picked it up. As someone who grew up with a mostly absent father as well, I thought I would find some solace in this book, some understanding, some validation of what that kind of growing up is like. My father was not incarcerated like Ashley's, but I assumed this book would explore what it is like to have a complicated and absent parent who struggles with complicated and unnamed things. But, this memoir really didn't go there, despite it being the first paragraph of the description. For example, the synopsis says "Still reeling from the rape, which she keeps secret from her family, Ashley finally finds out why her father is in prison. And that's where the story really begins." But - that is actually not true at all? Her story starts long before that. And, when she finds out her father's crime, the book barely explores its implications. Barely.

Secondly, though well written, the memoir is lacking a narrative thread, something to tie the chapters and stories together. Each chapter kind of floats on its own, and very few of them work to tell a singular story, and I found the lack of cohesion to be disorienting and it worked to pull me out of the memoir, rather than drawing me in.

Overall, I would say this book is worth a read if you go into it with a clear understanding of what it's actually about. Ashley C. Ford lived a difficult life, and she explores those difficulties with tenderness and honesty, and that is always something to be commended - I just wish I knew what exactly I was in for before diving into this one.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,399 reviews8,117 followers
August 10, 2021
I found this memoir a courageous exploration of family trauma as well as the pain of growing up as a girl. While Ashley Ford provides an impactful outline of her feelings about her incarcerated father, she portrays with even greater depth and complexity her relationship with her mother, who often hurt and mistreated Ford during her childhood. Ford writes too about the unprompted, vile sexualization and sexual assault she experienced growing up, as well as the kindness of certain teachers and adults (e.g., her grandmother) who offered her some reprieve from the darker aspects of her youth.

I loved the courage Ford displays by writing about her once-tumultuous relationship with her mother. I feel like we often glorify parenthood and child-parent relationships when a lot of parents hurt their kids. Thus, I applaud Ford for her sharing – with compelling scenes and dialogue – her experience with her mother as well as how her relationship with her mother developed over time. Ford’s writing about how adults and peers sexualized her without her consent felt painful and important to read about; I felt sad and angry on behalf of the young girl who wanted to trust people, only to face exploitation and fear in her relationships. I am glad that it appears Ford has cultivated a strong support network who loves her for who she is.

Though I enjoyed this memoir, I wanted more reflection and synthesis from it. I felt like Ford wrote a lot about what happened to her growing up, yet I desired more information about how she processed those events later on, how they affected her future relationships and desires, or how she healed or did not heal from the circumstances she encountered. Perhaps Ford is still in the process of unpacking some of these dynamics which I totally respect. Overall, a good debut.
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews389 followers
June 3, 2021
I spent 7 plus hours painting my kitchen today while listening to Ashley C. Ford's melodious, soothing voice reading her unflinching memoir to me. When it popped up on Overdrive I didn't remember placing it on hold. I'd never heard of Ashley C. Ford. I thought it was fiction. And then she began speaking and I was transported.

Ashley invites the reader into her story with a tone so accessible that I often felt that I was sitting with a close friend. She is so present, so honest, that even those who have not experienced any parts of her story within their own lives will likely find it hauntingly familiar. There are pieces within that link most women to one another, shared experiences of adolescence and changing bodies. A strong, intentional focus on familial bonds permeates the narrative and it is with grace that she accepts imperfection as a part of the human condition. This is memoir. She is a superb example of what it means to "stand in your truth." It was a privilege to witness such a complete reckoning with and acceptance of the past that has brought Ashley into to her beautiful present. Many of us are working on doing the same, Ashley...we'll meet you there.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for emma.
1,780 reviews42.6k followers
September 28, 2021
Sure, people climb Mount Everest, and sure, people make rockets and put other people in them and send them to space, and allegedly there are people who somehow eat three healthy and balanced meals a day, but have you ever reviewed a memoir?

That's the hardest thing I can fathom.

First of all, it's difficult because I tend to always like memoirs, and I have a hard time reviewing books I like simply due to lack of experience.

But secondly, and dare I say more importantly, even I think it's too much to say "hey, this story you constructed out of your real and often trauma-based experiences was not good enough for me, a random human."

Luckily, this was good, and so I don't have to do that.

And I'm not really going to say anything beyond that!

Bottom line: Memoirs forever!!!


i have a frog in my throat.

but like...in the verge-of-tears sense. not the sick sense.

review to come / 4 stars

tbr review

one of my favorite pastimes is using every independent bookstore i come across as an excuse to buy books
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,376 reviews2,165 followers
August 23, 2021
Let me do my review in five points.

1. This is a very well written book. It is clear, Ashley C. Ford can write. Her ability to draw you and show you what was happening in her world was beautifully crafted.

2. If mother-daughter theme is your jam you need to stop what you are doing and read this book NOW! Trust me, imagine a book that thoroughly explores mother daughter relationship- this is it!

3. Beautiful cover and intriguing title.

4. I felt it lacked something. It was a bit slow and monotonous in some areas and I felt the author lost me in other areas... I just didn't care about the story anymore.

5. I would, however, recommend this to anyone who loves reading memoirs written by Black Women.

6. While I didnt LOVE this book, I am excited to read what Ford publishes next.
Profile Image for Raymond.
325 reviews229 followers
May 13, 2021
Somebody’s Daughter is an exceptionally powerful and moving memoir by Ashley Ford. I’ve been a fan of Ford for a number of years when she was a guest on various podcasts such as For Colored Nerds and Longform. In some of those podcast episodes she mentioned about the book she was writing and I was excited about reading it from the get-go. In her memoir, Ford writes about various phases of her life beginning with her childhood and leading up to a momentous event she experienced as an adult. She describes her complicated relationship with her mother, her no nonsense and loving grandmother, her siblings, and her father who is serving a lengthy sentence in prison for reasons that are revealed in the book. This is a coming of age story that you think you have heard before and think you know how it will end, but you haven’t and you don’t. Ford writes about her coming into womanhood with complete honesty. She writes about how grown men gawked and propositioned her, how her mother verbally criticized how her body and clothes looked, and how an incident with a high school boyfriend fundamentally changed her.

The writing in this book is beautiful and haunting, descriptive and picturesque. Ford makes you feel the way I assume she felt in various scenes of the book: joyful, loved, rejected, betrayed. She is also very funny at times. Another reason why this book is so good is that Ford narrates it herself. She has a nice, distinctive, and comforting voice. She has great voice modulation especially when she recites the dialogue of some of her family members such as her mother and grandmother. I’m so glad that she read it herself instead of another narrator; the book’s authenticity comes out more because of her narration.

The only issue I had with this book was that I did not want it to end. There were storylines and relationships that I wanted more information on. My hope is that Ford writes more books and will continue to bring the raw honesty that she infused in the writing of this memoir.

Readers who can’t get enough of her book should make sure they listen to the bonus feature on the audiobook which includes a conversation between Ford and Clint Smith about their respective books that will be published on the same day. In the hour long track, Ford and Smith mostly discuss about their respective writing and recording processes, and how their books speak to each other and give each other purpose. I especially loved Ford’s encouragement to readers to write about themselves. Ford encouraged others to not be afraid to write about themselves. She argued that it is your divine right to tell and write your own story. Ford has definitely lived out her divine right by writing this memoir.

Thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan Audio, and Ashley Ford, for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on June 1, 2021.
Profile Image for Rachel Reads Ravenously.
1,787 reviews2,130 followers
March 29, 2022
4 stars

“Kids can always tell the difference between adults who want to empower them, and adults who want to overpower them.”

Somebody’s Daughter is the personal memoir of Ashley C. Ford and her childhood. She grew up with her father incarcerated for most of her life, and in her mind she put him on a pedestal even though she didn’t know what he did to be there. Ashley also had a very complicated relationship with her mother and didn’t know how to handle her own worries or changing body.

“I did not know that there are miles between running out of things to say, and running out of the strength to say them.”

I actually followed this author on twitter before this book came out, I can’t remember why. But when I saw she released a book I knew I wanted to read it based on her twitter content. I listened to the audiobook version which was read by the author and absolutely excellent. There’s a lot of tough content in this book, my heart broke for Ashley many times while reading it. I thought the relationship with her mother is one that many people can relate to. No relationships are cookie cutter or perfect, just like most people.

When I think of this book, one main word comes to mind and that’s truth. Ashley was very truthful in her experiences and telling them, she didn’t really cut corners or soften the blows. This was all her own perspective of her childhood and she told it like how she remembered it. I hope we get more books by Ashley in the future, she’s a beautiful writer and I would love to read more by her.

“When you write about you and me? Just tell the truth. Your truth. Don’t worry about nobody’s feelings, especially not mine. You gotta be tough to tell your truth, but it’s the only thing worth doing next to loving somebody.”
Profile Image for Mari.
697 reviews4,293 followers
May 22, 2021

4.5 stars

I received a copy of this as an audiobook, read by Ashley C. Ford, thanks to libro.fm.

The more I sit with this, the more impressed I am with how Ford managed to capture her experiences in an open, clear, vulnerable and thoughtful voice. This is a coming of age memoir that manages not only to describe the memories of her past, but to seat them in the experiences of the present. To make the sorts of connections that feel real and heartbreaking and that a lot of times felt relatable to me. I read this in a single sitting and it's quite the feat that a story of such complexity (it is a life lived, after all) felt so simple or so accessible.

Highly recommend for lovers of memoirs or fans of Ford's work or for anyone looking to read more non-fiction, this is a great entry point!
Profile Image for Lupita Reads.
102 reviews171 followers
May 6, 2021
I finished the audio edition of Ashley C. Ford’s memoir SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER yesterday during my morning walk, thanks to @librofm ACL program. It usually takes me a long time to craft a review for books so while I plan to write out a full format review for this book, I decided to rush over & give you a list of things that made me inhale the book. I am also rushing to post because you really need to pre-order this book!

I got the idea of listing thoughts from a post @readingwithnani did a while ago.

1. This might sound really strange but I felt that the author was able to tap into their inner child in ways I hadn’t seen in book before. What do I mean by that? While detailing her childhood, Ford doesn’t attempt to over correct, judge or explain her feelings. She simply allowed them space on the page. I’ll sit more with this thought & write into it for a future post.

2. The imagery. The imagery. The imagery. It is haunting. I caught myself swept into the vivid detailed storytelling. In fact I took the background photo of this to represent the shadows I felt vibrate from the book while reading. And today I had a vivid memory of a hole in the ground filled up with snakes knotting tighter into each other. The description came to mind because I was thinking about something I had to do for my family. When you read the book you’ll get it.

3. I’ve read a lot of books about complicated families. I love books that explore complicated family dynamics. This is that and more. There’s the added layer of standing in the truth of who you as separate from your family but also understanding how even as difficult as they can be, you still yearn to be connected to them & that’s okay. I felt like I needed this. I spend a lot of time thinking I don’t need my extended family because they can’t seem to understand the dynamics of my queer family. This is not to say I need to be relax on my personal boundaries but it’s to say I understand that I can stand in two truths & it be okay- I can love them & yearn to find a way to reconnect somehow AND I can do continue to do what’s right for myself & the family I’ve created. It’s not something I need to carry any guilt about.
Profile Image for Darth Molls.
40 reviews2 followers
May 25, 2021
*I was sent a free ARC of this book by Flatiron books in exchange for an honest review*

Ashley C. Ford’s raw and honest memoir tells her story of growing up poor in Indiana with an incarcerated father and abusive mother. She details her adolescence, including her growing and important relationship with her grandmother, the assault she suffered at the hands of her first boyfriend, and her journey to becoming a first-generation college student. All the while, she ruminates on her father’s absence and her inability to connect with him as she grows up.

Filled with complexity and nuance, Ford does a good job of probing the multiple intersections of her identity. This is not singularly a book about race, about family, or about violence, but all of these aspects are crucial to Ford’s development. The book’s strongest points lie in her recollections of her family, particularly the way her relationship with her grandmother starkly contrasts that with her mother. The effect of such comes fully into focus as she visits her grandmother on her deathbed. Though the memoir begins rather disjointed and uncertain, it finds its way around the 60% mark.

Although this memoir covers an array of topics, it felt as if it was missing some constant thread to weave its different aspects together. It read like several patches not quite sewn together to make a quilt, but also not quite essays that could stand on their own. The book is marketed as if Ford’s incarcerated father is the continuing thread, but his portions actually take up very little of the book and remarkably little time is spent reconciling with his actions on the page once Ford becomes aware of the wrongdoings that landed him in prison. This was a disappointment and really soured my view of the book as a whole.

Additionally, the prose could use editing and there are many moments that Ford ventures into unnecessary tangents or anecdotes that don’t turn out to serve the book as a whole. I think this would have benefitted from a more critical eye in the revision process.

Ultimately, while this novel was set up to be great, I’m left giving it just a middling rating.
Profile Image for Marilyn.
745 reviews200 followers
June 20, 2021
4.5 very strong stars for this magnificent, heartfelt, coming of age debut memoir. Somebody’s Daughter A Memoir was a difficult, painful and brave undertaking by Ashley C. Ford. She painstakingly and with a lot of emotion succeeded in writing her story. She wrote with raw honesty and brilliant prose. Ashley C. Ford had contemplated and wanted to write her story for as long as she could remember. She was able to masterfully depict all aspects of her very complicated childhood in Somebody’s Daughter. It was brilliantly narrated by the author herself, Ashley C. Ford.

Ashley grew up without the presence of her father. Her father had been incarcerated for as long as Ashley could remember. Ashley was not privy to the reason why her father was in jail for a good portion of her life and she never thought to ask why he had been incarcerated. Her relationship with her mother was complicated. Ashley both feared and loved her mother. Perhaps the best way to describe the relationship with her mother was rocky. Her mother was never able to provide that safe and nurturing environment Ashly so craved. Her siblings all had different fathers from her. The boyfriends Ashley’s mother had were not always kind and loving to her. Ashley C. Ford grew up in extreme poverty. Her grandmother was always her anchor and probably the only person in her life that Ashley could count on. Ashley was constantly riddled with troubling thoughts and worries that kept her awake late into the night. She was often the last one in her family to fall asleep. Ashley often fantasized that her absent father would be able to provide guidance for her if only he was in her life. One of the hardest things Ashley had to figure out was how to respond to and accept the changes that were happening to her own body as she went through puberty. Her unrelenting search for unconditional love opened the door to her first boyfriend. When Ashley tried to end the relationship, she was brutally raped. That act defined Ashley for a long time. She had chosen not to tell anyone, especially her mother. That was when she learned that her father had been incarcerated for rape. Would that change how Ashley saw her father? Could she escape the grips of the life she had been born into? She had a brilliant mind and a good heart. Didn’t she deserve the chance to live a life free from the family that shackled her with guilt, worry and the lack of ambition to pursue her own dreams?

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford was a heart wrenching story about loss, hardship and self-acceptance. It was written with raw honesty and portrayed the people who influenced Ashley’s life both negatively and positively. It was a coming of age story that was beautifully written about a broken family and the influence they had on Ashley C. Ford’s early and later life. She lived with constant fears, heartbreak and anxiety and was constantly disrespected both physically and emotionally throughout her life. That physical and emotion abuse made Ashley always question her self worth. Her story was so inspiring how she preserved and accomplished all that she did despite the life she was dealt. Somebody’s Daughter was both thought provoking and endearing. I was in awe of how Ashley was able to rise above her circumstances and write this beautiful memoir. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for affording me the opportunity to listen to this audiobook through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I have rated this book 4.5 stars that I rounded down from 5 stars.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,844 reviews34.9k followers
June 9, 2021
Library overdrive....Audiobook....read by the author, Ashley Ford
....8 hours and 44 minutes

I’ve listened to so many memoirs since the pandemic .... (maybe as many in a ‘year-in-a-half’ than all my past years combined)... so why stop now....
Haha. My library had it readily available...so I went with it.

I couldn’t help but wonder, “How many books are titled “Somebody’s Daughter”? I know of two: “Somebody’s Daughter”, by David Bell....(a psychological thriller I haven’t read), and “Somebody’s Daughter”, (a novel by Rochelle B. Weinstein that I couldn’t put down — with reviews all over the map—but for me — it was powerful, engaging, and actually a favorite).
I still wonder how many ‘more’ books share this title. We’ve had our many titles about wives, husbands, sisters, and it now seems to be ‘daughters’ that are in the hot seat.

So....now my thoughts about Ashley Ford’s, “Somebody’s Daughter”...a memoir.
It seemed to be that I saw mostly 4 and 5 star ratings from readers with many raving endorsements from John Green, Brene Brown, Kirkus Reviews, etc....including it was “An Amazon Best Book of June 2021.

Let me be clear....I appreciate Ashley’s brave, soulful, sparkling prose.
Her life story went down easily in one gulp, as the momentum of her ‘story-telling-us’ was hard to resist.
Yet....my rating is a little lower > not because it wasn’t interesting, moving, inspiring, honest, and authentic. It was all those things.
It’s between a positive 3 to 4 star rating for me.....
.....as I remembered why memoirs (use to be....but less so today), were/are hard to rate.
I don’t think I would ever rate a memoir less than three stars....(it would be rare, that’s for sure) > this is person’s life we are talking about....bleeding their souls.
But to rate higher....I personally need to feel altered in some way. And although I enjoyed and (related to parts) of Ashley’s story .....(especially self-reflecting thoughts about her own growth), I can’t honestly say I took anything ‘new’ away.
So....I’m rating this 3.5 ....willing to rate up to 4 stars....but I could just as easily have given it a ‘positive’ 3 stars. (remembering there is nothing wrong with a 3 star rating). I could easily recommend it....
Yet...for me, it wasn’t a ‘must’ read. Good though.

If you haven’t already-take a close look at the book cover. Notice the blue snake? It could be easy to miss. It’s very cleverly hiding....(symbolic to hiding from oneself?)...
One of my favorite parts in the book - involves SNAKES.
Ashley was describing a time - as a young girl - when she disappeared into a new life in Missouri after being sent to live with her maternal grandmother.
Ashley was free to roam around her grandfather‘s land. She had a dog, a goat, and her grandfather had wild pigs in the backyard....
For pleasure, Ashley found herself playing with garden snakes. She was only bitten once.
However, the heart of this story is not really about snakes....
rather it’s an inside look at Ashley’s life from early childhood to the woman she has become.

Early in this memoir...when Ashley was only 4 years of age, and her little brother a toddler, ....their mother played a game with the kids called “I’m not your mother”. There was a lot of laughter and everyone was having fun until all of a sudden it didn’t feel fun any longer.
Little Ashley ran to the kitchen to grab a knife — pointed it toward her mother — and said “let go of my baby brother”.
The mother started hilariously laughing so hard that before you knew it all three of them were rolling on the carpet with uncontrollable laughter.
So? Is this a dark memory? Light? Both?
That scene was just one of many where I felt Ashley portrayed two sides of the same coin.

Ashley often gave us opposing and contradictory tales > about her mother, father, mother’s boyfriends, grandmother, her boyfriends, college, goals, and ambitions.

As a child, and young teen, Ashley loved her father. She experienced redeemable love ‘from’ him.
She knew he was in prison but she never imagined just how horrific his crimes were. Her naivety shamed her.
Her father‘s crimes repulsed her. She wondered what was wrong with her for ever loving him in the first place. Everybody else seem to know the truth about her father, before she did. Ashley soon learned other people didn’t want Ashley to feel ashamed of who she was because of her father.... but those people feel ashamed ‘for’ her. She saw it on their faces.

Sex, hormones, boyfriends, (her mothers; her own), rape, (her fathers crimes, and her own awful rape experience in a shed), TV - watching of movies about rape ... just confused Ashley all the more.
She wasn’t sure what to feel. She often felt shameful and unworthy.

Add body image, mental abuse (mixed messages from her mother), being black in mostly a white society, going to college, career, visiting her father in prison (bringing her mother to the prison - as she needed her mother to desperately to come with her), seeing her parents together in the same room for the first time in her life, Ashley’s strong desire to write (about her life, and mother), the demons which haunt her, the gratitude she felt towards those who supported her and other writers, the growth Ashley & her mother made — plummeted the depths — warmth, breadth and beautiful writing in Ashley’s truth telling memoir.

Favorite line....from a transformed mom - to Ashley:
“Ashley, you’re the only person who has to live in your skin, and wake up with the consequences of your choices. That’s why you can’t let other people make choices for you”.

3.5 ...rating up to 4 stars.
Profile Image for Rachael | Booklist Queen.
327 reviews140 followers
May 21, 2021
Intersting Memoir Without a Memorable Message

A coming-of-age memoir about growing up a Black girl with an incarcerated father and the path to truly understand and overcome our origins. While Ashley idolized her father she barely knew, her life was shaped by her mother and grandmother. As she ages, she eventually learns why her father is in prison and must reconcile her own identity with her family's past.

Although the book is marketed as Ford's relation with her father, it's really about her relationship with her quick-tempered and emotionally detached mother. Ford is an excellent writer and she does an excellent job convey the emotions and thoughts that influenced her decisions. However, I would have loved for her to consider why her mother and grandmother made the decisions they made.

For me, Somebody's Daughter was just shy of being phenomenal. The pacing was a bit off: Ford delves so much on her experiences as a very young child, then rushes through her college years. Similarly, Ford fails to ponder how her experiences connected to what other women and girls, especially Black girls, face. In all, Somebody's Daughter is an interesting memoir without a memorable message.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Flatiron Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Profile Image for Nicole.
707 reviews1,734 followers
July 29, 2022
Very powerful story. Audiobook recommended.

One of the reasons why I love reading are the new perspectives and experiences we can go through with the author/characters. However, the extent of their impact, varies. More often than not nowadays, I close a book having taken nothing with me. This wasn't the case here. "Somebody's Daughter" presented me with a new perspective I have never considered before. Ford's father was convinced of a hideous crime and yet she still wanted a relationship with him. I have never before considered how incarnation truly affects the relationship of the person with their parent. Sure, I have read a lot of fiction where one of the parents of the MC was in prison but the way Ford told her story and the fact that is a memoir, hit differently.

As we grow, things start to appear less and less in black and white. What caught my attention here is that Ford wasn't okay with what her father has done, she was also on the receiving end of the same crime, and yet. She still wanted a relationship with her father, she still loved him. I never gave much thought to what the children of perps think of their parents. I always took the survivor/victim's PoV but it's okay if they have people in their lives who still wanted to be involved in their lives all while acknowledging the crime.

So it is a powerful story. It's the reason why I read memoirs because I want "eye-opening" books and unfortunately, while many books are marketed as much, I haven't come across a lot of those. To me, at least, this book gave me a new thing to think about and ponder and if you read it, I hope it will leave something with you too.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,378 reviews519 followers
July 27, 2021
[3.5]. A solid memoir focusing on Ford's complicated relationships with her mother, grandmother and imprisoned father. Ford has an engaging voice and this was smooth, enjoyable reading. However, it doesn't set itself apart from the slew of memoirs I've read and I have a feeling I won't remember it for long. I do look forward to her next book.
Profile Image for ally.
75 reviews3,623 followers
December 27, 2021
“i was a child, unspoiled in a certain way. i didn’t doubt myself. i decided and i tried. then i’d fail and try again. or i would succeed and go on to try something new. i was not always as afraid of the world or as nervous about the other people living in it alongside me, or what they might do to me. when my life was new, i understood in my bones how little it mattered what anybody else was doing, or what they thought about what i was doing. i believed my bones then.”

there were so many moments that took my breath away. there were so many moments that made me feel understood and so many moments that helped me understand a perspective i hadn’t experienced, better.
Profile Image for Bonnie G..
1,218 reviews173 followers
March 31, 2022
I'll start with what is good. Ford is a very good writer. Her prose is natural and spare without being sloppy or terse. I particularly liked her dialogue which had a familiar and authentic flow. Lots of memoirists do this poorly. Obviously there is no transcript, dialogue is recovered from scraps of memory and a feel for how people talk. Often memoirists fall down on the second part of that equation. but not Ford. Perhaps equally important, Ford is brutally honest. She has worked through some very complicated life experiences and is the product of some very complicated relationships. In recounting all of those I never doubted the truth of those experiences and relationships. I knew Ford believed she was baring her soul. Again, for me that is unusual even in memoirs and autofiction I have loved. Finally, there are many books I treasure with characters I don't like, but who are interesting so usually I don't talk in my reviews about liking the characters (or this case the storyteller) but I liked the Ashley Ford I met this this book. I do not actually know her, and so I can't say if I would be interested in better knowing the non-curated version of Ashley, but I think I probably would. She has taken an early life that lacked consistency in every possible way and built a life filled with committed friends, a loving and supportive partner, exciting experiences, good work, and professional respect. (In my mind consistency - which is not to say foolish consistency- is one of the most important parts of being a good parent. If children cannot identify what responses from parents behaviors are likely to yield they never learn to trust, or to build relationships. They just learn to resign themselves to constant uncertainty and that yields anxiety and fear and some other really crummy results. Ford seems to have mostly avoided that fate.)

Now on to the less good stuff. This book is not at all the book it is advertised as being. I get that the publisher might be to blame for this, but it still impacted my enjoyment. This is not about growing up with a father in prison or about how the mass-incarceration of Black men dangerously damaged the family structure for many Black Americans, especially those who are economically insecure. That is the book I expected to read based on the description. Ford did grow up with a father in prison and his absence appears to have had a mostly negative impact on her, but we don't learn much about that. Viewed from 10,000 feet one could say that the prison pipeline is what led to a one-income household led by a woman with little education and consequently limited earning potential, and that the stress brought on by that aloneness and financial strain made Ford's mother and grandmother the way they were. Again from a distance, you could say that her father's absence led Ford to look for male approval in unhealthy ways. And you can even argue that the bad men Ford's mother invited into her and her children's lives would have been rejected rather than embraced if non-incarcerated men were not so thin on the ground. You could say all that, but I think its a gross oversimplification and it would require you to assume facts Ford did not put into evidence. I can be imperious at times, but even I am not willing to substitute my assumptions for someone's truth. Ford's father raped two women, he would have and should have been in prison even if the US justice system was not a racist juggernaut in cahoots with the prison industrial complex. Ford could have addressed why she was nearly entirely out of communication with her father for 13 years despite having nothing but good memories of being with him, even on an early prison visit. That would have told me a lot. Ford never addresses her feelings about learning her father was a convicted rapist, though given her life experience there must be a lot of feelings. That discussion would have made such a difference here! Most of this book is about Ford's relationship with her mother and a good deal of the rest about her relationship with her grandmother. There are elements of those relationships which are fascinating and troubling, but they are rarely instructive or more broadly meaningful because Ford does nothing to help the reader know her mother and grandmother other than sharing who those women are in relation to her. Also, Ford doesn't tell us a lot about herself. She makes some terrible decisions, and most of her good decisions seem to be made only with the prodding of concerned and compassionate friends, teachers and mentors. I don't think Ford knows why she only makes bad decisions unless forced to do better. She is young, and some things that happened to her are tragic, but just recounting those things without analyzing the players and why they did what they did is just someone's diary, it is not a memoir. Ford is often sad or scared or anxious for reasons we can guess at, but they aren't educated guesses because Ford doesn't educate us.

There is a lot good here, we get access to the facts, but this is like watching the dailies on a movie shoot. All the stuff that gives us necessary context, character development, and a POV (so the skeleton upon which the storytelling must be placed) is not here.
Profile Image for Traci Thomas.
510 reviews9,241 followers
May 16, 2021
A very strong memoir. Loved Ford’s conversational writing style. The use of family relationships and the things our families tell us that shape ourselves. The book lacked a little direction for me and it ended in a place that left me wanting more. Not in an omg mic drop way, but in a there are some loose ends that I’d wished had been tended to way.
Profile Image for Amina.
336 reviews88 followers
January 11, 2022
Somebody's Daughter is an honest and raw memior exploring Ashley Ford's life while her father is incarcerated.

Ford reflects on her memories of being raised by a mother who was fiercely overprotective, harsh, emotionally absent, and often abusive. She describes her mother as often turning into "The Mother" whenever she would embody the persona of the cruel mother that young Ford and her little brother would not recognize.

She goes on to describe her teenage years, when her body grew faster than what her mind and others around her could accept and the advantage that people and eventually a boyfriend took over her body.

I felt this book was a great read, but I found it to be lacking in what I had expected. I kept waiting for more on the relationship that would emerge between Ford and her father.

Somebody's Daughter was much more heavily focused on Ford's life without her father. My assumption was that there would be letters between father and daughter, or Ford coming to terms and understanding why her father was incarcerated. Both these ideas are very briefly pressed upon, with little closure.

Maybe the synopsis of this book was misleading for me. The synopsis should have only focused on the life of Ford without her father. My expectations left me feeling unsatisfied.

I will still give this book 4/5 stars for the wonderful writing and intrigue that Ford was able to articulate into words.

It’s never easy to honesty share your story. I did wonder how her mother received her daughters’ truths. I believe Ford was able to poetically refine her very tumultuous upbringing, which is very courageous.

It’s hard to comprehend the dreadful and often quiet sadness that some children endure, but Ford is kind and honest in her exploration.
Profile Image for Mara.
1,457 reviews3,539 followers
January 20, 2023
4.5 stars - What a beautifully written memoir! Very spare in terms of on page processing, Ford instead carefully selects her scenes to paint a complicated relationship dynamic with both of her parents. This had been recommended a lot on the bookish internet, and I can totally see why - this would also be a good candidate for a book club

Profile Image for Michelle.
588 reviews441 followers
June 2, 2021
I’ve been trying to read more memoirs this year and when I read the summary of this one I couldn’t wait to get to it. I split the reading experience by listening as well as reading. Whenever the author is the narrator, it’s kind of a no brainer! I was not at all disappointed and during the times I was reading the book, I had Ashley’s voice in my head as I went.

What I found most astounding about this memoir is the maturity and grace Ashley had for all those in her life who let her down and weren’t there for her in the way she needed. The strength and resilience to not only overcome a difficult and at times emotionally and physically abusive mother, but the many experiences that would have stomped my spirit or have me consider giving in to despair only made her stronger and more determined. I was haunted by her narration of her teen years and in particular by the moments she described of older men objectifying and at times propositioning her as well her experience being sexually assaulted. Despite our many differences, there were many times I felt kinship to the fears and realizations of a body changing and innocence being lost. There is a lot I took away from this book for myself as well as for my relationship with my daughter.

Thank you to Flatiron Books and Ashley C Ford for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review!

Review Date: 06/02/2021
Publication Date: 06/01/2021
Profile Image for Lindsey Leitera.
123 reviews16 followers
May 6, 2022
It’s kind of unfair to “rate” memoirs, but I had an uneven reading experience with this one. There are several sections that resonated profoundly with me, but more often than not, I had a hard time connecting to the writing. There wasn’t a clear thru-line uniting Ashley’s experiences; instead, there's many possible themes... It is more of a “traditional”-feeling memoir — this happened, then this happened, then this — which wasn’t an ideal structure in my opinion.

If there is a theme to be found in this memoir, it is the relationship between the author and her parents: a physically and emotionally-abusive mother, and a father who was incarcerated after raping two women. For much of the first half, childhood stories of fear and confusion are picked up and set down again without examination. Then, the eventual reconciliations between the author and her parents occur off the page. By the end of the book, Ashley has accepted who her parents are and maintains relationships with both of them, but for the life of me I can't fathom why or how she is able to do this. And that’s the piece of the story that I desperately wanted to know! To me, the emotional processing and catharsis piece is missing from the narrative.
Profile Image for Robyn.
1,649 reviews115 followers
June 17, 2021

Ashley Ford came into my home and told me the story of her life. I thought it was going to be more about the relationship or lack thereof of a young Black female and her incarcerated father. But in the end, it was more about the relationships she forged with her mother and grandmother and all of the extended family.

Her story is complex, but these are the complexities that build character and create personality and identity. I think that Ms. Ford has told the story of many families, regardless of race as many face poverty, lack of opportunity, family violence, and abuse. So I think her story will resonate with so many, and in particular, those that might have been raised or highly influenced by grandparents instead of parents.

I appreciated Ms. Ford's raw calm, unreproachful attitude and deep understanding of the issues that her family faced and overcame.

The writing is superb and is definitely interesting. It is a book for many.

4 stars

Happy Reading!
Profile Image for Melissa Dimmer.
15 reviews1,380 followers
December 22, 2021
Honestly idk how I fully feel about this one or how to rank it cause I feel conflicted between “WOW AMAZING” & “omg Wtf”. It was an amazing story but I was not prepared for all of that. Wow. It was kinda hard to stomach at times due to content *check tw’s*. Although it was beautiful at the same time. I think the synopsis of this book underplayed what you were getting yourself into with reading this one.
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