BookBrowse Reviews Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

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Somebody's Daughter

A Memoir

by Ashley C. Ford

Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford X
Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2021, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    May 3, 2022, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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A moving, emotionally candid memoir about contending with the repercussions of childhood sexual assault.

In this powerful debut memoir, Ashley C. Ford explores what it means to have grown up Black and poor in contemporary America, dissecting a childhood defined by sexual assault, her father's incarceration, and the complex relationship she shared with her mother.

The real strength of Ford's approach is her ability to discuss the most distressing moments of her life without ever sitting in judgment of those involved. Though we learn the nature of her father's crimes, and witness the fraught and often abusive dynamic between the author and her mother, Ford neither absolves nor condemns either for their actions. By also discussing her parents' capacity for kindness, love and humor, the book becomes a poignant testimony to the complexity of human nature and the realization that no one is wholly good or bad.

Despite a confrontation with her father feeling both vital and inevitable, he is almost entirely absent for the majority of the book, relegated to fleeting, sporadic references until the final chapters. Though this may frustrate some — given the emphasis placed on his incarceration in the book's marketing — it works on multiple levels: It reflects his literal absence from Ford's childhood, lends credence to the air of enigma that Ford herself projects onto him during this time, and aligns with her reluctance to accept the nature of his past and the role it could play in her own recovery from trauma.

Despite having been raised to fear men and remain alert to the potential threat they pose to women and girls at all times, Ford was sexually assaulted at the age of 14. In this respect, her testimony makes clear that sexual assault does not generally occur due to a lack of vigilance on the victim's part. Thus Somebody's Daughter offers valuable pushback against the culture of victim blaming, serving as a welcome addition to the chorus of contemporary writers leading the literary corner of the #MeToo movement. Writing with remarkable poise and wisdom, Ford presses home the devastating impact of her assault without sensationalism.

The ripple effects of these events are also explored in an intelligent yet understated way. Ford makes shrewd observations on everything from the guilt felt by working class people who achieve financial security, to the push and pull between love and duty when it comes to family. Having spent much of her childhood craving affection, she describes her struggle to accept it as an adult, even as she forms meaningful bonds. But in breaking away from her family and relocating to Brooklyn via Ball State University, she is able to gain independence and explore her identity as a Black, queer woman. Though this distance helps to affirm her sense of self, it also offers a new perspective on the love she still holds for her family, solidifying her need to return to them and make peace with the past.

At its core, Somebody's Daughter is fundamentally about Ford's attempts to forgive others and accept herself, a journey sure to resonate with many. While it is deeply personal, her warmth and openness make elements of her story feel universally relatable. An intersectional angle and a seamless blend of beautiful prose and clear-eyed reflection grant the reading experience the intimacy of a heart-to-heart shared between friends. Ford is a natural storyteller.

Hopefully, writing this book helped the author process her pain. Reading it is almost certain to validate, comfort and inspire those who see themselves reflected in her experiences.

Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin

This review first ran in the June 23, 2021 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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