“I decided to pretend to be good, the kind of good that seemed to be best. The silent kind.” Ashley Ford navigated through a complicated, loving and abusive childhood and beyond, knowing her father was in jail but not why. She was four when he was imprisoned, old enough to have cloudy memories but too young to think of him as real. She had two mothers in the single parent who raised her along with a loving grandmother’s help. The one that gets out of control and hurt her brother and her and the playful, proud, caring one. At twelve, her Uncle Clarence took her brother and her to see her father in prison. She sang Silent Night to an appreciative visitor’s room and then did not see him for thirteen years. At thirteen, she had to learn for herself that adult men would inappropriately notice her changing body and that a boy in her class who said he loved her would react dangerously to their break up. Feeling safe and secure was not an option for Ford and her life and psyche was shaped by the need for self-preservation. Eventually, and no time is the right time, Ford learned why her father was in prison and it was devastating. Along the way, there is validation and some support. A teacher who shows her she is a writer. A grandmother whose own parenting skills were mixed, but who offered an escape from her mothers tumultuous relationships and her younger siblings. A boyfriend/best friend who her made her see college as an option. A couple she babysat for. Oddly, in some ways, her parents. And there is reconciliation with her life in fundamental, ultimately emotionally rewarding and hard earned ways. Are you happy, someone asks her in her twenties, “I said, yes, because it was mostly true. The parts of my life that weren’t happy, I wasn’t ready to talk about.” “What makes you happy?” another person asks her a little later in her life, when she is writing essays and sending them into the world. “I like… Making things. Art. Stories. I want to write.” Every paragraph in this book is a story, sometimes frightening, sometimes infuriating, sometimes sweet and always, always compelling. If you are burned out on memoirs, read this one anyway. It is an exquisitely written and compelling book.
Published by Emily Leader
I have been an avid reader since Dick and Jane met Sally. At age 7, I read my parents' first edition of "To Kill a Mockingbird." I am a retired lawyer and so read almost only fiction for pleasure. I'm adding in nonfiction these days, largely on social justice matters but also history, biography, and weird topics that catch my imagination. I used to read only serially, one book at a time. Presently, I read paperbacks, hardcovers, listen to audible, listen to CDs and read online through Net Galley. Covid-19 has caused me to read a lot so I have re-upped my Goodreads challenge for 2021 and am starting to review at least my favorite finds annd, perhaps, some stinkers. View all posts by Emily Leader