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Somebody's Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

Somebody's Daughter


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Ashley C. Ford, on your first book!


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by Ashley C. Ford

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Quick take

A moving coming of age memoir about the complications of family provides ample testament to the resilience of love.

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    Critically acclaimed


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.

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Content warning

This book contains scenes that depict sexual assault and abuse.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Somebody’s Daughter.
Somebody's Daughter


“Just remember, you can always come home.” There it was. I expected and hated when my mother said those words. Two years before this call, I’d moved to Brooklyn from Indiana. Now I lived in Flatbush with my boyfriend, Kelly. Back home in the Midwest, our friends were building four-bedroom houses on one-acre lots with mortgages comparable to the monthly rent of our one-bedroom. After living in the city for a year or two, I marveled at home features I would have called standard before I left. Features like dishwashers, in-unit laundry, and backyards. The apartment we lived in now had one of those, the dishwasher. When it ran, the second phase of the wash cycle shook the floor and walls with a deep rumble. I felt it in my feet while I paced the floor.

I had gotten up from dinner to take the call from my mother. She still lived in Fort Wayne, my hometown. We hadn’t lived in the same city, or the same house, since I left for college eleven years earlier. She called every few weeks—I answered every other call—and we usually had a good time talking for ten to fifteen minutes. I’d taught myself to keep our phone conversations light, or as I liked to think of it, complication-free, without lying. I didn’t want to lie to her. I wanted to be able to talk to my mother the way I could with most other people, as myself. But she wasn’t just anybody. She was my mother, so that was impossible. There were limits. We only dove into subjects that wouldn’t end in arguments, which was mostly whatever would make us both laugh.

When she said that thing to me, that I could always come home, part of me wanted to reply, “Mama, I love you, but I’ll work myself past the white meat, down to the bone, and fistfight every stranger I run across on the street before we live under the same roof again.”

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Why I love it

It is estimated that 113 million Americans have had an immediate family member who was incarcerated and 6.5 million are currently experiencing it. This undoubtedly is one of the most significant molders of the modern American family. What a gift then that we now have Somebody’s Daughter, a lively and rich memoir from someone who experienced it firsthand about grief, love, family, and the grace and creativity it takes to grow into ourselves.

Ashley C. Ford always felt a special bond with her father. But for most of her life she knew him more by his absence than his presence. Having committed a terrible crime when Ashley was only a child, he spent decades of their lives behind bars. But one day after twenty years of few visits and almost no communication, Ashley decides to write to him. That letter then initiates a rich, challenging, but ultimately loving exchange between father and daughter. Alongside this exchange we watch as Ashley grows into a remarkable woman, experiencing many lows and highs, including the eventual release of her father and their joyous reunion.

Do yourself a favor and add Somebody’s Daughter to your cart right now. This memoir is one of the most moving, thoughtful, and beautifully written books of the year. It will challenge you and might elicit a few tears. But boy will you be thankful for its ample delights.

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Member ratings (11,017)

  • Michaela B.

    Cumberland, RI

    Vibrant in a way that is both painful and joyful. I really don’t have words to describe how this made me feel. Ford presents her life experience—good, bad, and everything else—as honestly as possible.

  • Erin M.

    Gainesville, FL

    I wanted to try something different from my usual fantasy fiction or murder mystery, & I’m so glad I selected it. Tragic, funny, beautiful, & honest. I’m so grateful to Ashley for sharing her story.

  • Zaina P.

    Midvale, UT

    Ashley’s story was captivating from the first page. I enjoyed this read so much, and this book found me in the midst of my own navigation of my family’s dynamic. Truly wonderful and beautifully done!

  • Amanda G.

    Gilbert, AZ

    From her description of her sexual assault to working through accepting her father’s crimes, I couldn’t stop reading. It truly felt like I was reading my own words at times. I earmarked so many pages!

  • Leslie W.

    Washington , DC

    I’ve never read a memoir more poignant and relatable. Somebody’s Daughter is a beautifully woven book of memories about family, generational trauma, and relationships that bindis as a result. 5 stars!

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