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Author Ashley C. Ford speaks at Saint Mary’s College

New York Times best-selling author Ashley Ford visited Saint Mary’s Thursday night for a reading of her memoir “Somebody’s Daughter,” followed by a Q&A session. In 2021, Ford published a full-length memoir about her childhood and the struggles she faced due to poverty, racism and assault. 

Ford’s visit was the first of this year’s Visiting Writers Series, sponsored by the English Department to bring in published authors for students to interact with and ask questions.

Program Director Rebecca Lehmann said they chose Ashley Ford because “she is a great model of how to write a full-length memoir, how to go from writing individual essays to writing a much longer piece.”

Ford was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “She is a nice model of somebody from a local area that’s gone on to make a bigger splash,” Lehmann said.

The Visiting Writers Series partnered with other departments on this presentation, as Ford deals with topics that span many disciplines. Lehmann led the efforts to bring Ford to Saint Mary’s with Dr. Jamie Wagman, chair of gender and women’s studies, as Ford’s work, especially “Somebody’s Daughter,” deals with her struggles with womanhood and puberty. 

Ford also writes about incarceration, as her father was in prison most of her life. Because of this, Lehmann and Wagman asked the department of justice studies to co-sponsor.

Ford started off the night by reading the second chapter of her memoir. She explained that she picked this part to read because she felt that “it gives the best idea of how the book is going to go.”

The chapter dealt with her early childhood, immediately introducing themes of neglect and abuse. Ford told readers, “If you get through here, you’ll like the rest!” 

After the reading, Ford fielded questions from the audience. Ranging from the experiences that led to her writing to her writing process itself, Ford answered all questions with a smile, not shying away from inquiries about her traumatic childhood. She talked largely about her family, as her memoir relives her neglectful and abusive childhood. 

“I love my mom, but it is complicated,” Ford said, discussing how an integral part of her writing process was realizing she wasn’t a bad person. Ford admitted that there was never a “real risk of losing anything” with her mom because they were never close. 

Ford also said that she had a family reunion a month after “Somebody’s Daughter” was published and her family was accepting of her memoir. In fact, they were more concerned with whether she was friends with Oprah.

Because of her openness about her past and willingness to answer all questions, her presentation was warmly received.

“I loved it,” said senior Lexi Kilcoin. “I love how she talked through her trauma with us. She brought the room to a state of reflection.” 

Editor’s note: Lexi Kilcoin is former Scene writer for The Observer.

The Visiting Writers Series continues in the spring with presentations from poet Sandra Simonds and poet and fiction writer Melissa Ginsburg. 

Contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at kwaldschmidt01@saintmarys.edu