Ashley C. Ford, Author and American Writers’ Festival Presenter, Wants to Own Her Own Story — Even If That Story Includes Her Incarcerated Dad – Chicago Tribune

Ashley C. Ford, appearing at the American Writers Festival May 15 (in conversation with Chicago poet and scholar Eve Ewing), is a pure, brilliant, fun-to-read, chattering voice. But that description doesn’t do justice to his writing, which pulls you into drama with unsuspected force. Ford is a podcast host and journalist, and last year her memoir, “Somebody’s Daughter,” landed her on bestseller lists and best of the year lists. It tells the story of how Ford – a rape survivor whose own father was in prison for rape – also became pure resilience.

Q: You have such a conversational and laid back style of writing, was it difficult to write painfully only about yourself?

A: That’s why it took so long. It took 10 years. I started in college. Parts existed as an essay for non-fiction class, and then I did something I didn’t expect to do and tried to turn it into something bigger. What took 10 years to figure out how to survive and write about yourself, now in your 30s. Writing about yourself is hard enough and certainly difficult when you come from a marginalized community where you’re supposed to be wary of the masses knowing too much about you and your home. I had to face the fact that I had the right to own my own story. I was brought up like that. I was brought up with the idea that telling the truth about how someone hurt you might be betrayal.

Q: In the book, you don’t reveal your father’s crimes for a while, which mirrors your life. You didn’t know what he was doing until you were a teenager. Did you ask?

A: Oh, I asked, but the thing about my family structure and the adults around me, if I asked a question that nobody wanted to answer, not only did they not want to discuss it, but I would be in trouble . Then I was a troublemaker to even think about it. To protect myself, I tried to do this when it was extremely safe, requiring someone else to report it first. I also couldn’t lie to myself that it didn’t seem to work the way they thought it would. that if they didn’t talk about it, he was leaving. No, it never went away.

Q: Your father is still in prison. Did you bring him the book?

A: I did it. He read it. It was, for him, like receiving the letters that I had never written. It gave him a chance to know me. But it was hard for him, and it took him a long time to come out of it.

Q: The title, “Someone’s Daughter,” could mean a lot of people in your family, but I’m also wondering if it’s a reference to yourself, that you were your own guardian?

A: I think so. The child version of me is still inside me and she has things she is working on and I am her guardian and my job is to create a safe space in a way that she deserves. Emotionally, I absolutely parent myself. Many of the privileges of childhood ceased to be granted to me long before I ceased to be a child.

There’s a new illuminated festival in town: American Writers Festival:

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Lola R. McClure