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Ashley C. Ford on Fran Drescher, ‘The Color Purple’, and the Book that Changed Her Worldview

Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s books column, in which authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re on the hunt for a book to console you, move you profoundly, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Perhaps one of their favorite titles will become one of yours, too.

Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir

Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book
amazon.com


After writing about other women in magazine cover profiles (Kamala Harris for ELLE, Stacey Abrams, and Missy Elliott), Ashley C. (for Cassandra) Ford takes on perhaps her most challenging subject: herself. Her memoir, Somebody’s Daughter (An Oprah Book/Flatiron) out this week, is about growing up with an incarcerated father and a complicated relationship with her mother. She described the process of writing it as “crying at her computer.”

You may be familiar with her voice—she’s hosted podcasts, including Lovecraft Country Radio, among others—or know her by word (check out her Five Things essays) or deed (like when her tweets helped raise six-figure sums for a Ferguson, Missouri library and to cancel school lunch debt nationwide). You might have seen her modeling skivvies on a billboard or reciting Pablo Neruda poems on IG Live at the beginning of the pandemic.

The Indianapolis-based Ford, who lives with her writer husband and their chocolate Lab Astro Renegade, is a Capricorn, was the captain of color guard in high school, and played bass drum in marching band. She can put nanny and Americorps on her resume, and learned to shoot a crossbow. Likes: Kenny Loggins, horror movies (but her favorite holiday movie is A Diva’s Christmas Carol with Vanessa Williams), cassette tapes, pointillist painter Jerry Wilkerson, Krispy Kremes when the Hot Light comes on. Dislikes: Large groups, red velvet, camping. She usually picks a word for the new year, but for 2021, she picked a color—blue—because she felt it. She feels these books, too.

The book that:

…helped me through a loss:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.

…kept me up way too late:

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.

…made me weep uncontrollably:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

…I recommend over and over again:

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson.

…shaped my worldview:

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

…I swear I’ll finish one day:

2666 by Roberto Bolaño.

…currently sits on my nightstand:

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green.

…proved me wrong about something:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.

…I’d pass onto a kid:

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.

…I’d gift to a new graduate:

An Ordinary Age by Rainesford Stauffer.

…made me laugh out loud:

Meaty by Samantha Irby.

…I’d like turned into a Netflix show:

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai.

…I first bought:

Night of The Living Dummy by R.L. Stine.

…I last bought:

There’s A Nightmare in my Closet by Mercer Mayer.

…has the best title:

Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be by Nichole Perkins [August 2021].

…should be on every college syllabus:

How The Word is Passed by Clint Smith.

…I brought on a momentous trip:

The first time I left the country, I brought Wild by Cheryl Strayed with me.

…I’ve re-read the most:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.

…I consider literary comfort food:

The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

…makes me feel seen:

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

…fills me with hope:

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green.

…I’d want signed by the author:

Cancer Schmancer by Fran Drescher.

Bonus question: If I could live in any library or bookstore in the world, it would be:

The one I plan to build someday.

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