In one word: Raw
Cannonball Read Bingo: Elephant
I’ve been toying with writing my own book for a few years now, and am finally starting to get serious about the endeavor, or at least get serious about saying I’m getting serious, which is practically the same thing, right? I cashed in a work award (thanks Snappy!) for a free six-month Skillshare membership and came upon a course by Ashley C. Ford on writing titled “Creative Personal Writing: Write the Real You.” I loved her style and ideas, and it was this course that introduced me to her short story “The Monster That Saved Me” about her experiences seeking help from a school counselor who later was arrested for an inappropriate relationship with a student. She credits this person with helping her through a difficult period of time when no one else could but had to rectify her experience with this person with the larger story and the context that this was someone who did something truly unforgivable. She walks the tightrope of this story with grace and surprising ease. It is that deftness and disassociation that you can expect from her memoir.
There are no elephants in the room as far as Ashley C. Ford is concerned. She lays everything about her life bare, from her troubled relationship with her mother to the shadow that her father’s long incarceration cast over her life. But the words “troubled” and “shadow” are really my interpretations of her observations. What’s fascinating about her writing is that she never says what she thinks about any of the events. She manages to chronicle her life from childhood to the present almost as an outside observer. When she talks about her childhood, you are really seeing it from the eyes of a child, without adult context or retrospection. You are left to make your own determination of what things meant to her at the time, how they felt, or even if she agrees with what other people have said and done.
In the interview with the author at the end of the book, she shared that this wasn’t the book that she pitched or ever intended to write. Her aim was to write a book about her relationship with her father, and focus on him so that she would almost be a side character in her own story, but that’s not the story she told. Instead, this is a gritty look at her life and everything she overcame to get where she is today. If you are interested in an unflinching story of a writer who has a gift for concise storytelling, then I encourage you to pick up this book.