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Writer Ashley Ford on the childhood letters that afforded her self esteem

Writing shaped Ashley Ford's life since childhood, when she confided secrets to her journal and clung to the emotional letters her father sent from prison, where he was serving a 30-year sentence for rape. Now a professional writer, Ford offers her brief but spectacular take on striving to become “a person who forgives.”

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to the latest in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to share their passions.

    Ashley Ford is a Brooklyn-based writer and host of the podcast "Profile" by BuzzFeed News. She is currently writing her memoir, "Somebody's Daughter."

  • Ashley Ford:

    The truth of the matter is, I have probably been writing about me longer than I want to admit. I wasn't really allowed to have diaries or journals as a kid.

    My mother thought it was inappropriate for kids to have secrets. But I still did secretly, through writing poems or writing stories that were definitely allegorical to my life.

    My upbringing was very working-class. My mom was a single parent of four children. My father went to prison for rape when I was around 3 months old, and he didn't get out again until I was 30.

    During that time that he was in prison, he wrote me a lot of letters, telling me that I was the best person in the world and that I was his favorite girl and that he loved me more than he had ever loved anyone in his entire life.

    I spent quite a bit of my childhood not knowing why my dad was in prison. And those letters became my self-esteem. My dad was the person saying the kindest things to me, even though he was far away. And it counted for a lot.

    I'm just getting to know him. I'm only 31. It's been tough to talk with my dad and to be brutally honest with each other and get to know each other in this way, because we both feel really close to each other, and we both feel like we do know each other.

    And the truth is, we don't. One of the things that happened after my dad and I got into our first argument was that I got off the phone, and my fiance said, "Are you OK?"

    And I giggled. And he said, "Are you OK?"

    And I said, "I just got into a fight with my dad," because it was the first time in my life that I was a girl who got into an argument with her father.

    I think I'm always going to be grappling with the fact that my father committed a rape. I'm always going to be grappling with that, because I was sexually assaulted when I was 13, which is something that I didn't tell my dad until after he was released.

    There's always this question in your mind when someone does something like that of, could they do it again? I have absolutely talked to my father about these things, but I also have to think about the fact that my dad went to prison two weeks before he turned 21. And my dad's a 50-year old man now.

    And my dad has done therapy, and my dad has done a lot of things to figure out why he did what he did and to become a better person. I want to believe in my dad, and I'm trying to believe in my dad. And I'm stepping out on hope and grappling with all the complications that come with that, so that, hopefully, you know, I will have more to say about what it means to be a person who forgives.

    My name is Ashley C. Ford, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on love and risk.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you can find additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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