Thursday, February 21, 2008

Memoir: Three Little Words

Ashley Rhodes-Courter lived in fourteen different foster homes in nine years. Her memoir chronicles her childhood spent as a victim of a badly broken foster care system, yet she sees herself as more of a survivor and advocate rather than a victim.

Ashley’s story begins with her earliest memories (based in part on stories told to her by her family). Her mother was only seventeen when Ashley was born. They lived for awhile with her mother’s sister, then with a boyfriend and a new baby brother. When Ashley was just three years old, and her brother Luke still a baby, police removed them from their house, and the progression of foster parents began.

Ashley and Luke were bounced from one foster home to another, sometimes together, sometimes apart. She stayed in some homes for years and in others for just a day or two. For years, no one explained to her why this had happened, where her mother was, or what she could expect in the future. Some of her foster parents were caring, kind people; others were indifferent, crowding too many children into small homes. One foster mother was as evil as any fairytale stepmother, mentally and physically abusing Ashley and the other fourteen children in her care.

Fortunately, Ashley was an intelligent and resilient child and eventually escaped the foster care system that was responsible for so much pain in her life. She is now a college-educated twenty-two year old who is a vocal advocate for adoption and foster care reform. Simon & Schuster published Three Little Words within their teen division, but the memoir is fascinating and compelling for readers of any age. From the adorable picture of Ashley dressed as an angel on the cover to the acknowledgements, notes, and photos at the end of the book, I could scarcely put it down.

P.S. The three little words aren't the ones you're thinking of!


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