Author: Ashley Judd
Publisher: Ballentine Books 2011
It may seem harsh to say in this day and age that I have little sympathy for those who have made no effort to improve themselves and expect others who have studied and worked hard to pay their way. I understand that the economics of today have changed a lot of the rules and there are many who are suffering because of it who have truly tried to do all the right things. But, I also realize there are millions of people in the third world countries who, through no fault of their own, live lives of extreme poverty and great desperation, far beyond anything most of us have ever seen or even imagined. If I didn’t realize it before, I certainly do after reading this book.
In case you aren’t familiar with Ashley Judd, she is a gorgeous and excellent Hollywood and Broadway actress, half sister of Wynonna Judd and daughter of Naomi Judd, famous for their award winning country singing career, and wife of auto racer Dario Franchitti.
Her life as a child was a difficult one as her mother, Naomi, divorced and tried to make it on her own while supporting her two children. Ashley was often left totally to her own devices, suffered sexual and physical abuse and became deeply depressed. Luckily she spent a great deal of time with her grandparents who were loving and supportive. In an effort to escape the real world she lived in she became an avid reader which, in turn, helped her develop a vivid imagination which was useful in her later career as an actress.
One whole section of this book is devoted to describing her truly horrible childhood. I don’t know how she had the strength to make it through. At times she considered killing herself and I can certainly understand why. She was fortunate, later in life, to become a part of a therapy group in Texas called Shades of Hope (www.shadesofhope.com) Her sister Wynonna had gone there to cope with her emotional and eating problems and Ashley was invited to become a part of the therapy when she went for a family week for Wynonna. She was immediately identified by the staff as a “Lost Child,” which I believe was a very apt title; and, in a most unusual move, they invited her to become part of their treatment program. Thankfully they were able to help her on the path to feeling whole for the first time in her life.
Because of her success in Hollywood and Broadway and her beauty it would be easy for her to rest on her laurels and enjoy a life of glamour, however, she has done no such thing. She was elected Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Kentucky and received her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
In addition to telling of her childhood life and therapy, much of her book is devoted to telling us of her later life as a global ambassador for Youth AIDS, a prevention program sponsored by Population Services International where she is now a board member. She strongly believes in population control, feeling that much of the world’s problems are due to overpopulation. She has traveled extensively in Asia, Africa and South America promoting the use of condoms to prevent both pregnancy and HIV/AIDS.
Her travels as an ambassador have not only taken her to the usual fund raisers and political fancy dinners, where she is able to meet Heads of State, but much more often into the poorest parts of cities into slums, clinics, hospices, orphanages, brothels, and sex-slave markets where many of the woman and young girls have been forced into prostitution, both as slaves and, in an extreme desperate effort, to support their children.
While visiting she does just not pass through and briefly glimpse at what is happening, as so often happens in cases such as these, but stops to talk with the women with great empathy for their plight. She sits next to them, listens to what they have to say and, indeed, puts her arms around them to show her love, understanding and support. She realizes that she can not personally save each of them, as much as she might like to, but she can encourage them in ways that might improve their lives and others like them.
This is not an easy book to read. If you are expecting a lot of gossip about life as a movie star you will be sadly disappointed. Instead you will learn a great deal about what is happening to people, especially women, in the poorest parts of the world. And you will have a greater understanding of why those who live there are so very, very poor and some idea of what can, and should be done to improve their situation. And, lastly, you will acquire an appreciation of Ashley Judd’s amazing feelings of humanity for all of mankind despite, and perhaps, because of, all that she personally suffered as a child.
Diane Bostick has lived on Marco Island since 1987. She was the Founder and President of Ft. Myers chapter of the Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, President of Jr. Welfare League, Ft. Myers Chapter, and served on the board of Art League of Marco Island. She is an avid reader, fly fisherwoman, tennis player and crafter.