Book Review: All That Is Bitter and Sweet by Ashley Judd

Title: All That Is Bitter and Sweet

Author: Ashley Judd
Genre: Memoir
Format: Kindle
Year Published: 2011
Source: I “borrowed” this Kindle book from through my local library

Ashley Judd’s memoir is not your typical movie star autobiography. She actually hardly discusses her movie career at all. It’s mostly about her traumatic childhood and her adult role as a humanitarian.

Judd discusses her extremely dysfunctional childhood (how many memoirs would there be if people had functional childhoods?) Her mother is Naomi Judd and her older sister is Wynonna Judd. Her mother and sister would sometimes leave her alone for days at a time and Ashley had to fend for herself. Sometimes she would live with her father (her parents were divorced) or with other relatives.

Ashley’s childhood was chaotic and unstable and as a child she never felt that her emotional needs were being met. If she tried to voice her feelings, she was not taken seriously. She also suffered from being molested. She felt marginalized and was made to feel that she was unworthy. From a very early age she suffered from undiagnosed depression.

She was a brilliant student at the University of Kentucky, studying French and women’s issues among other things, and became involved in many humanitarian and feminist causes. She realized that she wanted to be an actress. She also wanted to continue her involvement in humanitarian causes, but didn’t know how she could do both. It turns out that her fame as an actress opened many doors to being involved at an international level.

Her feelings of abandonment and abuse stood her in good stead as a humanitarian. Ashley’s work has focused particularly on the way women are treated around the world, especially in Third World countries. These women have no training or education and live on subsistence levels. Many end up working as sexual slaves. The treatment of women has a direct correlation to the AIDS pandemic in many countries.

Ashley has found a real purpose for her life in humanitarian works, but the bad memories stemming from childhood traumas sent Ashley spiraling into a terrible depression and she finally needed to be hospitalized. She got the help she needed, and she is now a happier person.

She is also a profoundly religious person, and has been inspired by her meetings with people such as Desmond Tutu. Ashley went on to graduate school at Harvard and is continuing her fight for the rights of the the poor and voiceless around the world.

You can also read Ashley’s blog.


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