Customer Reviews: The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story
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on July 15, 2000
I'm a 32 year old white upper middle class female and picked up this book that was on my 16 year old sister's high school reading list (from a private catholic school ~can only hope they're mature enough to benefit from its powerful messages!).... WOW is this a good one! I like to read biographies, non-fiction, true stories and this is an awesome tale! It made me laugh, feel angry about injustices and ultimately cry (at the end when Mr. and Mrs. Thornton's lives were coming to an end....they had accomplished so much with dignity and acceptance. Unselfish, determined to do the right thing! ) I felt disappointed and sad , too, because I did not have the encouragement & advice from Mr. Thornton throughout my life! Sure, many parents struggle of all races and backgrounds, but how many so persistently insist on such lofty goals? not many...they give up...the children give up, too..... I would like to one day sit down & write each bit of advice from Mr. Thornton's wise, witty, and endless supply, I would have quite a stack to refer to! I'm encouraged to be a better person and a better parent under circumstances that will probably never ever be as a challenging as those of the Thornton's. Way to go Dr. Yvonne Thornton...p.s.Maria Shriver's latest best seller should step aside! It doesn't compare to The Ditchdigger's Daughters!
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VINE VOICEon August 15, 2002
As a book reviewer I get several books to read, review, and sometimes return. Some of these books are so good I do not want to return them. Ditchdigger's Daughters is one of those books. When I first picked this book up, I was feeling a little defeated and exasperated about my job. This book gave me Donald Thornton wisdom to be the best, never mind that my colleagues are faster and younger. As Donald Thornton would say find the brightest rabbit, catch up to him/her, and pass him.
Donald Thornton passed away in 1993. What he left behind for his daughters to peruse is his wit and wisdom. Still today, I bet his daughters have every lesson stored so they can pass it on to their children. He had no education but somehow he raised six girls to become accomplished black women. He used resources within himself that some people would never think of. To finance his children's education they each paid for the other, with the proceeds from their band. The band was called the Thornettes and later changed to the Thornton Sisters, they played for students at Princeton and various other Colleges.
Donald Thornton's six splits as family and friends affectionately called him and his girls went on to become more than what anyone expected of them. Betty became a nurse, Linda a dentist, Rita is the head of the science department in a private school, the author of The Ditchdigger's Daughters Yvonne, is an OB/GYN, Donna is a court stenographer and Jeanette has a doctorate in counseling psychology. Their story is not so much about what they have become but how they got there. The Ditchdigger's Daughters will astound and amaze you. You will think twice before you express what you cannot do in your personal life. The history in this book was wonderful and it was a quick read. Thornton Ladies, I am sure your mother is happy that her wish has come true, to have her family's story told in a book that is in the library. What a hidden treasure, The Ditchdigger's Daughter is a must read.
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on January 9, 2002
OK, that word has already been used in response to this book--but there's a reason. I couldn't put this down, read it all in 2 days. Mr. and Mrs. Thornton prove that some people just have a natural genius for parenting--I sure wish there were more parents like that in the world. To them and their daughters: congratulations on lives well lived!
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on May 2, 1999
After seeing the television movie, I decided to read the book. The movie is fine, but it does not capture the true meaning of this fabulous book about overcoming obstacles and succeeding when every one says you can't. This book should be read by every middle school student and their parents. It is a great parenting book.
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on November 18, 1997
Judging by the fact I couldn't find any other reviews on this book, I'd have to say I'm the first. Here goes...This book was well written and gave a wonderful and equally inspiring account via a daughter of a black man whose dream/goal/fire and desire was to give his 5 daughters the things they needed to be successful black women in today's society. Gifts of love, attention, discipline, support,motivation, perseverance are things our black children need to today from their parents. Wonderful job!!! Truly inspirational!!
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on November 5, 1998
This is a very inspiring story from Ms. Thornton. It chronicles her journey through life with a wonderful writing style. There is a good deal here which deals with prejudice, but that doesn't take over her life. She seems to be able to not only deal with racism at each juncture but also move beyond it. I particularly loved the high school years where she and her sisters played music to support themselves. This book really touched me. Great praises for the author, now one of my heros.

While this book is not the greatest book that I ever read. . . it is a wonderful portrait of the journey of a family. Some earlier reviewers did not like this one at all. Reasons included the "poor me" theme that appears through some of the book. and the use of words. These reviewers miss the point. Ultimately the story is a story of coming to understanding through conflict, love, and dealing with social factors.

Thornton's 'poor me' attitude is hardly constant, and what's more, it is valid much of the time. Why some of the other reviewers should somehow feel that Ms. Thornton should not question a social system that was trying to quash her is beyond me. If the facts surrounding her are true, and of course they are, who in the world would not ask the same questions?

As to the use of language. . . that didn't impress me one way or the other. Let's put it this way, I was too busy following this inspirational story to turn into an english teacher. Where the reviewer says "Thornton describes a scene in which the news that must be presented to Donald was a grenade. "And then, as though her news was a grenade, she pulled the pin." No one would describe the delivering of news as similar to pulling a pin, unless they were doing so to purposefully demonstrate what was to come. But, again with the throwing the reader off, Donald doesn't explode." This reviewer misses the point entirely. Either the reviewer grew up in a vaccum, or they are the only person in the world who has never been confused by the expected and actual actions of a parent. This book is filled with the real life conflicts that make us what we are. Our perception of the world changes. The process can make us into many different things. This is a story of that change.

I don't always agree with Ms. Thornton, or the conclusions that she reaches. I remember reading this and thinking, "I wonder what the other sisters would have written at this point?" I think that the family and the story are a great triumph. Sadly, I am not sure that Donald saw the complete level of the triumph.
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on August 25, 2004
This book was one of the books on our mandatory reading listing for entering freshmen. At first I didn't know what I would have in common with this black family because my life was seemingly much different. Until I read the book. The Thornton family is like most any other family that wants what is best for their kids and will sacrifice to see that it happens. I was moved by this book. It made me cry and laugh. It also made me appreciate my parents a little more. Tough dad, tough kids.
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on November 3, 2005
This is the story of a black man who, when he received only daughters, decided to see what he could do with them. He decided they would be doctors and set about to make it happen. Donald Thornton was an uneducated man who nevertheless exuded a lot of wisdom. In the face of racism or mistreatment he would say "It builds character." He had a strong work ethic, working two or three jobs for the sake of his family. He passed this on to his daughters, especially Yvonne who wrote the book. It is her story as much as it is his. Through hard work and determination, and against adversity, she did in fact become a doctor. Yvonne shares an anecdote about a frog experiment. Scientists tied one of a frog's hind legs together to study atrophy. That leg, struggling against the bonds, became stronger than the other one. That could be the story of this book. It is a moving tribute to a father, and a testament to the qualities of perseverance and hard work. Truly inspiring, this book shows the value of fathers, and mothers, in the lives of their children; as well as the value of working hard for one's dreams.
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on January 21, 2001
What a loving tribute to parents who usually never receive credit for their sacrifices in raising upstanding children. I had to write this review after reading another review (January 4, 2001) which was totally out in left field about this wonderful book and resilient author.
The scathing comments were from an attorney, so that explains her unnecessary and unwarranted attacks on Dr. Thornton. The other review totally missed the point, but lawyers usually do. I have two young daughters and I am thrilled to have them read this book and learn what it is like to rise above poverty and practice medicine. Maybe PhDs have obtained the highest degree in academia, but I can tell as one, I am always being told that I am "not a real doctor". But that doesn't bother me because I know if I am really ill, I don't want a PhD but rather an MD taking care of me. The book was FABULOUS and heartwarming and every American should read it.
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on December 31, 1999
WOW! What a book! I received it for a Christmas present and I couldn't put it down. The love of a black father (who stayed around) for his children is so real and heartwarming. This book is loving, yet intense and will push you to feel that you can overcome anything with a work ethic. I missed 2 of my stops reading this memoir. This is a book now, the new millennium, for all time.
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