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The Ditchdigger's Daughters Paperback – March 1, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The remarkable power of family values as articulated by an uneducated black man and his wife is played out in this loving memoir. Thornton is one of five daughters born to a laborer in a New Jersey shore town who was almost obsessed with the importance of education for his children and the nurturance of their talents. He strictly monitored their musical training, scrimping and wheedling where necessary to pay for their lessons. Eventually the Thornton Sisters Band was formed?a family enterprise whose financial success became the source of the daughters' college tuition. Although only two of the girls fulfilled their father's dream that they become doctors, all of them have successful careers. This picture by Thornton and Coudert (Advice from a Failure) of a black man's single-minded devotion to his family is a tribute to an extraordinary father who transcended racial prejudice to raise appreciative daughters to be independent women. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This memoir describes how, with seemingly unfailing energy and determination, Donald Thornton, working two jobs, saw each of his six daughters obtain an education and become established in a successful career. Using their musical talent, the Thornton girls gave performances for a number of years to help finance their schooling. Donald and his wife, Asker, gave their children the strength to achieve their goals in the face of hardships, not the least of which were racial and gender discrimination. Reader Fran Washington injects a great deal of feeling into the authors' words, bringing out a whole range of emotions, from joy to anguish. This is a warm-hearted, affectionate memoir that emphasizes the importance of family ties. Highly recommended.?Catherine Swenson, Norwich Univ. Lib., Northfield, Vt.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dafina; Reprint edition (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0758225881
  • ISBN-13: 978-0758225887
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,547 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: School & Library Binding
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.
Missy
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Format: Audio Cassette
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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By A Customer on May 2, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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By A Customer on November 18, 1997
Format: Audio Cassette
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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By A Customer on November 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
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.
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