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The Ditchdigger's Daughters

The Ditchdigger's Daughters

4.6 16
by Yvonne S. Thornton

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Donald Thornton was a ditchdigger who wanted more for his six daughters, saying:

"I love you better than I love life," he assured his children. "But I'm not always gonna be around to look after you, and no man's gonna come along and offer to take care of you because you ain't light-skinned. That's why you gotta be able to look after yourselves. And for


Donald Thornton was a ditchdigger who wanted more for his six daughters, saying:

"I love you better than I love life," he assured his children. "But I'm not always gonna be around to look after you, and no man's gonna come along and offer to take care of you because you ain't light-skinned. That's why you gotta be able to look after yourselves. And for that you gotta be smart."

Donald decided to do the grandest thing he could think of: force them to make a success of their lives. Along with their mother, Tass, he cajoled and inspired the girls to succeed while working two full-time jobs to keep them properly fed and clothed. All six became successful, independent, accomplished women: two of his six daughters became doctors, one became a dentist, one a lawyer, one a nurse, and one a court stenographer.

The Ditchdigger's Daughters is the inspirational story of a family with a strong role model who set family values about all else. Donald's persuasive common sense, folk wisdom and right-on insights gave them the skills they would need to overcome obstacles in their paths to success.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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. (May)
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.
Lillian Lewis
The Thornton family's story is inspirational and quite emotional as told by daughter Yvonne. Donald Thornton, the ditchdigger, and Asker, his wife, defied the odds by instilling in their six daughters (one adopted) the importance of hard work and the family's values. Donald's wisdom and insight were the foundation for the girls' ultimate success as professionals: two doctors, a dentist, a lawyer, a nurse, and a court stenographer. The Thornton girls applied their discipline and dedication to their talent in music. As a result, the girls began performing as the Thornton Sisters, which provided the means for the girls to attend college and, ultimately, become the independent women that Donald sought to cultivate. The story is about more than family relationships or father and daughter relationships but about how determination and strength encouraged a family to excel beyond its condition and fulfill the dreams of the parents. Yvonne's dedication--" For mommy and daddy, we wouldn't have been anything or done anything without you" --says it all, besides being a fitting tribute to the parents and the success of these accomplished women.

Product Details

Demco Media
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.12(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Yvonne S. Thornton, M.D., obtained her medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons with honors. She is director of the Perinatal Diagnostic Testing Center at Morristown, New Jersey, and an associate physician at Rockefeller University Hospital. She lives with her husband and two children in Teaneck, New Jersey.

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Ditchdigger's Daughters 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just a Black Woman Alex The Ditch Digger¿s Daughter, published in 1995, by Yvonne S. Thorton, gives us a glimpse of a very different world, at least for me. A world where the children are growing up in sub-poverty, with their parents working several jobs trying to make ends meet, and the entire family having to bind together in order to survive the racial prejudice that existed. This is a biography of a life where life is not just happy go lucky and peaches; it shows us a more trying life. The ability that the writer has of placing you in the house and in their family is astonishing as is what the author and her family has gone through. The unique writing style is great, the book seems to flow from one event to another, like a very organized paper that has been revised again and again. Because of this flow in the story, I believe the book will actually keep readers more interested in the book and therefore make it a very 'quick read' book. The writer is also able to communicate good advice that is practical, and it is also fun to see how the girls go on to apply it in their life. The thing I would have to say I liked most about the book was the way you could learn from it, in so many ways. While reading the book you could learn about how life was for families on the brink of poverty, about how life was for blacks, and what it was like to have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you could also learn many practical lessons that are able to help us to this day. For example, one of the first issues that the book deals with is the issue of inequality, even Donald (the ditchdigger) had to deal with inequality and prejudice in his own family, because he chose to marry someone that was a darker skin color than he. But every time Donald is knocked down he gets back up stronger and that is a great way, in my opinion, to deliver positive messages. Throughout the book morals like when you get knocked down, just get up stronger are preached, and that is yet another reason why we should read, and learn, from this book. If you are interested in reading a great book that can teach you about how life was for a black family, or if you just want a good book to read, I would recommend this book.
prettyYW More than 1 year ago
I woke up at 3am just to watch this movie twice. I live my life daily wishing I had a father that loved me. The father I seen on television was the father I carried in my dreams, heart, mind and soul. At forty-three, the day I watched the "Ditchdigger's Daughters" was the first time I saw my imaginary "Daddy" on August 23, 2009. The story touched me so that I could not hold back the tears. From Yvonne's perspective, Donald Thornton was a father, head of his household, strength and determination not to have his daughters dependent on nothing but the family's values for achievement. All six girls were given a sense of direction that was planted at an early age and the seed continued to grow and produce fruition. The reality of the story is that society only will read or see the history of the Thornton Sisters. Only they know it wasn't all peaches n cream but Sisters just know that their are some girls, women, boys and men that wish they could have had at least half the father Mr. Donald Thornton was because I am one of them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time about 2yrs ago when the movie was on television. It was so good!!!! More young parents should read this book,to understand how to really raise children..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BALLOONMOM More than 1 year ago
OUTSTANDING book! The odds that they faced and overcame were extraordinary. The obstacles they overcame would have engulfed other people. I also read the sequel book "SOMETHING TO PROVE" by Dr. Yvonne Thornton. BOTH BOOKS ARE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING and I HIGHLY recommend them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Man teaching his children to be someone in this wicked world. He was very very hard on them but it paid off. The movie comes on from time to time but it cant be purchased. I love the story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ive read the book twice. What an eye opener to some of the prejudices that truly existed in an area where I grew up. What a good example of a family who worked together to make a better life for themselves, what an example for parents and families. Would highly reccomend this one.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw the movie but never read the book but I was just wondering if the movie going to be on sale
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i really enjoy the movie. i watch everytime it comes on tv. the story in itself is how i would like my children to be raised with a strong understanding of education and how the world is gonna treat you if you don't have that.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and shared it with some of my female family and friends. I can relate to this family, we had five girls, and three boys, but college was not an option for us. So to see almost the impossible happen to them was so encouraging. I have shared it with many of the doctors, as I attended their offices and was asked 'What are you reading?'
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a great story, inspiring to anyone who reads it. Her struggle is the story of some many young women who strive to succeed today. Hats off to Dr. Yvonne Thornton and her family.