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'I’m going to force this place to claim me': Ashley C. Ford on Indiana speaking tour

Ford to speak in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and New Albany
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Posted at 2:28 PM, Apr 12, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s own Ashley C. Ford is going on tour across the Hoosier state this week, nearly a year after the release of her New York Times Bestselling memoir “Somebody’s Daughter.”

Ford is the inaugural speaker of the "Indiana Authors Awards Tour." The program is a statewide speaking tour featuring prominent Hoosier authors in conversation with local writers and thought leaders.

As part of the tour, Ford will be giving talks in three Hoosier cities. All events are free but require registration.

On Tuesday, Ford is at the Floyd County Library in conversation with poet Mitchell L.H. Douglas. Wednesday, she will be in Indianapolis at Arsenal Tech High School in conversation with writer Tamara Winfrey-Harris. Ford will then wrap up the week in her hometown of Fort Wayne on Thursday at the Allen County Public Library with radio host Terra Brantley.

Although Ford's debut book has only recently been published, much of the world knows her work. The writer has had several essays and articles published in numerous publications, from New York Magazine to The Guardian. She's a social media sensation, often voicing her opinions and critiques on everything from literature, politics, race, pop culture, and, her home, Indiana.

"I talk a lot about being from Indiana. I talk a lot about being a Hoosier. I talk a lot about being born here, and growing up here, because when I critique this state with love, I don't want anybody accusing me of being from somewhere else," Ford said in an interview with WRTV.

Ford moved back to Indiana from New York City almost two years ago. She's always loved Indiana and knew she would be back.

"I don't want anybody accusing me of being a person who doesn't get it, doesn't understand, is out of touch, doesn't recognize the unique beauty and unique struggles of living in a place like this — I want them to know that I'm speaking from my experience, but that my experience is informed," Ford noted.

Somebody's Daughter explores themes that her followers will recognize from her previous work, like race, body image, and education, but it also explores childhood and family.

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"Somebody’s Daughter" by Ashley C. Ford was published by Flatiron Books on June 1, 2021.

If there's one thing Ford hopes readers take away from her memoir, it's an awareness and perhaps even an eagerness to recognize children's full humanity.

"Childhood is not a time in our life that just gets erased, and when we turn 18, we are blank slates who are building a life on even an equal footing. That's just not the case," Ford explained. "Our childhood counts, it matters, and it affects us for the rest of our lives. It's not a separate part of us. The person you were at five is the person you are at 50, just with a few more years under their belt."

Ford tells WRTV she hopes Hoosiers, more pointedly young Hoosiers, take away that their stories matter. Especially the stories of their childhood. This is something she will talk about during her tour.

"I hope that they walk away understanding how powerful their stories are. And I do mean their stories, not the stories that other people tell them about who they are, who they should be. But the story they have about themselves right now," Ford told WRTV. "That's an important story. That's a record worth keeping."

The Fort Wayne native and Ball State University graduate stated in a release about her upcoming tour with the Indiana Authors Awards that she was "going to force this place to claim me.”

Ford explains that she has always been lovingly supported and encouraged by her professors at Ball State and others in her community. However, she says, in other regards, "it took in some places being a New York Times bestseller to be recognized in this state the way I had been recognized in other places."

"Indiana's Black History is not something, in my opinion, that has been adequately supported by arts funding, by foundational funding, or by government funding. And a lot of that history gets lost. And it does not seem to me like that's on accident," Ford said.

Ford shared that it wasn't until her college years that she discovered how many notable Black people had come from or lived in Indiana.

As a Black Hoosier who was born and raised in Indiana, Ford says it's vital for Hoosiers of color to know the stories of other Black and Brown Hoosiers.

"You're not going to move somewhere else and be different. You're not going to go to a different college and become a different person. Wherever you go, you'll have to take you with you," Ford said.

"I just want people to know how important they are, how important their stories are, and the worthiness of their stories being told, especially people from Indiana, where we are sometimes told that nobody cares about us. And nobody cares about where we come from. But, you know, our stories end up on the New York Times bestseller list, too."

All three of Ford's talks this week will start at 7 p.m. You can learn more about Ford and order her book at ashleycford.net. She is also the host of a new podcast by Ben & Jerry's called Into the Mix, where Ford interviews notable cultural figures such as John Legend and Favianna Rodriquez.

WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at shakkira.harris@wrtv.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.