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The Ditchdigger’s Daughters film is back

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

In 1997, a movie version of my memoir, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, aired on The Family Channel. And while the film covers only a fraction of the book, it was still a thrill to see the actors playing the roles of my family members and me.

The film was never released commercially on DVD and seemed all but forgotten. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that BET network was broadcasting my story – and lots of people on Facebook are talking about it. I caught the film version last weekend as a movie premiere on BET, which makes me think that it might be broadcast again, so you should check the schedules.

Of course, Hollywood likes to focus on the conflict, so the movie was more about the struggles between my father and my older sister, Jeanette and less about what made the book a bestseller: how my father and mother overcame incredible obstacles to build a better life for their daughters.

It’s fun to watch but if you really want the whole story, I hope you’ll read the book.

And if you want to know what happens after that book ends, please keep an eye out for my next memoir, Something to Prove, scheduled to be published in December.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

A lovely letter from a reader – and a reminder of why I’ve shared my life story

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

I still hear from readers who were inspired by my first memoir, The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, although it was originally published almost 15 years ago.

The latest to come to me via email really touched me. It’s from Mr. Fred Belknap, whose lovely words make me think that he appreciates the values that my father instilled in his children in almost the same way I do:

    What an example this can be for our children relative to today, in that many think everything should be handed to them and meeting goals and beating the odds is a birth right. It seems your father did a special job to prepare you and your sisters for this world though perhaps his message was questioned at times as a result of his methods. Even though his vision, now a reality through his daughters, speaks to the strength of having a plan and carrying it through.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and I pray the many messages engraved within them are seen by the upcoming generation.

Thank you Mr. Belknap. Your kinds words have made my day, week and month.

And a big thanks to all those who have read The Ditchdigger’s Daughters and taken its lessons to heart. I hope you’ll all continue the journey with me and read Something to Prove, my next memoir, which picks up where The Ditchdigger’s Daughters left off. It’s scheduled to be published by Kaplan Publishing in Fall 2010.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

A reader “adopts” my father

Friday, September 11th, 2009

I recently heard from a reader of The Ditchdigger’s Daughters, named Sheila. Like so many who have sought me out over the years, Sheila had words of admiration for my father. But for her, my book about how my blue collar laborer, high school dropout father instilled the importance of an education is his daughters provided an especially poignant inspiration:

I grew up in the projects and never had a father. I purchased your book and Donald Thornton became my father. Whenever I wanted to give up or thought I was not smart enough I would remember his stern words and teachings. Your dad is the father every little black girl in America needs. I am soon to finish my Bachelors Degree in Nursing and going for a Ph.D.

It’s letters like this that keep me going through the tough times, knowing I’ve made a difference in the lives of others by sharing my story.

And that’s why I wish I didn’t have to wait to announce some major, and very exciting news. I hope you will bear with me for a little while longer. That announcement should be coming very soon.

– Yvonne Thornton, MD, MPH

For my father, Donald Thornton, on Father’s Day

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Dear Daddy,

You know how much I relied on your guidance as I was growing up. But I wonder what you’d think if you knew that, even now, more than 26 years after we lost you to a stroke on a snowy February day, your wisdom still guides me.

I know you regretted dropping out of school as a young man and, although you seemed content to work 16 hours a day, it must have hurt not to have the opportunity to better yourself.

I know you wanted better for us, your children.

We may have grumbled when we were kids because you demanded so much. You insisted we get the highest grades in our classes. An A wasn’t good enough for you. You expected every grade to be an A+. We had to reach so high that nobody could yank us back down.

People laughed when you told them your five girls were going to grow up to be doctors. Impossible, they said.

And yet, as the first African-American woman to be board-certified in maternal-fetal medicine (high-risk obstetrics), I’m living proof that your dreams weren’t impossible after all.

Your dreams and your demands for us to do our best are the reasons why, among your five daughters, two are now physicians, one, an oral surgeon and another grew up to be a lawyer.

But I owe you for more than my career in medicine, Daddy. There isn’t a problem that I come across in life where I don’t ask myself, what would Daddy do? There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. There will never be a time when I will stop missing you.

Even though, I know, you’re very much with me. Even now. Happy Father’s Day.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH