American Daughter|Stephanie Thornton Plymale
American Daughter : A Memoir
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The sharp and surprising true story of a woman who finally sets out to understand her past, and the mother she had one day hoped to forget. Full of unexpected twists and unbelievable revelations, American Daughter is an immersive memoir that will have you on the edge of your seat to the very last page.

For years, Stephanie Plymale, successful CEO and interior designer, kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. Only her husband knew that her childhood was fraught with every imaginable hardship: neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, a harrowing lack of medical care, and worse. Stephanie, in turn, knew very little about the past of her mother, who was in and out of jails and psych wards for most of Stephanie's formative years. All this changed when a series of shocking revelations forced Stephanie to revisit her tortured past and revise the meaning of every aspect of her compromised childhood.

American Daughter is the extraordinary true story of a young girl growing up on the wrong side of the American Dream. Stephanie has slept in blankets on the floor of crowded apartments, lived in the back seat of a car with her siblings, and spent decades looking over her shoulder at a mother who might just as easily hug or harm her. American Daughter is at once a moving account of a troubled mother-daughter relationship and a meditation on resilience, transcendence, and ultimately, redemption.


  • ISBN-13: 9780063054332
  • ISBN-10: 0063054337
  • Publisher: HarperOne
  • Publish Date: January 2021
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.9 pounds
  • Page Count: 288

American Daughter

The memoir genre is flush with inspiring stories about children who overcame horrific abuse to become healthy, functioning adults. If Stephanie Thornton Plymale’s American Daughter were merely that type of memoir, it would still be impressive. Plymale spent her childhood fending for herself as one of five kids raised by a mentally ill and drug-addicted mother. At times, the children slept in a car and scavenged for their own food; other times they were wards of the state.

However, the memoir Plymale has written supersedes the journey of perseverance with an investigation into her family’s fascinating but tragic past. When Plymale’s mother announced that she was dying of lung cancer, the author decided to learn more about her family history while she still could. For starters, she had no idea who her father was. Her mom often claimed that she was related to George Washington—which everyone dismissed as either a delusion or an outright lie. And when ill, her mom had often taken on alternate personalities, including a sad 11-year-old girl who was always afraid of getting pregnant. What, Plymale had long wondered, was that really about?

The family history that Plymale discovers is wilder than anyone could have guessed. Readers will find themselves recalibrating their judgments about villains and victims and questioning how one family could fall so far down through the cracks. The title American Daughter is a reference both to the author’s determination to survive and succeed and to America’s failing social systems, like mental healthcare, child protective services and the justice system.

Tough topics like sexual abuse, kidnapping and miscarriage make this a heavy read at times. But for anyone looking for a moving tale of finding a way to give the love we don’t receive, American Daughter will resonate.