Rhodes-Courter, Ashley. Three Little Words. New York: Atheneum, 2008.
Ashley spent nine years of her life in fourteen different foster homes. Some of her foster parents were kind and well intentioned while others were intentionally abusive and neglectful. In this thoughtful and reflective autobiography, Ashley reflects on the upheavals of her young life and the problems that they caused and the problems that she caused.
She had to learn to cope with adults being anything but truthful with her from an extremely young age. Because of a combination of inept and corrupt foster care parents and caseworkers she and her brother Luke were shuffled around lost in the system for almost five years. Often bundled into illegally over crowded foster homes with overstressed foster parents Ashley learned not to trust adults and social workers. Although she was extremely bright and did well in school she was often labeled a trouble maker and when she tried to speak out against the abuse she was suffering at the hands of the worst of her foster parents she was called a liar.
She finally landed with Gay and Phil Courter who, despite some of Ashley’s own self sabotaging, adopted her and have raised her as their daughter. Through their patience and tender care Ashley has become a brilliant young woman and a gifter writer and speaker.
Her auto biography doesn’t sugar coat her experiences and shows them in a very real and emotionally raw way. She also shows her adoptive parents in a very realistic way, not makeing them out to be angels and also showing herself as the difficult child that she had become. Ashley could easily have succumbed to the endless cycle of violence inherent in the system, but she has grown into an inspirational person and now works to ensure that other children don’t have to suffer through what she had to.
From School Library Journal
“I felt as worthless as the junk in my trash bag . . . once again, I was the one being tossed out and thrown away.” Taken from her mother when she was scarcely four years old, Rhodes-Courter spent the next nine years in foster care with “more than a dozen so-called mothers.” “Some were kind,” she acknowledges, “a few were quirky and one . . . was as wicked as a fairy-tale witch.” She names names in this memoir, which is also a searing indictment of an often sadly deficient system of child care. Given her experiences, one can understand why she is angry and often bitter, but the unrelieved stridency of her tone makes for sometimes difficult reading. Nevertheless, she gives a voice to countless thousands of children who continue to be abused, abandoned, and ignored, and one hopes her book will make a positive difference in their lives.
– Source for choosing this book: Booklist
– Grades 8-12
– Related Book: Bridge, Andrew. Hope’s Boy: A Memoir. New York: Hyperion, 2008. Found in Booklist. Both of these books follow the lives of children who grew up children of unfit parents and who were shuffled off into the foster care system of the United States. Both of them endured physical and emotional abuse and share their stories in their memoirs.