All That Is Bitter & Sweet, Ashley Judd's memoir, is based on journals she wrote as well as childhood memories. This morning on the Today show, Judd was quite articulate as she spoke about her dysfunctional family and being given "the gift" of her own recovery. "I didn't know what was quote-unquote wrong with me," she admitted. "I looked really good on the outside… I had a lot of anxiety and insomnia. I realized eventually that I was really powerless over my childhood." Judd revealed that she was is a survivor of sexual abuse — incest — but insisted: "I am not alone or unusual…Every 2 seconds, a woman is sexually aggressed upon in this country." She also confessed that while her memoir may not be entirely accurate, "It's very true for me."
Judd's parents married "too young and for the 'wrong' reason"; her mother, Diana Ciminella, spent years "seething" with boredom. There's an excerpt from chapter one of Judd's book on the Today website, and this section really gets to the heart of her struggle:
I began to understand the dynamics of my past, and how we are only as sick as our secrets, when I was thirty-seven years old and started on a simple and practical path of personal recovery. It as then that I discovered we all belong to two families: our family of choice and our family of origin. My family of choice is a colorful assortment of surrogate grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who infuse me with love, belonging, and acceptance. My family of origin, the one into which I was born, was also brimming with love but was not a healthy family system. There was too much trauma, abandonment, addiction and shame. My mother, while she was transforming herself into the country legend Naomi Judd, created an origin myth for the Judds that did not match my reality. She and my sister have been quoted as saying that our family put the "fun" in dysfunction. I wondered: Who, exactly, was having all the fun? What was I missing?
It's obvious that Judd's been through a lot of therapy, and had some assistance in writing her book: well-known ghostwriter Maryanne Vollers — who also worked with Hillary Clinton — is credited on the cover. But hearing Judd speak, it's also obvious that she is experiencing the kind of clarity many people crave, whether they're from alcoholic families or just feeling lost. Unlike the usual self-indulgent celebrity biography, it seems that Judd's book offers something extra: A glimmer of enlightenment.