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Ashley Judd is an award-winning film and stage actor known for her roles in both box-office hits and art-house gems, and the daughter and sister of country-music royalty. In 2002, drawing on a deep well of empathy, she found her true calling: as a humanitarian and advocate for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. Asked why she was opting out of a successful care Ashley Judd is an award-winning film and stage actor known for her roles in both box-office hits and art-house gems, and the daughter and sister of country-music royalty. In 2002, drawing on a deep well of empathy, she found her true calling: as a humanitarian and advocate for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. Asked why she was opting out of a successful career, walking away while she was one of the highest-paid women in Hollywood, Ashley herself could not provide an answer. She simply knew that after her first trip to the notorious brothels, slums, and hospices of southeast Asia, her own life depended on advocating on behalf of the vulnerable. Promising each new sister, “I will never forget you,” Ashley began writing extraordinary diaries—on which this memoir is based—expanding her capacity to relate to, and to share with a global audience, stories of survival and resilience. Along the way, Ashley realized that the coping strategies she had developed to deal with her own emotional pain, stemming from childhood abandonment, were no longer working. Seeking in-patient treatment in 2006 for the grief that had nearly killed her, Ashley found not only her own recovery and an enriched faith but an expanded kit of spiritual tools that energized and advanced her feminist social justice work. Now, in this deeply moving and unforgettable memoir, Ashley Judd describes her odyssey, as a left-behind lost child attains international prominence as a fiercely dedicated advocate. Her story ranges from anger to forgiveness, isolation to interdependence, depression to activism. In telling it, she resoundingly answers the ineffable question about the relationship between healing oneself and service to others.


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Ashley Judd is an award-winning film and stage actor known for her roles in both box-office hits and art-house gems, and the daughter and sister of country-music royalty. In 2002, drawing on a deep well of empathy, she found her true calling: as a humanitarian and advocate for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. Asked why she was opting out of a successful care Ashley Judd is an award-winning film and stage actor known for her roles in both box-office hits and art-house gems, and the daughter and sister of country-music royalty. In 2002, drawing on a deep well of empathy, she found her true calling: as a humanitarian and advocate for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. Asked why she was opting out of a successful career, walking away while she was one of the highest-paid women in Hollywood, Ashley herself could not provide an answer. She simply knew that after her first trip to the notorious brothels, slums, and hospices of southeast Asia, her own life depended on advocating on behalf of the vulnerable. Promising each new sister, “I will never forget you,” Ashley began writing extraordinary diaries—on which this memoir is based—expanding her capacity to relate to, and to share with a global audience, stories of survival and resilience. Along the way, Ashley realized that the coping strategies she had developed to deal with her own emotional pain, stemming from childhood abandonment, were no longer working. Seeking in-patient treatment in 2006 for the grief that had nearly killed her, Ashley found not only her own recovery and an enriched faith but an expanded kit of spiritual tools that energized and advanced her feminist social justice work. Now, in this deeply moving and unforgettable memoir, Ashley Judd describes her odyssey, as a left-behind lost child attains international prominence as a fiercely dedicated advocate. Her story ranges from anger to forgiveness, isolation to interdependence, depression to activism. In telling it, she resoundingly answers the ineffable question about the relationship between healing oneself and service to others.

30 review for All That Is Bitter and Sweet: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Connie Faull

    I'm not sure how I feel about Ashley Judd after reading this memoir. I liked her before I read it and now, I'm not sure. Although I admire and give her credit for her work with PSI and other NGOs in raising awareness of gender inequality & HIV/AIDS around the world, she did reinforce my dislike of celebrities & causes. I somehow feel that they think we're all stupid and it's up to them to enlighten us on the ills of the world. Why someone like Bono or Ashley Judd should be able to secure meeting I'm not sure how I feel about Ashley Judd after reading this memoir. I liked her before I read it and now, I'm not sure. Although I admire and give her credit for her work with PSI and other NGOs in raising awareness of gender inequality & HIV/AIDS around the world, she did reinforce my dislike of celebrities & causes. I somehow feel that they think we're all stupid and it's up to them to enlighten us on the ills of the world. Why someone like Bono or Ashley Judd should be able to secure meetings with the President of the United States or other world leaders, to me seems a bit ludicrous. Whenever I see those telethons with celebrities asking us commoners for our money, I just always think, "why aren't they going to all their rich millionaire friends and getting money from them??" Anyway, the book delves very deeply into her travels around the globe on behalf of PSI. She tells some touching stories of women who are forced into prostitution and women who are HIV positive. The books can be a little preachy in spots (and a little too religious for my taste). She does tell stories of her twisted upbringing and does not show her mother in a very good light but if you're looking for a lot of dirt on the Judds you don't really find it in this book. She really keeps stories of her family to a minimum. I watched the Judds reality show on OWN and I thought that Wynonna cried more than any person ever. Well, apparently it runs in the family. Ashley seems to have spent a vast amount of her time crying. I feel for anyone who has grown up or lives in an environment of abuse, but geez these women break down regularly! The book is filled with a lot of facts and figures which can get a little boring to read, but all in all it was an informative book. If you're into reading up on the current status of HIV/AIDS & gender inequality in the world and you want to read about Ashley's therapy & recovery you may like this book. I'm still processing how I feel about her after reading the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This book is not a page turner. It is at points very hard to read because of the sheer hopelessness Ashley encounters in her work with those struggling in third-world countries. Her book opened my eyes to the many, many women who are forced into prostitution and sex slavery. However, I would highly recommend reading it because after processing what I read I realized there is hope and Ashley is just one of the very curageous and brave people who are doing the work to make change. Also, if you com This book is not a page turner. It is at points very hard to read because of the sheer hopelessness Ashley encounters in her work with those struggling in third-world countries. Her book opened my eyes to the many, many women who are forced into prostitution and sex slavery. However, I would highly recommend reading it because after processing what I read I realized there is hope and Ashley is just one of the very curageous and brave people who are doing the work to make change. Also, if you come from a broken family or childhood trauma you may find her personal accounts of overcoming depression and anxiety inspiring. Lastly, some reviewers were put off by Ashleys listing of her accomplishments and work as they thought she was bragging. In the end notes Ashley discusses how her book came out of her personal diaries. I don't think she ever intended the book to sound like a "I'm better than everyone else because I do this!" I think she was trying to be absolutely honest about her experiences and is obviously not a writer so the book is more diary than novel. I appreciate her bringing the subjects she did to light and sharing the stories of those who are not able to.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    Couldn't even make myself finish this book! Went into it all admiring Ashley Judd for both her talent and her philanthropic work and found myself wanting to throw the book against the wall more than a couple of times until I finally gave up completely. I found her to be pretentious and totally self-absorbed. She really seems to like to play the role of the victim as well. Most of what I read had a real poor me tone to it. Very few of us have perfect childhoods, but unless she left a bunch out, h Couldn't even make myself finish this book! Went into it all admiring Ashley Judd for both her talent and her philanthropic work and found myself wanting to throw the book against the wall more than a couple of times until I finally gave up completely. I found her to be pretentious and totally self-absorbed. She really seems to like to play the role of the victim as well. Most of what I read had a real poor me tone to it. Very few of us have perfect childhoods, but unless she left a bunch out, hers didn't sound all that horrible to me. She was clearly not the favorite. So what. Get over it. I just didn't get it, and her idea that people are selfish because they simply want to procreate and raise their own children instead of adopting another's offspring set me off. Who is she to judge or decide? Ludicrous. She seems like an uptight, snotty hateful person who, by the way, can't organize her thoughts very well or write. Thankful that I was only borrowing the book. If I had purchased it, I'd have been pissed. Enough said!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Ashley Judd’s memoir is actually two books in one; a memoir of her highly dysfunctional childhood growing up as a Judd (but not at all part of her mother and sister’s singer duo), and walking away from her TV and acting career to travel the world as an ambassador for PSI and NGO. Personally, I was much more interested in the latter than the former. I read a couple of reviews that say this book has a lot of clichés and is (over) emotional however, Judd longs to bring a voice to the voiceless and s Ashley Judd’s memoir is actually two books in one; a memoir of her highly dysfunctional childhood growing up as a Judd (but not at all part of her mother and sister’s singer duo), and walking away from her TV and acting career to travel the world as an ambassador for PSI and NGO. Personally, I was much more interested in the latter than the former. I read a couple of reviews that say this book has a lot of clichés and is (over) emotional however, Judd longs to bring a voice to the voiceless and she successfully and eloquently does just this. She has made a multitude of trips around the world, some as long as one month at a time to visit woman and children who have been made sex slaves (some as young as 8 years old) and when she is not traveling she spends substantial time lobbing in congress to do whatever is necessary to put an end to human trafficking. In one snarky review I read, she was criticized for having to call her Yogi Master in Hollywood during her trip to Cambodia, and I thought so-damn-what? She is a world away, without her husband, has left her career behind, and is spending months upon months with HIV positive, abused and hollowed eyed victims, most of whom have been locked away in a filthy bug & rodent infested room, have not seen the light of day in years, to provide over 12 sex acts a day to men who are old enough to be their grandfather. It is most likely these women will be dead by 20. And we’re going to criticize her for calling home for emotional support? I am thankful I read this book because although I was aware of sex trafficking, I have learned a boatload of information and knowledge and have bear-witnessed to the atrocities woman across the globe are facing. *PSI is a leading global health organization with programs targeting malaria, child survival, HIV and reproductive health.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    You would never know this poised, beautiful and confident person was suffering nearly all the years we have seen her perform. This book is about her suffering and her from clinical depression (for which she was treated for in a 42 day clinic) and her generous spirit to people in dire need. I think her ability to give so much fills the void or attemps to, from her chaotic experience of growing up in the shadow of her mom and sister (The Judds.) She managed to flip her fate around through her heal You would never know this poised, beautiful and confident person was suffering nearly all the years we have seen her perform. This book is about her suffering and her from clinical depression (for which she was treated for in a 42 day clinic) and her generous spirit to people in dire need. I think her ability to give so much fills the void or attemps to, from her chaotic experience of growing up in the shadow of her mom and sister (The Judds.) She managed to flip her fate around through her healing, her faith and recovery, both professionally and through her humanitarian work. She really isn't someone who can operate quietly in the corner, she acts on that passion, both in her professional life and her activist role. It is not a page-turner but that is not a downside; it takes time to absorb her experiences; experiences that ripped through my heart because she was truly neglected, forgotten, taken advantage of and for granted. She is a survivor. It was a bit long at times and sequentially it was confusing but it was metaphorically symbolic of her circumstances up until her present life. I am glad I finished it because I wasn't sure if I could endure all of it. It is a bittersweet story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Ugh. I went into this liking Ashley Judd a lot - I came out much less enthused. At one point in her book, Judd tells Bobby Shriver that her vocation is to make her life an act of worship - I'm sorry to say that she has succeeded in worshiping herself. I have never read a biography that was more full of self-love than this one. She is the supreme example of a person who pursues a life of "doing good" in order to be thought a saint. Walk away very fast. Ugh. I went into this liking Ashley Judd a lot - I came out much less enthused. At one point in her book, Judd tells Bobby Shriver that her vocation is to make her life an act of worship - I'm sorry to say that she has succeeded in worshiping herself. I have never read a biography that was more full of self-love than this one. She is the supreme example of a person who pursues a life of "doing good" in order to be thought a saint. Walk away very fast.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I probably shouldn't mark this read considering I couldn't finish it. It jumped all over the place, especially in regard to the start of her career, and primarily spoke about her charity work. While her work is admirable, it gets boring reading about how she cuddled this group of people and snuggled that group of people, on and on. I found the tone a bit superior too. I probably shouldn't mark this read considering I couldn't finish it. It jumped all over the place, especially in regard to the start of her career, and primarily spoke about her charity work. While her work is admirable, it gets boring reading about how she cuddled this group of people and snuggled that group of people, on and on. I found the tone a bit superior too.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I really wanted to like Ashley Judd. I like some of her movies and I have always thought she was so pretty. She does a lot of good work for some very worthy causes. But I don't like her, in fact I'm totally turned off by her. She seems to be one of those people that thinks her opinions are right, always, and everyone who does not agree is just ignorant. Everybody else has messed up priorities, come on people don't we all know there is severe suffering out there! I am seriously put off by her and I really wanted to like Ashley Judd. I like some of her movies and I have always thought she was so pretty. She does a lot of good work for some very worthy causes. But I don't like her, in fact I'm totally turned off by her. She seems to be one of those people that thinks her opinions are right, always, and everyone who does not agree is just ignorant. Everybody else has messed up priorities, come on people don't we all know there is severe suffering out there! I am seriously put off by her and probably wont watch any more of her movies. She seems to think her fans that may aproach her for an autograph are just completley oblivious to the plight of the world and how dare they ask her for something so trivial-well yes, it's trivial and so are most her movies (not the "high minded stuff" she thinks only she is capable of understanding). The only reason I even gave this book 2 stars is because she did shine some light on things I didn't fully know about and they are very important issues the world needs to solve. Watching some of her interviews I now know why she got so defensive when the focus was on her personal life (how dare they, she only wrote about it and included it in her book) after all, don't they understand things the way she does!! I don't even know why she put any of that in there anyway, would have been a better book without it. And to end this review, I do happen to think her mother is a crack pot.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    One of the worst books I have ever read. The whole book was Ashley talking about how terrible her life was and how fantastic she is. There is an entire page of things that are great about her....including, she smells like lilacs. Don't waste your time. One of the worst books I have ever read. The whole book was Ashley talking about how terrible her life was and how fantastic she is. There is an entire page of things that are great about her....including, she smells like lilacs. Don't waste your time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Yes, I am reading Ashley Judd's memoir. Whatever you may think of her acting(I happen to like her), she has devoted most of her adult life to aiding the poor and disenfranchised and using her celebrity status to bring awareness to topics like AIDS, African poverty, sex trade, etc. It's a sad state of affairs when a "celebrity" like Charlie Sheen gets more press for his behavior than a celebrity like Ashley Judd gets for hers. Yes, I am reading Ashley Judd's memoir. Whatever you may think of her acting(I happen to like her), she has devoted most of her adult life to aiding the poor and disenfranchised and using her celebrity status to bring awareness to topics like AIDS, African poverty, sex trade, etc. It's a sad state of affairs when a "celebrity" like Charlie Sheen gets more press for his behavior than a celebrity like Ashley Judd gets for hers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    This exquisite mixture of a deeply personal journey and a world-sized caring for the needs of women and children living in poverty, often drowning in disease, slavery and genocide. This book is a must read. While far too many actors waste their celebrity and their treasure, Ashley Judd has flung her gifts out to the world like a raft in an unspeakable storm.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    Ashley Judd is not only an award-winning actress, she is an advocate for human rights and an ambassador for Population Services International (PSI). In her memoir, Judd details her involvement with PSI, traveling to Asia and Africa touring the brothels and slums while teaching the residents how to protect themselves against AIDS / HIV. Many women she encountered were trafficked into sex slavery or simply had no other choice to make money. While embarking on this humanitarian cause, Judd wrestles Ashley Judd is not only an award-winning actress, she is an advocate for human rights and an ambassador for Population Services International (PSI). In her memoir, Judd details her involvement with PSI, traveling to Asia and Africa touring the brothels and slums while teaching the residents how to protect themselves against AIDS / HIV. Many women she encountered were trafficked into sex slavery or simply had no other choice to make money. While embarking on this humanitarian cause, Judd wrestles with her own demons. Born into a very dysfunctional and abusive home, the actress often found herself on her own, abandoned by her family while they pursued a career in music. In between tours overseas, Judd checks into rehab to help herself, so she can help others. I have always liked Judd as an actress. I counted her as one of my favorites to watch; except for Bug, oh Lord, what was she thinking about that one? I had the opportunity to see her speak in person, about her work with PSI and a bit of her own family history. I came away from the talk conflicted and find myself feeling the same after reading this book. No doubt she is a wonderful humanitarian. You can tell that she immerses herself in the cause to help people, especially women and children in the slums of places like Rwanda and the Congo. At the same time, she has had a lot to deal with in her own personal life. At times, she comes across as angry at average people that she has come across who don't know what she's been through or that know nothing about her work. One passage in the book that took me aback was in chapter 9, "Back at the hotel, a perky tourist from Texas recognized me in the business center and asked me if I was on safari. I let her blithe obliviousness and her expensive khakis irk me, and I blurted out bitterly, "No. In fact, I am on a HIV / AIDS prevention trip and have just been to three brothels." I hoped I had ruined her evening." I would think that would be a great opportunity to educate others on the conditions of the area she was touring and her work with PSI. I know she has been in the news for being rude like this to people, so this passage reinforced the idea that she may be a bit unapproachable to fans and others she comes across in everyday life. There was just something in her tone throughout the book that didn't settle with me. She wasn't "bragging" but yet, she had an air of "see what I've done, I'm making a difference" then would follow that up with how broken she was during this time. I don't want to diminish what she went through, obviously, her childhood was traumatic and was unfairly treated. She is also a great humanitarian, but I get the sense that she is not so humbled by it and that she still deals with some duality to her personality. If the book does nothing else, it does bring awareness to the global issues of sex trafficking and HIV / AIDS in other countries. She is certainly passionate about helping others and has formed bonds with many of the people she has met during her tours. These issues are the sad reality that many face every day and it is not just in "third world" countries, but happens in the US as well.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Yoonmee

    Eh, this book is okay. Sadly, I think I liked Ashley Judd more before I read the book than now after finishing it. By this I mean that I always thought she was an intelligent, passionate, strong woman (from my sorta home state of Kentucky, no less!). After reading this book I still think she is all those things but now I also think she's a bit of a hot mess, way too histrionic, overly sensitive, and still dealing with her pain. Then again, if I had her childhood, I'd probably be a hot mess too, Eh, this book is okay. Sadly, I think I liked Ashley Judd more before I read the book than now after finishing it. By this I mean that I always thought she was an intelligent, passionate, strong woman (from my sorta home state of Kentucky, no less!). After reading this book I still think she is all those things but now I also think she's a bit of a hot mess, way too histrionic, overly sensitive, and still dealing with her pain. Then again, if I had her childhood, I'd probably be a hot mess too, so this isn't necessarily a criticism. It's more that I realize she's probably not the type of person I'd want to be friends with because she'd constantly be breaking down into tears and might be too melodramatic for me. All that aside, she's obviously very intelligent and compassionate (although, she was also incredibly naive about the world when she first started out, which was a little bit annoying). This book probably should have been two books because it's partly about her life and personal experiences and partly about her work with Population Services International and her coming into her own as an activist. Granted, you can't really separate the two (her life and her work with PSI), but at times it felt like I was reading two different books that were smooshed together to create one narrative. I get the feeling maybe A.J. or her editor thought the book wouldn't sell as well if it didn't include some juicy gossip about her family. The sections where she discusses the political and social situations in different countries are incredibly informative, but I did get a little bit tired of her overly dramatic antics like crying all the time, not being able to deal with anything, being shocked by what she saw, etc. Three stars because the message A.J. is writing about needs to be heard, but no more than three because the book gets boring in many sections and felt disjointed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Finally gave up on this one. Judd's tone is so absolutely self promoting and full of herself I couldn't tolerate another page. She paints herself as the most emotionally, spiritually and philosophically evolved human on the planet and somehow I just didn't buy it. Her demonization of her family members left me anxious to know their side of the story. I was disappointed. I so wanted to love this book. Finally gave up on this one. Judd's tone is so absolutely self promoting and full of herself I couldn't tolerate another page. She paints herself as the most emotionally, spiritually and philosophically evolved human on the planet and somehow I just didn't buy it. Her demonization of her family members left me anxious to know their side of the story. I was disappointed. I so wanted to love this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Bright

    I did not know I needed to read this book but I'm glad I did. Judd vulnerably describes her childhood with strength and tries to show perspective about those that were major players in her youth while still being honest about her feelings. I like that she explains that her childhood is her story to tell and others will have to respect that right. Woven amongst her past is her work with non-profits in many countries plagued with gender inequalities, poverty, disease and human trafficking. It beco I did not know I needed to read this book but I'm glad I did. Judd vulnerably describes her childhood with strength and tries to show perspective about those that were major players in her youth while still being honest about her feelings. I like that she explains that her childhood is her story to tell and others will have to respect that right. Woven amongst her past is her work with non-profits in many countries plagued with gender inequalities, poverty, disease and human trafficking. It becomes apparent that the lessons and resilience learned from her own traumas become a source of compassion on a global level. I admire the successful alchemy she has accomplished in her life.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    This book is actually two books in one. I don't mean for that to sound as complimentary as it comes across, by the way. When i say that this is two books in one I mean that this is one book that tells a good story and one book that should have remained in Ashley Judd's head, or at least in her therapist's head. I could not figure out what this book was supposed to be. It's kind of like "My mom is a famous superstar but as a mom she is awful. I like kittens. My entire family is dysfunctional. I li This book is actually two books in one. I don't mean for that to sound as complimentary as it comes across, by the way. When i say that this is two books in one I mean that this is one book that tells a good story and one book that should have remained in Ashley Judd's head, or at least in her therapist's head. I could not figure out what this book was supposed to be. It's kind of like "My mom is a famous superstar but as a mom she is awful. I like kittens. My entire family is dysfunctional. I like puppies too." But I learned that there was an actual rhythm to the book. You just have to figure it out. Some chapters are all about the naval gazing. You can skim or skip those. I mean really. Dysfunctional families? Who does not have one? If everyone whose family is less than stellar wrote a book there would be no trees left. Make peace with your past. Or don't. But don't subject the rest of us to it. That's a pretty bad punishment for the innocent act of picking your book up from the library, isn't it? Some chapters are about a rising star, a gifted actress with fame and fortune in front of her, who sets all that glitter aside to chase what is gold by joining an NGO and spends months at a time in ghettos. This story of this woman who learns to respect and even glean from the teachings of other faiths and yet never wavers in her commitment to the Way, the Truth and Life of Jesus Christ and takes the Light into dark places without ever having to utter a word of Scripture. She just lives it. And it radiates from her into the lives of prostitutes and orphans and even pimps and johns. I don't read celebrity memoirs. Often I don't know who the celebrities are. To me, actors and actresses are just "Oh she looks familiar, wasn't she in that movie we watched that one time?". I don't care about celebrities. But I like Ashley Judd and I have actually wondered why she was not in more movies. Now I know why, she has more important things to do.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bex

    I rarely read memoirs, let alone ones written by current celebrities but Ashley Judd has led a fairly fascinating life. Of course she's an actress that comes from a famous (and famously dysfunctional) family but she has also spent a great many years as a feminist activist, quietly traveling the world with NGOs and coming face to face with the poorest, most exploited people on the planet. And this memoir balances those two lives, providing insight on the tumultuous personal life that formed her d I rarely read memoirs, let alone ones written by current celebrities but Ashley Judd has led a fairly fascinating life. Of course she's an actress that comes from a famous (and famously dysfunctional) family but she has also spent a great many years as a feminist activist, quietly traveling the world with NGOs and coming face to face with the poorest, most exploited people on the planet. And this memoir balances those two lives, providing insight on the tumultuous personal life that formed her desire to help those who have no voice. I admire her for that. Sometimes she comes off a bit pious and overly sincere--only wisps of her humor are shown and the book could have benefited from more. What's fascinating about this book, of course, are the glimpses we get at Ashley's relationship to her famous mom and sister. It's clear that she's been on the outside looking in on them for entire life and that doesn't seem to have changed despite everything they've been through. She speaks openly of how close she's become to her father and how much she loves her sister but her love for her mother is notable absent (and I can't blame her as Naomi Judd seems like a nightmare of a mom). Near the end of the book Ashley writes about getting her master's at Harvard (as part of her dedication to social justice work) and she notes (without passing judgment in an explicit way) that her mom and sister declined to attend, just as they had at her undergraduate degree ceremony. It's clear that despite all her success and hard work? Noami and Wynonna are not interested in events that don't revolve around them. And ending on that note really does bring home the theme of the memoir: often life is bitter and sweet at the same time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I am a fan of Ashley Judd as an actress and of her mother and sister's music career, so I was intrigued to read the memoir of Ashley Judd. It wasn't really what I expected at all. There is a lot more heartache and pain, more strength and giving, more prayer and grace in this woman than I had previously believed. Judd's volunteer work with a group that helps underprivileged women and children all over the world takes up a big portion of this book, as it ought to. It has really defined much of the I am a fan of Ashley Judd as an actress and of her mother and sister's music career, so I was intrigued to read the memoir of Ashley Judd. It wasn't really what I expected at all. There is a lot more heartache and pain, more strength and giving, more prayer and grace in this woman than I had previously believed. Judd's volunteer work with a group that helps underprivileged women and children all over the world takes up a big portion of this book, as it ought to. It has really defined much of the last years of her life. In telling the stories of the women she visits, Judd doesn't hold back or sugar coat and their stories were hard to read. In fact, I had nightmares and troubled sleep the entire time I read the book. Though painful to hear, it has definitely opened my eyes to the terrible things that are happening across the globe and made me wonder what I can do to help. The section on Judd's rehab and healing over her painful childhood was sad and I'm sure cathartic for her to write. I definitely hugged my little ones a little tighter after reading her story. Don't expect to read a lot of Hollywood insider gossip. That's how Ashley Judd makes her living, but it is not how she lives her life. This is a story that will pull you in and help you remember that we should not judge a person based on what we see on the surface.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenn(ifer)

    Intellectualized and skim-worthy.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Darcie K

    I want to start a new book group dedicated to the celebrity bio. Who's in? I want to start a new book group dedicated to the celebrity bio. Who's in?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    All That Is Bitter and Sweet is several stories in one: the story of Judd's commitment to social justice work among global, at-risk populations for HIV, malaria, TB, and infant mortality; the unpacking of the story of her childhood, the details of which fuel so much of her work; and the story of her continuing recovery from abuse, co-dependency, and depression. There's a discomfiting truth at the heart of the book, of which Judd is articulately aware - that a white, American movie star has better All That Is Bitter and Sweet is several stories in one: the story of Judd's commitment to social justice work among global, at-risk populations for HIV, malaria, TB, and infant mortality; the unpacking of the story of her childhood, the details of which fuel so much of her work; and the story of her continuing recovery from abuse, co-dependency, and depression. There's a discomfiting truth at the heart of the book, of which Judd is articulately aware - that a white, American movie star has better access to financial and political leaders than ordinary, everyday people do. It's a hard truth to sit with, that this is the world we've created - that for all the grass roots work done by men and women in their own countries of origin, there is something a famous, white, American woman can leverage on their behalf that they cannot leverage themselves. Judd uses that messed up equation to do what she can - to bend the ear of presidents and corporate CEOs, to get checks written, and to lobby for the changes those grassroots workers (and the populations they serve) so desperately need. There's the world as it is, and the world as it should be - she uses her position in the former to try and make the latter come about, and she's not reticent about allowing when she messes up, and when she doesn't know what she should, nor is she reticent about changing and listening and doing better. The sections of the book that deal with Judd's childhood are haunting - they deal with very real issues of poverty, neglect, and dysfunction that it would be easy to imagine wealth can erase. Money can't wipe away the narratives of loss and loneliness and damage that such a childhood inscribes, however, and Judd is forthright and honest in describing her abandonment, her hurt, and her struggle to even quantify the debilitating depression that had her contemplate suicide repeatedly through her life. She tells these stories with an eye toward a truth learned in rehab, however - never point out a problem unless you're willing to offer a solution. The painful chapters of her life are not shared for dramatic value, or to score points against people who undoubtedly treated her badly, but rather to offer solidarity with others who have suffered similar situations, and to demonstrate that it is possible - day by day - to recover. There is no magical point of 'I'm fixed!' in this memoir - rather there's a narrative about starting over every day, and of the consistent work it takes to heal. Judd's faith weaves through the whole book - a faith rooted in Christianity, but buoyed by the belief that there are many paths to God (whom Judd most commonly calls She, a deliberately and avowedly feminist choice). Judd writes about the God of her understanding, the God of others understanding, laying no claim to ultimate authority to know the limits of God or divinity in general, and that in and of itself is refreshing. She also draws a crucial distinction between being a conduit for divine compassion and mercy, and believing oneself to be that compassion and mercy. As she travels through brothels, slums, and refugee camps, Judd has to learn the difference - to be the messenger, and not to confuse that being being the message. I was able to remind myself that all that is asked of me is that I increase my conscious contact with the God of my understanding, ask for knowledge of Her will for me and the strength to carry that out. Have I done that as best I can today, understanding that my best fluctuates? Yes. Am I continuing to? Yes. Well then, I can stop abusing myself with perfectionism and trust that, as Father Merton wrote, "I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you." I am cleaning house, trusting God, doing what is in front of me. That is good, and that is enough. I am enough. I will treasure this book for giving me this language, for giving me a sense of how to work for social justice without depleting myself into useless misery and inaction, a place to which I have sunk many times in the past, exhausted from trying to magically fix things that I can't. To be a conduit for love is not reliant on believing in any divinity - the idea can equally rest on the very best of being human. This is a book about compassion, above all things, and I am incredibly glad to have read it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Odette

    Powerful memoir about a woman walking a wounded healer path. It shows the intersection of recovering from private trauma and addressing international human rights abuses, in this case sexual trafficking, slavery, and health issues. The way Ms. Judd connects her own depression and wounds to those of the women and children she aims to help has an equalizing effect. She doesn't try to equate her life of great privilege with their lives of huge deprivation and abuse, but she steps out of the role of Powerful memoir about a woman walking a wounded healer path. It shows the intersection of recovering from private trauma and addressing international human rights abuses, in this case sexual trafficking, slavery, and health issues. The way Ms. Judd connects her own depression and wounds to those of the women and children she aims to help has an equalizing effect. She doesn't try to equate her life of great privilege with their lives of huge deprivation and abuse, but she steps out of the role of detached, superior Western aid-giver and reveals herself as human - flawed, striving, healing. I thought it was such a brave, honest, deeply spiritual and compassionate book. I shudder to think of the way opposition politicians might twist her words and intent if she does end up running for Senate. Here are some parts of the book that will stay with me: Another of the women told us that she was a very young girl when she was first brought to the brothel. They sold her virginity to a German tourist who had taken Viagra to prolong his erection. In a chilling monotone, she described how he raped her so many times that her vagina was torn apart and she had to be hospitalized immediately after he left. The most unforgetable story from that day was told to me by a transgender sex slave who had a frightening scar crisscrossing her face. She told me how, when she realized growing up that she was different from other boys, herr family shunned her and she fled to Phnom Penh. She burrowed her head into my chest, sobbing violently, as she told me how she was broken in as a slave by a man who pinned her down and raped her while a dog mauled her face. She had contracted HIV. By the end of my first full day in Thailand, I had an idea for my next thriller movie: I was going to play an avenging angel of the sisterhood who rescued women who were trapped in brothels ... I would overturn the operations that kidnap women and children to sell for sex ... It was a tantalizing fantasy, but sometimes there are problems that even superheroes can't fix in a flash." And then Tennie said the most remarkable thing: "Nobody ever thinks to do an intervention on the Lost Child." Researchers like Vanessa believe that the key to [bonobos] pacifism and remarkable group tolerance and cooperation is a matriarchal society: Whenever a male starts to bully or attack a female, she cries out and other females band together and discipline the males, re-establishing calm and cooperation. Congo is primary colors, vivid, urgent, raw, visceral, a palette of red, orange, brown, black. Tennessee is like walking in the green fluffy grass of an Easter basket, so soft, pale, ethereal, like it's not real, like if I stepped off the bus everything I see would recede from me, like in a dream when I step forward into the dreamscape and it stays just ahead of me, out of my reach, so real in appearance, but untouchable.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This memoir was very enlightening, both regarding Ashley's journey to self-discovery and healing and her journeys into the poorest countries in the world. I knew sex slavery was rampant, but I had no idea how horrific conditions for people all over the world are. There are so many things we Americans take for granted, such as being able to sleep in a bed or use a toilet, that we have difficulty imagining the circumstances plaguing people all over the world. Ashley Judd does an excellent job of pr This memoir was very enlightening, both regarding Ashley's journey to self-discovery and healing and her journeys into the poorest countries in the world. I knew sex slavery was rampant, but I had no idea how horrific conditions for people all over the world are. There are so many things we Americans take for granted, such as being able to sleep in a bed or use a toilet, that we have difficulty imagining the circumstances plaguing people all over the world. Ashley Judd does an excellent job of presenting these situations without making herself appear to be some kind of savior or messianic figure, which, undoubtedly, many celebrities do. Interestingly, her memoir is not really about her, but about the lives she witnessed on her travels. Her book has really opened my eyes to modern slavery and the AIDS/HIV epidemic. I felt inspired reading this memoir to do something about it--I actually taught a lesson on slavery and used some of her book. Ashley also talks about the horrible circumstances she grew up in, and I have little to no respect for Naomi Judd now. Although Ashley never accuses her mother or personifies her as demonic trash, I couldn't help seeing her that way. Surprisingly, Ashley is very forgiving and never really accuses anyone of treating her poorly, nor seems to be seeking revenge. The things that happened to Ashley and Winnona are almost as unimaginable to me as the depictions of sex slavery, and I am amazed both women turned out (for the most part) okay. I have nothing but admiration for both sisters for pulling through such a ghastly childhood. My one criticism of this book, however, is Ashley gets a little too Jesus-happy for me, especially in the last 100 or so pages. I don't really mind her dedication to religion, since she does practice what she preaches through her international service. But, for me as a reader, the Christian dialogues made me a little queasy after a while. Otherwise, this is an exceptional memoir I have recommended to everyone I know. Definitely worth checking out.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    Oh my god what a piece of work! The book itself. And Ashley Judd. Oh my God. I went into this with very little interest in the Judds, country music, celebrities and I thought this might be a little bit different of a story. And oh my God for the heavy heavy heavy reading into the depths of depression and depravity and white trash syndrome of the southern United States, I really wish I had not put any of this into my brain. Like other readers, I came out of it a little bit less enthused about Ashl Oh my god what a piece of work! The book itself. And Ashley Judd. Oh my God. I went into this with very little interest in the Judds, country music, celebrities and I thought this might be a little bit different of a story. And oh my God for the heavy heavy heavy reading into the depths of depression and depravity and white trash syndrome of the southern United States, I really wish I had not put any of this into my brain. Like other readers, I came out of it a little bit less enthused about Ashley Judd than I was previously which was probably a solid neutral. The parts of the book that I enjoyed and thought were meaningful was her rehab to deal with lost child syndrome. That is truthfully the first time I’ve heard of lost child syndrome and the nasty depression and anger that lingers into adulthood with it. That was useful and very emotional. The rest of the book really was a poor me/I’m the greatest Brag/cry- a-thon. Poor me I was molested by a family member and ignored by my mama: I am the most awesome person in the world because I got to talk my way on stage and become really great friends with Bono, married the best race car driver in the world, summer in Scotland and I went to Harvard because I’m supersmart. This felt like a disjointed pity party trip that was depressing and heavy by a narcissistic celebrity that is completely out of touch with reality, and I honestly don’t know why I kept reading it. Skip this one

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    The book is perfectly balanced. Alternating between stories of Ashley Judd's difficult work as a world ambassador and her childhood and rehab experiences, it was amazing how the two stories could be told hand in hand. Seeing the similarity of her sisters around the world is Ms. Judd's greatest gift. Holding them with compassion and sharing their stories is the best work she's ever done. This was a difficult book to get through. Not because of the way it was written, but because it covers such dif The book is perfectly balanced. Alternating between stories of Ashley Judd's difficult work as a world ambassador and her childhood and rehab experiences, it was amazing how the two stories could be told hand in hand. Seeing the similarity of her sisters around the world is Ms. Judd's greatest gift. Holding them with compassion and sharing their stories is the best work she's ever done. This was a difficult book to get through. Not because of the way it was written, but because it covers such difficult topics. Because I shared so many of her thoughts, feelings, and troubles associated with a difficult childhood, I found parts of it extremely hard to get through, but then I pushed on. And I found a memoir that tells what happens on the other side. I found her story to be remarkable. Her work is successful because she is who she is. She is the product of what she's been through. Like us all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Samineh

    Ashley Judd has an incredible vocabulary so it came as no suprise that her book was well written. I felt her memoir was primarily about her activism and really shed light on the circumstances of women/children in poor countries, but it also included intimate details about her life. I really enjoyed reading it and honestly had some trouble sleeping after reading about some of her encounters. I completely empathized and found myself processing the information and pain right along with her (to me a Ashley Judd has an incredible vocabulary so it came as no suprise that her book was well written. I felt her memoir was primarily about her activism and really shed light on the circumstances of women/children in poor countries, but it also included intimate details about her life. I really enjoyed reading it and honestly had some trouble sleeping after reading about some of her encounters. I completely empathized and found myself processing the information and pain right along with her (to me a sign of a good writer). I adore Ashley Judd and reading her memoir affirmed how I had imagined her to be as an individual.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    This woman loves the sound of her own voice ... she just loves herself to death. \Why did she not say THEN about losing roles in Hollywood due to Weinstein (she could have stated that it happened but left out the name) did she say this was the reason she left? "Asked why she was opting out of a successful career, walking away while she was one of the highest-paid women in Hollywood, Ashley herself could not provide an answer. She simply knew that after her first trip to the notorious brothels, slu This woman loves the sound of her own voice ... she just loves herself to death. \Why did she not say THEN about losing roles in Hollywood due to Weinstein (she could have stated that it happened but left out the name) did she say this was the reason she left? "Asked why she was opting out of a successful career, walking away while she was one of the highest-paid women in Hollywood, Ashley herself could not provide an answer. She simply knew that after her first trip to the notorious brothels, slums, and hospices of southeast Asia, her own life depended on advocating on behalf of the vulnerable. " Sigh. NO RESPeCT.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    I'm really enjoying this book. Don't judge me. I appreciate what she says about the roots of her depression being found in childhood - I can so relate to that - and how acting became a natural way to live other, more satisfying lives, if only for a time. What this book is really about, though, is her work with a nonprofit that seeks to educate women in the global South about HIV/AIDS prevention. I'm really enjoying this book. Don't judge me. I appreciate what she says about the roots of her depression being found in childhood - I can so relate to that - and how acting became a natural way to live other, more satisfying lives, if only for a time. What this book is really about, though, is her work with a nonprofit that seeks to educate women in the global South about HIV/AIDS prevention.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shirley Jodouin

    It’s difficult to write a review on this memoir because there is so much to say. Ashley Judd not only captured my attention from the very first page, she pulled heart strings and managed to touch my very soul. It educated me, opened my eyes and heart to the cruelty...to put it lightly, to exploited women. I highly recommend this book. I will never take my safety as a woman for granted ever again!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Abbe

    Review “All That Is Bitter and Sweet,” is, at its heart, the story of Ashley Judd’s awakening. In sharing the secrets of a childhood fraught with neglect, abuse and debilitating depression, she confronts the stigma of mental illness and celebrates the serenity that comes with the hard work of recovery. The reward is a new role on a new stage -- global advocate for HIV/AIDS sufferers. The humanitarian pursuit of social justice and gender equality is gritty work, but the people she meets in Review “All That Is Bitter and Sweet,” is, at its heart, the story of Ashley Judd’s awakening. In sharing the secrets of a childhood fraught with neglect, abuse and debilitating depression, she confronts the stigma of mental illness and celebrates the serenity that comes with the hard work of recovery. The reward is a new role on a new stage -- global advocate for HIV/AIDS sufferers. The humanitarian pursuit of social justice and gender equality is gritty work, but the people she meets in the slums, brothels, sex-slave markets, clinics and orphanages reinforce her faithful contention that every life has value. Judd’s search for justice and peace -- for herself, and for the millions without a voice – is testament to the adage that when we help one person, we help the whole world." --Greg Mortenson, author of NYT bestselling *Three Cups of Tea "Ashley Judd has written a deeply moving story -- amazingly, searingly, frank. It is her life story, warts and all. As I read her account of her childhood, I ask 'How could one so traumatized, so abused in childhood, become the woman we know, so caring, so altruistic, so compassionate, so concerned for others, and so joyful?'" --Archbishop Desmond Tutu *"Ashley Judd is has lived an extraordinary life. She has learned from it and turned it into a blessing and a call to action for others. Her journey is both moving and inspiring, unique and universal. Reading about it makes your own life make more sense." --Marianne Williamson "This lovely woman, this movie star, this determined dreamer will be familiar to you, assuming you have struggled to resolve your childhood, carve out a career and make greater use of yourself. Ashley Judd's story reminds us to work harder and on more important tasks, and promises that if we do, contentedness awaits." --Kelly Corrigan, author of NYT bestselling The Middle Place and Lift &#1... Product Description Ashley Judd is an award-winning film and stage actor known for her roles in both box-office hits and art-house gems, and the daughter and sister of country-music royalty. In 2002, drawing on a deep well of empathy, she found her true calling: as a humanitarian and advocate for those suffering in neglected parts of the world. Asked why she was opting out of a successful career, walking away while she was one of the highest-paid women in Hollywood, Ashley herself could not provide an answer. She simply knew that after her first trip to the notorious brothels, slums, and hospices of southeast Asia, her own life depended on advocating on behalf of the vulnerable. Promising each new sister, “I will never forget you,” Ashley began writing extraordinary diaries—on which this memoir is based—expanding her capacity to relate to, and to share with a global audience, stories of survival and resilience. Along the way, Ashley realized that the coping strategies she had developed to deal with her own emotional pain, stemming from childhood abandonment, were no longer working. Seeking in-patient treatment in 2006 for the grief that had nearly killed her, Ashley found not only her own recovery and an enriched faith but an expanded kit of spiritual tools that energized and advanced her feminist social justice work. Now, in this deeply moving and unforgettable memoir, Ashley Judd describes her odyssey, as a left-behind lost child attains international prominence as a fiercely dedicated advocate. Her story ranges from anger to forgiveness, isolation to interdependence, depression to activism. In telling it, she resoundingly answers the ineffable question about the relationship between healing oneself and service to others. From the Hardcover edition.

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