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All that is Bitter & Sweet

Ballantine Books,
NY 2011 (read as an e-book)

Reviewed by Marian Zaunbrecher.

NOT TOO many of us would not have heard of Ashley Judd, star of Double Jeopardy and many other successful films.

I reluctantly decided to read her autobiography, not terribly excited to read about the successful life of yet another Hollywood star.

I was extremely surprised by what I read.

Far from the opulent and sheltered life of the middle class American, this is a feisty autobiography of a feisty Christian feminist.

Her own childhood was traumatised by neglect, poverty, abuse, loneliness and isolation; her acting ability grew out of the fantasy life she had led as a child to escape the abuse.

It is more about her fight to help overcome the violence caused by poverty in developing countries.

As the global ambassador of Population Services International (PSI) she travels to Kenya, Cambodia, Central America, India, Rwanda and the Congo to agitate for improved medical services for women and children, visiting slums, camps,
governments and brothels world wide to advocate for condoms, birth control and education.

She listens a lot.

While highly tempted to “rescue” abused women and children she realises the future lies in improved conditions, medical access and education.

At every stage of her journey she returns to her own painful experiences and the faith that sustains and motivates her.

While she had initially contemplated becoming a missionary, then a member of the US Peace Corps, by being a
successful actress she was able to promote her message that the enmeshment between poverty, illness, and gender inequality leads to sex and labour slavery, and that we are all children of God.

All that is Bitter & Sweet is a well written, inspirational story; human, honest, and confronting my own experiences and prejudices.

Her joy in life lifted me from the sordidness and injustice I was seeing to believe that one person can make a difference.