January 12, 2021
Stephanie Thornton Plymale
with Elissa Wald
Hardcover, 228 pages
For fifty years, Stephanie Plymale kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. No one would have guessed that her childhood was fraught with every imaginable hardship: a mentally ill mother who was in and out of jails and psych wards, neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, a harrowing lack of medical care, and ongoing sexual abuse.

Stephanie, in turn, knew very little about her mother, from whom she remained estranged during most of her adult life. All this changed with a phone call that set in motion a journey of discovery, leading to a series of shocking revelations that forced Stephanie to revise the meaning of almost every aspect of her very compromised childhood.

“A story of redemption and forgiveness.”
-The New York Times Book Review

 “Supersedes the journey of perseverance with an investigation into her family’s fascinating but tragic past… a moving tale of finding a way to give the love we don’t receive.”
-BookPage, starred review

Hello Book Clubs, 

I’m excited to share my book, American Daughter, with you. This is the story of my life—and for 50 years I kept it a fiercely guarded secret from nearly everyone I knew. 

I grew up on the wrong side of the American dream: Homeless, with a mother who was mentally ill and lived in and out of jails and psych wards. We were estranged for years until she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I became determined to learn more about her and her life. What I learned shocked me and forced me to rethink everything I thought about not only my life but hers.  

This book is about many things: shame, forgiveness, hope, and healing, but home and authenticity are two themes I used to create the menu and tablescape I’m sharing with you for your book club. I hope you enjoy it!


American Daughter Recipe and Book Club Menu
I grew up homeless and was in the foster care system for much of my youth, so it’s hard to overstate how much my family, and the home we have created, mean to me. Designing beautiful spaces and sharing time in them with my loved ones is something that has brought me peace and joy throughout my life, in spite of the many challenges I faced growing up.

The American Daughter menu is one of rustic, organic elegance and affordability. I believe in enabling the authentic flavors of a featured dish to percolate with the support of simple ingredients. The ability to create a sense of home is so important to me.

In Chapter 5 of American Daughter, I describe how I celebrate Christmas with my family and our holiday menu:
The tree was beautiful, trimmed in gold and white and ablaze with hundreds of tiny, twinkling lights. I had trays of canapes out on the island: jewel-colored caviar piled on rounds of toast, walnuts and blue cheese nestled into split figs, smoked salmon, and chives on squares of rye. There were little hot dogs wrapped in phyllo dough and tiny mincemeat pies. There were rich cheeses and assorted olives and marcona almonds and roasted chestnuts. There were cut-glass bowls of punch and eggnog set out on the sidebar, where guests could spike their drinks with anything they wanted. In the ovens were roasting Cornish game hens and maple-glazed ham, scalloped potatoes, bacon-wrapped asparagus.

I took in the scene around me in the lull before the first guests arrived and felt a tug of pride. All the kids who sneered at me as I was growing up, for being poor and dirty and illiterate: Wouldn’t they be surprised if they could see me now?
-American Daughter

This is the recipe is for the Cornish game hens I prepare.

-Stephanie Thornton Plymale 
Christmas Menu

Hot dogs with Phyllo Dough

Cheese, Olives & Nuts

Herb-Roasted Cornish Game Hens

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
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