“I always hoped [Mary Williams] would tell her incredible story. She's a writer of uncommon clarity and humor, and the arrival of her memoir is cause for celebration." —Dave Eggers, author of What is the What
As she grew up in 1970s Oakland, California, role models for Mary Williams were few and far between: her father was often in prison, her older sister was a teenage prostitute, and her hot-tempered mother struggled to raise six children alone. For all Mary knew, she was heading down a similar path.
But her life changed when she met Jane Fonda at summer camp in 1978. Fonda grew attached to the bright girl and eventually invited her to become part of her family, becoming the mother Mary never had. Mary’s life since has been one of adventure and opportunity—from hiking the Appalachian Trail solo, working with the Lost Boys of Sudan, and living in the frozen reaches of Antarctica. Her most courageous trip, though, involved returning to Oakland and reconnecting with her biological mother and family, many of whom she hadn’t seen since the day she left home. The Lost Daughter is a chronicle of her journey back in time, an exploration of fractured family bonds, and a moving epic of self-discovery.
Born in Oakland, CA in 1967 to parents active in the Black Panther party, Williams spent her early childhood in Panther community, attending Panther-run schools. With her father in and out of prison, her mother left the Party, her older sister became a crack addict, and life took a decided downturn. Un-til, that is, Mary's uncle friends with Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden intervened. As Williams re-members it, Fonda "threw me a lifeline and I grabbed it." Williams moved into the Fonda-Hayden household attempting to assimilate into a new class existence. Her tumultuous life shuffled her be-tween new-found privilege and occasional returns to "the underworld" of an Oakland life she had out-grown. After graduating from Pitzer College, Williams teaches English in Morocco, works for the CDC in Atlanta, and travels to Tanzania. Upon her return she starts the Lost Boys Foundation, funded by the Fonda Family Foundation, before disbanding it in turmoil. Williams remains unfulfilled until she finally realizes that her desire to help others was her "misdirected desire to save ." Though she can be a difficult and occasionally unsympathetic figure, throughout Williams exposes American class and race tensions, having experienced both the luxury of white privilege and the bleakness of ur-ban poverty.