Co-Author of “The Ditchdigger’s Daughters” to read and sign copies At Hunterdon Art Museum

Jo Coudert will read and sign copies of the Pulitzer-Prize nominated biography
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Jan. 25, 2013 - PRLog -- Celebrate Black History Month with a special reading and book signing of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated family biography, “The Ditchdigger’s Daughters: A Black Family’s Astonishing Success Story,” with co-author Jo Coudert at the Hunterdon Art Museum. The event, sponsored in partnership with Califon Book Shop co-owners Mary Turkus and Alison Ramarge, is free for adults and supervised teens on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Coudert wrote the book with Yvonne S. Thornton, MD. The biography tells the modern Horatio Alger success story of Thornton’s family, whose parents worked multiple jobs to give their six daughters a better life. Much of the book centers around Yvonne’s father, Donald Thornton, whose tough love, common-sense wisdom and sheer grit helped propel his daughters out of poverty and into successful careers.

Donald told his young daughters, “No man’s gonna come and offer to take care of you because you ain’t light-skinned. That’s why you gotta be able to look after yourselves. And for that you gotta be smart.” He drilled into them the importance of education, and demanded his daughters study hard so they would all become doctors. He also instilled in his daughters a love for music, which led them to forming a traveling R&B band, “The Thornton Sisters,” which garnered success on the college music circuit and earned them enough money to afford college.

Although not all of the Thornton sisters became doctors, two did, including Yvonne, the first African-American woman board-certified in high-risk obstetrics and accepted into the New York Obstetrical Society.

Coudert, a Califon resident, will read excerpts from her book and sign copies on the third floor of the Museum.  She has authored 10 books and more than a hundred articles for magazines, including Reader’s Digest and Woman’s Day. Her talents as a painter are currently on display at the Tewksbury Public Library, and she has also illustrated one of her books, “Seven Cats and the Art of Living.”

“The Ditchdigger’s Daughters” became a national bestseller in 1995, and was featured on an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey” show. The American Library Association named it a Best Book for Young Adults and Dr. Thornton earned an “Excellence in Literature” Award from the New Jersey Education Association. The book has been translated into 19 languages, and adapted into a TV movie which was nominated for a Peabody Award and a Cable ACE Best Picture Award.

“Ms. Coudert is so prolific and talented; we’re excited that she’s coming to the Museum,” said Jennifer Brazel, director of education at the Museum. “The Thorntons have an amazing, inspiring story, especially for young women.”

Find the Museum on Facebook ( HAMuseum), Twitter (@HunterdonArtMus (!/@HunterdonArtMus)) and Pinterest (


The Museum is at 7 Lower Center St. in Clinton, New Jersey, 08809. Our website is and our telephone number is 908-735-8415. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm and suggested admission is $5.


The Hunterdon Art Museum presents changing exhibitions of contemporary art and design in a 19th century stone mill that is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Founded in 1952, the Museum is a landmark regional art center showcasing works by established and emerging contemporary artists. It also offers a dynamic schedule of art classes and workshops for children and adults.

Programs are made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and by funds from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Hunterdon County Cultural & Heritage Commission, New Jersey Cultural Trust, The Horizon Foundation of New Jersey and corporations, foundations, and individuals.  The Hunterdon Art Museum is a wheelchair accessible space.  Publications are available in large print.  Patrons who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired may contact the Museum through the New Jersey Relay Service at (TYY) 1 (800) 852-7899.
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