Beth Ditto’s ‘Coal To Diamonds’

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad,” wrote Philip Larkin. “They may not mean to, but they do.” If Phil thought families in Hull were bad, he should hear what they get up to in America’s rural Deep South. Beth Ditto’s frank and heartfelt memoir starkly captures the seemingly endless permutations of emotional and physical abuse that her extended family handed down to one another. It’s heart-wrenching to read the litany of awful things that can happen when children are left to raise children and even incest becomes routine. In one devastating scene, she tells her first boyfriend she can’t remember a time before her uncle abused her. Back in 2006, Ditto caused a minor uproar from animal rights organisations after telling NME that when she was a child her family had shot and eaten squirrels. Seen in the context of her childhood, it’s baffling that people were more upset about the animals than the welfare of the children hunting them for food.

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