“A story of redemption and forgiveness.”



Available Everywhere: January 12, 2021



“[Plymale’s] lineage, which she traces back to the Revolutionary War, represents a sort of inverse American dream. Descended from wealth and status — one ancestor owned what was the largest ironworks in the world, another was a cotton magnate — her people become less respectable through the generations until the line arrives at Plymale herself, whose own life marks the point where the needle begins to move in a positive direction once again. It’s a story of redemption and forgiveness.

NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW by Mary Beth Keane, Author of ‘Ask Again, Yes.’ 

“Plymale’s memoir is a gut-wrenching and absorbing portrait of one family’s legacy of mental illness and childhood trauma. Growing up, Plymale and her siblings mostly lived in their car, often had to forage for food, and spent time in and out of abusive foster homes. Their mother suffered from mental illness and was, at best, indifferent to their suffering and often accusatory. With the help of her husband, whom she met at 15, Plymale overcame her circumstances; starting a successful design school and raising three children in a loving household. After her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Plymale becomes determined to find out more about her past including who her father is. Scenes of her childhood are interspersed with the present day as she tries to get information, which is near impossible because of her mother’s alternate personalities and confabulation. While the timeline can get confusing because of this structure, it won’t matter much to folks who enjoy stories of overcoming the odds, especially in the vein of Educated and The Glass Castle.”

Kathy Sexton, Critic from Booklist

“Much more than a story of a rape and its aftermath, American Daughter–in the tradition of classics like The Glass Castle, LA Diaries and White Oleander–explores in unsparing details the complex interplay between intimate family ties, generational abuse, cataclysmic losses, and the extraordinary and limitless power of compassion and self-discovery. American Daughter illustrates the enormous strength and will it takes for anyone to choose love.”

 Gina Frangello, Author of ‘Every Kind of Wanting’ and A Life in Men’
Editor of The Coachella Review

“ Plymale has written supersedes the journey of perseverance with an investigation into her family’s fascinating but tragic past. When Plymale’s mother announced that she was dying of lung cancer, the author decided to learn more about her family history while she still could. For starters, she had no idea who her father was. Her mom often claimed that she was related to George Washington—which everyone dismissed as either a delusion or an outright lie. And when ill, her mom had often taken on alternate personalities, including a sad 11-year-old girl who was always afraid of getting pregnant. What, Plymale had long wondered, was that really about?”
Jessica Wakeman, Critic from BookPage (Starred Review)

About the Book

American Daughter

At age 4, Stephanie Thornton Plymale survived a full throttle, head-on collision in a mail truck stolen by her mother’s boyfriend. Again, at age 5, sat in the back of a van going 70 miles per hour, Stephanie survived a drunken rollover crash. She was twice physically unscathed but left mute with trauma, a condition which would come and go for years. She later suffered life-threatening burns due to neglect and became blind in one eye. Homelessness evolved to isolation in the Dependent unit of the state of California – to placement in several foster homes, one of which being horribly abusive. By age 10, Stephanie’s experience was that of criminal neglect, chronic hunger, truancy, homelessness, and ongoing sexual violation. The terror and fear that she experienced as a child she later uncovers are the insidious ripple effects from an appalling crime that occurred in the summer of 1953 in Baltimore, Maryland, and made national news.

Stephanie’s mother suffered from severe mental illness; schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder, was in and out of jail and a series of ghastly psych wards throughout her entire life. Meanwhile and despite all odds, Stephanie’s lifelong desire for a sense of home led to her passion for interior design and burgeoning career in the industry. However, time seemed to stop when Stephanie received a call from her mother after a period of estrangement that was enforced by a court order. Her mother revealed her terminal illness and Stephanie became her mother’s sole guardian.

Timing became critical for Stephanie to address her longing to seek the truth about her devastating childhood and lost heritage. She began a series of “interviews” with her mother in an attempt to find answers and to get her mother to take personal responsibility for the past. In one of these interviews, her mother reveals that she herself was the victim of that horrific crime in 1953 that plagued her as a child and for the rest of her life. This revelation incites the unlikely redemption and reconciliation between mother and daughter. Her mother also revealed a stunning and illustrious ancestry that she had kept hidden for decades. Stephanie grew up thinking of herself as “white trash” and knew nothing until then of the aristocratic family heritage from which she came.

AMERICAN DAUGHTER tells an extraordinary story of trauma, healing and transcendence in this powerful memoir by Stephanie Thornton Plymale, who is currently the CEO of Heritage School of Interior Design, a premier and growing national interior design school.


Stephanie Thornton Plymale

Stephanie Thornton Plymale is the CEO of Heritage School of Interior Design. Stephanie calls Portland, Oregon, home – a word with much meaning as she grew up without one. From living in a car on the beach with her five siblings, to isolation in the Dependent Unit of the State of California, to a horribly abusive foster home, Stephanie never experienced a feeling of family as a child. Married at 19 to her highschool sweetheart, her desire for family roots helped her to build a stable marriage and loving home for her three children. 

From a young age, Stephanie had an insatiable desire to create a feeling of home. This incited her passion for interior design which led to her successful career working in nearly every facet of the industry, including residential, commercial, retail curation, fabrication and staging. After 18 years of owning her own firm, Stephanie felt ready to pursue her next chapter. It was then that she took over Heritage School of Interior Design. Stephanie’s vision was to make education accessible to all who were interested in excelling in the industry.

Stephanie has supported hundreds of students in achieving their dream careers. Many alumni have gone on to win prestigious awards and begin wildly successful businesses. Stephanie continues to balance family life with promoting Heritage, the success of its students, staff, continually growing community and philanthropic efforts. She currently serves on the board for Project Lemonade.

Stephanie’s traumatic childhood, family life and career is unique yet she takes heart in knowing that life’s lessons are universal and that everyone has a story. Her goal is to inspire others to share their stories, receive support and feel empowered by their ability to survive, forgive, heal, transcend and live the life of their dreams.

Coverage of American Daughter

Press Articles

kiro radio

Upcoming Virtual Book Events


Stephanie Thornton Plymale in Conversation
with Jeniffer Thompson

Tuesday, January 12 at 4pm
Join us on Facebook Live


An Interview with Stephanie Thornton Plymale
Moderated by Mozhan Marno

Thursday, January 14 at 7pm
Join us on Zoom


An Interview with Stephanie Thornton Plymale

Signed books available after the Facebook Live Event
Friday, January 22nd 3 pm 

Past Events

KATU AM Northwest – Portland

Run for Cover Bookstore – San Diego

Barnes and Noble – San Diego

KATU AM Northwest – Portland

Third Place Books – Seattle

KGW News – Portland

KOMO News Radio – Seattle

Annie Bloom’s Books – Portland

KATU Afternoon Live – Portland

Word Bookstore –  New York

The Today Show – New York

Media & Speaking Contacts

For speaking & media inquiries,
please contact:

Phelize Bristol

Connect with
Stephanie Thornton Plymale

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of Interior Design