American Daughter

A Memoir of Intergenerational Trauma, a Mother’s Dark Secrets, and a Daughter’s Quest for Redemption


Praise for American Daughter

“American Daughter is a deeply compelling page-turner of a memoir, beautifully written, and insightful. The reasons some of us survive chaotic childhoods and go on to lead happy productive lives, to even thrive, are complex and seemingly random. Yet we long to discover a secret formula for resilience. American Daughter does not give us facile answers. We follow Stephanie’s journey from horrific childhood to successful businesswoman, mother, and wife, and are captivated by her inner strength, her kindness, her desire to seek truth, and most poignantly, her desire to find her place in the world, to belong. This memoir does not pretend that scars of a traumatic childhood can be erased, but it shows us happiness is still possible. Stephanie’s investigation into family history leads to a truth many abuse victims eventually discover, that our abusers have often survived their own hellish childhoods, and that we all carry the trauma of our ancestors.”

– Karen Lynch, Author of ‘Good Cop, Bad Daughter: Memoirs of an Unlikely Police Officer’

“American Daughter is a riveting page turner that has the reader looking forward to each chapter with a mix of anticipation and unease. The book is both a haunting memoir and Cinderella story that has you rooting for this family until the end. The writing is exquisitely vivid and poetic – making it easy to conjure up images of mother and daughter throughout the many decades of their lives together, and apart. In the end, American Daughter is one woman’s triumphant tale of determination and hope to create a truly beautiful life for herself against all odds.”

– Tracy Klinkroth, Founder of ChickChat & The Power of She 

“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

“American Daughter is a page-turner you won’t be able to put down. The author, Stephanie Plymale is a product of transgenerational trauma and as her story unfolds the reader feels like they are walking in her shoes. A riveting story that demonstrates the resilience and perseverance of a strong independent woman.”

Jessica Abramson-Lott, President of Beauty Marks Entertainment

“American Daughter is a well-written memoir about the complex process of attempting to understand, reconcile and forgive. It is gratifying to follow her on the journey to redemption. She leaves us with hope for every individual and every fraught family relationship.”

 Janis Avery, CEO of Treehouse

“The story of American Daughter has affected my life forever! Stephanie’s story minimizes what being a survivor is…does a victim really have a choice or in their journey do some just get luckier than others? The people they meet…the breaks they get…bottom line, those who can survive the most horrific unimaginable things actually can break the cycle of such a terrible life. And if they do, then to me they are nothing short of a living Saint!”

 Karen Phelps Moyer, Founder of Good Morning Gorgeous, LLC
Emmy Award Winner, Founder of Moyer Foundation

“The story is compelling as the reader learns how her mother’s grandiose statements have a basis in truth. The trauma Plymale discovers is so horrible it was recorded in the newspapers. Plymale is honest about her family’s failings and her own, but ultimately forgiving.”

 Martha Crites, Author of Grave Disturbance, Mental Health Counselor

“Here is a story of triumph and hope. So many of our stories today begin with heartache, but it is so amazing to see what one person can create out of ashes.”

 Treger Strasberg, Co-CEO & Founder, Humble Design and Host of the TV show Welcome Home

“This book takes the reader along on a journey that is equal parts heart-rending, shocking, and uplifting.  It may be surprising to describe a story of homelessness, child abuse, and mental illness as uplifting, but Plymale’s open and thoughtful consideration of her life story gives hope to those who have struggled through adversity.”

– Chris Shortell, Author and Professor at Portland State University

“Hollywood could not have invented a more horrific childhood.  The book is beautifully and candidly written. She won’t let you look away while so many adults and systems let her down. The back story that emerges through the gauzy memories of her mother’s mental illness will blow you away.”

Jill Norman, Former Career Center Manager, Dress for Success

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.

American Daughter now available everywhere books are sold.



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.

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.

Explore photos that bring Stephanie’s memoir to life

Meet the Family

Baltimore rape case 1953_blurred

Newspaper Articles

Tour of the Foster Homes

Image galleries coming soon!

Coverage of American Daughter

Press Articles


Book Events


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

More details to come!


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

More details to come!


Friday, September 18, 2020

More details to come!

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 media inquiries,
please contact:

Michi Suzuki


Lisa Willis

For speaking requests,
please contact Ariel Vaisbort

Connect with
Stephanie Thornton Plymale

Explore Heritage School
of Interior Design