Grammy and Dove Award winning singer/songwriter Ashley Cleveland lays bare her soul in her new memoir, “Little Black Sheep.” This book is tragic. This book is joyous. This book is surprising and shocking. This book is triumphant. This book will grab you and not let you go. Reading its 200 pages is as easy as reading twenty and as informative as reading 400.
Cleveland grew up comfortably in Tennessee and California, but alcoholism, the breakup of her parents’ marriage, and her father’s own secrets rocked her world. Cleveland writes that she carried the weight of responsibility for her parents’ divorce, and it was her jumping off place for shame and self-destruction. She never felt like she fit in, so she sought to fill the void of acceptance, first with food and then with alcohol, drugs and sex.
Cleveland doesn’t spare many details, and the book is not always a comfortable read. It’s real and messy and honest. She writes about giving birth to her first daughter out of wedlock and how she felt the presence of Jesus in her hospital room, showing her tenderness and mercy instead of the judgement she had expected. She writes about her struggle with addiction–getting sober for periods of time and then falling back off the wagon. Surprisingly, Cleveland continued to battle her alcoholic demons while, at the same time, recording albums for the Christian market. She got drunk on the very night she received her first Grammy award for Best Rock Gospel Album (she has now won the award three times).
Ultimately, this book is about finding redemption in brokenness. Says Cleveland, “I am ever reminded that I am the little black sheep who was rescued by the One who is the Shepherd and the Lamb of God; the Redeemer who lived in human frailty and easily inhabits mine.”