This award-winning work of narrative nonfiction is a raw and haunting account of one girl’s journey through madness, loss, and a broken child welfare system in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Seven-year-old Leslie has a problem. Someone is trying to kill her. 

Her mother Roberta suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, writes rambling manifestos, and forces her children to live on the run to evade capture by the Russian spies she believes are after them. With every psychotic break, Leslie and her younger brother face terrifying circumstances despite the fact that Roberta’s only wish is to protect them. Who will help them when she is convinced that killing them will save them from a worse fate?

When separated from her family and thrust into foster care for the foreseeable future, Leslie navigates a new kind of fear and loneliness. All she wants is to be loved, but how can her mother ever love her when she is so far away? How can she love her now that Leslie has betrayed her in so many ways? Will Leslie ever see her again?

Ultimately, Leslie remains at the mercy of the adults in her life who can effect change, and she wonders if she will ever find a safe place to land. Nobody will talk about her mother’s mental illness, and nothing seems to be able to fix her dysfunctional family. But her sixth-grade teacher gives her hope every day, so Leslie pretends she is—and always has been—her daughter.

An unbelievable true story of grit and heart, When I Was Her Daughter is, at its core, a tale about how the redemptive power of patience and courage leads to unconditional love for a lost and angry child desperate to understand where she belongs.


Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards 2023

Non-Fiction/Memoir Gold Medal

Outstanding Creator Awards Winter 2023

Best Non-Fiction Book, 3rd Place

Family, 1st Place

Autobiographies& Memoirs, 2nd Place

Women’s Non-Fiction & Women’s Issues, 3rd Place

Motivational/Inspirational, 3rd Place


2023 PenCraft Winter Seasonal Book Awards


2022 Firebird Book Awards

Coming of Age, 1st Place

Parenting & Family, 1st Place

Psychiatry/Psychology, 1st Place


The Memoir Prize for Books 2022



What Readers Are Saying


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6 thoughts on “The Memoir”

  1. Shannon Tedder

    I’m so happy for you. What unbelievable Courage you have Leslie❤️ I look forward to reading your book.
    Much love and support

  2. Joe Castorena

    This is a heart-felt memoir which is written with incredibly honest details about her fears and hopes for her brother and self. Leslie Ferguson takes you on a sad journey through her life and teaches us how to keep hope alive. It is a must read if you love survival stories.

  3. barbara moody

    I admire this author’s courage and resulting raw truthfulness of the child, through the eyes of the adult.
    ….. A thoroughly enjoyable read, with lessons to be learned throughout if the reader is willing.
    Thank you for the gift of this read Leslie Ferguson.

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