Williams was born to Black Panther parents and grew up in Oakland, California, in the 70s--a vivid childhood during a time of immense political and cultural upheaval, though hardly idyllic.
A daughter of the Black Panther movement tells her remarkable life story of being raised amid violence and near-poverty, adopted as a teenager by Jane Fonda, and finding her way back home. As she grew up in 1970s Oakland, California, role models for Mary Williams were few and far between: her father was often in prison, her older sister was a teenage prostitute, and her hot-tempered mother struggled to raise six children alone. When Mary was thirteen, a silver lining appeared in her life: she was invited to spend a summer at Laurel Springs Children's Camp, run by Jane Fonda and her then husband, Tom Hayden. Mary flourished at camp, and over the course of several summers, she began confiding in Fonda about her difficulties at home. During one school year, Mary suffered a nightmare assault crime, which she kept secret until she told a camp counselor and Fonda. After providing care and therapy for Mary, Fonda invited her to come live with her family. Practically overnight, Mary left the streets of Oakland for the star-studded climes of Santa Monica. Jane Fonda was the parent Mary had never had--outside the limelight and Hollywood parties, Fonda was a wonderful mom who helped with homework, listened to adolescent fears, celebrated achievements, and offered inspiration and encouragement at every turn. Mary's life since has been one of adventure and opportunity--from hiking the Appalachian Trail solo, working with the Lost Boys of Sudan, and living in the frozen reaches of Antarctica. Her most courageous trip, though, involved returning to Oakland and reconnecting with her biological mother and family, many of whom she hadn't seen since the day she left home. "The Lost Daughter" is a chronicle of her journey back in time, an exploration of fractured family bonds, and a moving epic of self-discovery.