Wright, Tillett iO. “Darling Days: A Memoir”, Ecco, 2016.
“Punk, Poverty, Heroin and Art”
In his memoir, iO Tillett Wright shared that he was born in New York in the 1980s and came of age at the intersection of “punk, poverty, heroin and art”.
New York then was “a world of self-invented characters, glamorous superstars, and strung-out sufferers, ground zero of drag and performance art”. iO’s mother, Rhonna, was a showgirl and young widow, “and a mercurial, erratic glamazon”. She was also iO’s fiercest defender and only authority in a world with few boundaries and even fewer indicators of normal life. This is the story of the relationship between a fiery kid and a domineering mother who shared a bond that was defined by “freedom and control, excess and sacrifice; by heartbreaking deprivation, agonizing rupture, and, ultimately, forgiveness”.
“Darling Days” is much more than a memoir; it is also an examination of culture and identity, of the instincts that shape us and the norms that “deform” us, and of the courage and resilience it takes to listen closely to your deepest self (Something many of us have a hard time doing). When a group of neighborhood boys refuse to let six-year-old, female-born iO play ball, iO instantly finds a new persona and becomes a boy named Ricky and her parents support and celebrate. Here was the start of a profound exploration of gender and identity through the young years, and the beginning of a life that was invented and reinvented at every step and whenever necessary. The beauty of this book is that it is constantly moving back and forth between the “harrowing and the hilarious” all the while remaining as a candid and honest memoir of a young person in search of an authentic self as family and home life become chaotic.
People will have mixed feelings about the memoir because Wright tells it like it was and her honesty is brutal as well as shocking at times. She has been an artist, an activist, and a survivor and approaches life with a fierceness that we do not often see. She also happens to be a great storyteller with a true story to tell.