When I started reading Darling Days by iO Tillett Wright, my reading mojo was bruised from two, basically back-to-back DNFs.
I read 10 pages of Darling Days and knew that that wasn’t going to happen here.
Darling Days is iO Tillett Wright’s memoir of growing up poor with an incredibly challenging mother as well as a queer gender identity.
This memoir is unlike any I’ve ever read before. It reminds me of The Glass Castle but I don’t want to compare the two because they are so unique. Darling Days is so unflinchingly honest, Tillett Wright’s life is laid bare but it’s written with so much love.
Tillett Wright’s mother is a Viking warrior queen, a dancer, an artist, a beautiful soul in a cruel, hard world. She loves her child fiercely, cocoons them together away from the darkness of the rest of the world the best she can. But before iO is born, his mother suffered the violent loss of a lover. She never quite gets over it, and the medications that she takes to help her cope, to help her to feel closer to that lost love, end up causing their own kind of damage.
iO spends his childhood in awe of his mother, a happy sidekick in the kinds of adventures you can only have when you are very poor – like walking all your stuff to a new apartment after you’ve been fighting eviction.
iO’s story is complex. When life with his mother becomes too much, he tries living in Germany with his father and then a boarding school in rural England. But iO is also a product of his upbringing and always feels kind of other. As a teenager, he feels incredible rage and starts experimenting: with his sexuality, with alcohol and drugs.
The one thing that I really felt the entire time I was reading this incredible memoir was love. The book opens with iO’s letter to his mother, someone who continues to be a tangled presence in his life, basically saying that this is their story but that it’s written without judgement and that he has always loved her and always will and that he wouldn’t be the person he is today without his mother.
I mean, if that doesn’t make you want to cry your eyes out right there, I don’t know what will.
The reason that the love stands out for me will be clear if you end up reading this intense, honest, captivating memoir. Few people live this kind of life, survive this childhood, and come out on the other side with love and compassion for their parents. Even contentment is difficult to achieve and iO has come out with joy, enthusiasm and a delight in what this world has to offer.
iO Tillett Wright is clearly a pretty incredible person and I felt privileged to get to read his story. If you get the chance, I hope you do too.