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New memoir: Darling Days by iO Tillet Wright

A bold and beautiful book, full of explosions of sensation

iO Tillet Wright grew up in the last days of old New York, where drugs and crime were rife, but so were artists and dancers and troupes of Hungarian film makers. iO was born into an unsteady bohemian life in Hell’s Kitchen. Rhonna is iO’s mother, “a Viking warrior goddess” who loves her only child fiercely. But, over time, Rhonna’s extreme passions curdle: the “darling days” of the title become fewer and their relationship is dominated by Rhonna’s mental illness, abuse and substances.

From the age of six, iO – born a girl – also begins to live as a boy, leading to difficulties with everything from bathrooms (in school, iO wees with shoes on backwards so as not to be identified by those looking under the cubicle doors) to sexual attraction.

Wright is a bravely honest writer, one who doesn’t flinch from discussing intimacies and isn’t afraid of disclosing the occasional bad behaviour of a younger self. But there’s more to Darling Days than that; the book is also full of explosions of sensation: the sick feeling of being left behind in a Budapest swimming pool, the sight of sequins glinting on a drag queen, the twisting feeling of having no food, the smacking beat of a samba band on the hottest day of the year. Darling Days is bold and beautiful.

iO Tillet Wright’s Darling Days is published by Virago (£14.99)

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