Author(s): iO Tillett Wright
I WAS BORN, SEPTEMBER 1985, IN THE VORTEX OF THE LOWER EAST SIDE OF NEW YORK: THERE WERE FEW RULES OF LIFE AND ZERO CONTRAINTS ON BEHAVIOUR. IF YOU WERE NOT ECCENTRIC, YOU WERE WEIRD. It was a tenement building at the centre of the drug-addled, punk-edged, permanent riot that was iO's corner of the Lower East Side of New York City in the '80s and 90's. There iO grew up - or rather scrabbled up - under the broken wing of a fiercely protective, yet wildly negligent mother. Rhonna was a showgirl, actress, dancer, poet. A widow by police murder, she was also an addict. She doted and obsessed over iO, yet lacked an understanding that a child needs food and sleep and safety. Unfolding in animated, crystalline prose, an emotionally raw, devastatingly powerful memoir of one young person's extraordinary coming of age - a tale of gender and identity, freedom and addiction, rebellion and survival in the 1980s and 1990s, when punk poverty, heroin and art collided in the urban bohemia of New York's Lower East Side. Darling Days is also a provocative examination of culture and identity, of the instincts that shape us and the norms that deform us, and of the courage and resilience of a child listening closely to their deepest self. When a group of boys refuse to let the six-year-old play ball, iO instantly adopts a new persona, becoming a boy named Ricky, a choice the parents support and celebrate. It is the start of a profound exploration of gender and identity through the tenderest years, and the beginning of a life invented and reinvented at every step. Alternating between the harrowing and the hilarious, Darling Days is the candid, tough, and stirring memoir of a young person in search of an authentic self as family and home life devolve into chaos until iO escapes to Germany and then England to become an amazingly talented, exciting, edgy artist and wonderful writer.
Gender-defying iO Tillett Wright mixes such a high-octane cocktail of radiant ink, wild anecdotes, bad behavior, and gritty truths -topped off with an unexpected tonic of transcendence-it could stagger Charles Dickens, electrify Maxim Gorky, and cause Jane Austen to walk around in army boots -- Tom Robbins It's already a rare and wonderful thing to have a great story-but a unique and compelling voice to tell it with is even rarer. With Darling Days, iO Tillett Wright takes us right to where great storytelling lives. A terrific, terrific book, filled with great characters, set in a time and place, the pre-gentrified Lower East Side of Manhattan, that spins farther away from memory with every passing day -- Anthony Bourdain A startlingly good debut -- Frances Wilson Oldie If you enjoyed Patti Smith's Just Kids or Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle, you will devour this The Pool A wild ride through the grimier bits of downtown New York in the Eighties and Nineties ... fans of Patti Smith's Just Kids will love it -- Sarra Manning Red An immensely evocative portrait of growing up in a tenement building in 80s and 90s New York -- Anita Sethi Observer I missed an unprecedented two subway stops because I was so engrossed in iO Tillett Wright's East Village memoir Darling Days. A riveting story about growing up trans with a mentally ill mother, it will make you fall for the precocious, streetwise iO -- Olivia Laing Guardian
iO Tillett Wright is a photographer, writer, film maker, activist and actor. iO's hugely popular TED talk, 50 Shades of Gay, has been watched by more than two million people.