A gender nonconforming cultural impresario recalls a life marked by drugs, displacement, a mentally ill mother, and rare but cherished pockets of solace.
Nothing about Wright’s three-decade life has come easy, as this eventful if narratively loose memoir has it, including her own birth—her mother endured more than 35 hours of labor and needed to be ferried through a crowd of homeless men in her scruffy East Village neighborhood. Wright’s mother, Rhonna, was a head-turning model and dancer, and Wright followed in her footsteps as a child actress. Stability was endlessly elusive: Wright’s parents split early, Rhonna was booted from their public-housing apartment, and she was prone to angry, overprotective rages when it came to her daughter. The term “daughter” is complicated as well. Though she was born a girl, Wright decided to “become a boy” when she was 6 and eventually dispensed with gender distinctions entirely. Externally, this created a host of anxieties regarding classmates and the boys and girls to which the author was attracted. Internally, Wright was a roiling sea, getting kicked out of various schools and slipping into drug-soaked jags of self-loathing. For all that struggle, though, rhetorically, the author puts on a brave face throughout the memoir, writing with a street-wise cool even when she discusses turning her mom in to the child welfare authorities or discovering her father’s heroin habit. "The foundation of my personality is the dance of regaining my balance from slamming into rules,” writes the author—which is why she’s not much for delivering familiar lectures about gender identity or surviving a tough childhood. It’s unclear how this engagingly reckless soul found the poise to launch a publishing, acting, and writing career; she just seemed to be doing it by her late teens. If Wright can pull it off, there’s hope for just about everybody.
An earnest and heartfelt memoir cloaked under a battle-toughened exterior.