An acclaimed essayist’s memoir about finding personal redemption in female friends and lovers after growing up in a wealthy but dysfunctional Florida family.
Born out of wedlock to a white shoe mogul father and a Chinese-Hawaiian ex-model, Madden was a lonely child who longed for “love the size of a fist.” To comfort herself, she wrote stories about an alter ego named Joni Baloney and developed a pen-pal relationship with a 51-year-old man who found her through an ad she had placed in TigerBeat magazine. Her parents began living together, and eventually, Madden's father moved her and her mother from Coconut Grove to Boca Raton. The union granted the author access to privileges that included an exclusive private school education, riding lessons, and horses of her own. However, living with her father also brought her face to face with his alcoholism. The rampages that sometimes resulted often meant brutal beatings for her mother, who developed her own addiction to painkillers. While her parents suffered in an unstable relationship, Madden struggled to find sustaining friendships and love among the drinking, drugging, silver-spoon youths of Boca Raton. For a brief time, she became part of what she calls “the tribe of fatherless girls,” a small group of fierce female outcasts who showed her the affection she lacked at home while unexpectedly stirring queer longings the author did not realize she had. In her late teens, Madden moved to New York City. There, she studied fashion design and pursued lesbian relationships that not only helped her heal, but also face the challenges of losing the father she loved and discovering the older half sister her mother had given up for adoption more than a decade before Madden's birth. Though the author’s aching emotional rawness sometimes makes for difficult reading, this is a deeply courageous work that chronicles one artist’s jagged—and surprisingly beautiful—path to wholeness.
Affecting, fearless, and unsparingly honest.