A powerful, unconventionally structured memoir recounting harrowing coming-of-age ordeals.
Though she earned acclaim for her debut poetry collection, bone (2014), Daley-Ward resists classification in this profound mix of poetry and prose. Her Jamaican mother was sent to live in England during her first, teenage pregnancy. Her father, whom she never met, was Nigerian, married to someone else. The author was raised entirely in England, largely by her maternal grandparents, Seventh-Day Adventists. She discovered her poetic calling on a pilgrimage to Africa, after drugs and depression had left her at the end of her rope. Before then, she had worked as a model and aspired to be a singer, though her most lucrative source of income was sex work. The one main constant in her life has been her younger brother, Roo, who attempted suicide after their mother’s death. Roo had a different father than his sister, who had a different father than their older brother. Their mother subsequently had a series of boyfriends, some of whom played quasi-dad to the offspring none of them had fathered. “I think about these parents of ours / our makers / our stars. (Such impossible, complex stars.),” she writes. “How they came, exploded, / and fell away.” Daley-Ward had developed well before her teens, both physically and mentally, so much that her mother feared her then-boyfriend would have sexual designs on her and sent her to her strict grandparents. She soon became aware of the attention her looks brought her, and she exercised her power to attract men and feared the power they might have over her. She abused alcohol and drugs, both to feel something and not to feel anything, and she found older men willing to support her. Then she got engaged to a man who truly loved her but whom she sensed she didn’t deserve. “I don’t think that I’ll live a particularly long life,” she writes. “It doesn’t bother me. You gather speed when you’re descending.”
The subtitle is apt: Daley-Ward has quite a ferociously moving story to tell.