iO has a poet’s gift for metaphor and breathtaking turns of phrase but retains the raw honesty and attitude of a city kid. Perhaps his greatest gift as a writer is his ability to describe his lifelong struggles with gender identity and sexuality. Darling Days isn’t comprehensive. It’s rare for a New York City memoir to skip over 9/11, as this one does, and it ends rather abruptly in 2008. But here’s hoping iO is saving the rest for the next book.
Written in the present tense, Darling Days has a compelling immediacy. Wright is flinty and outspoken, offering a clear-eyed perspective on gender identity. He’s a narrator you want to root for, a person who is defiantly not defined by circumstances ... Wright has a dramatic flair that matches the dramatic subject but occasionally falls into some odd sentences that detract from the story ... 'Human beings start putting each other into boxes the second that they see each other,' Wright says in the opening of the TedxWomen talk 'Fifty Shades of Gay.' His art — and this book — compellingly shows the folly of that.
The emotional heart of the book lives within this tension — between taking care of his controlling and needy mother and taking care of himself. In this struggle, Tillett Wright is cleareyed but compassionate ... Though passionately felt and described, his struggles can feel overdetailed; they’d benefit from the insights of an older, wiser narrator. To make reference to Vivian Gornick, it’s too much situation, not enough story ... While he was living his life, history was also happening, and the inclusion of that history could enlarge his memoir. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to root for Tillett Wright when he finally comes into his own.