Greetings, readers! My name is Sareeta Domingo, and I’m an author and fiction editor. It’s my great pleasure to be bringing you a Book of the Week, each week here on Morning Mari.
This week, my selection is a magnificently original memoir by writer and poet Yrsa Daley-Ward: The Terrible. The title of the book is apt in some ways, because, as she writes “God, there were terrible things” that happened to the author along the course of her life as a child and into early adulthood. She documents these things in a truly unique manner, straddling prose and poetry in short bursts of text that are economical, lyrical and striking.
Daley-Ward grew up in the northwest of England, initially with her beautiful Jamaican mother, Marcia and her beloved younger brother whom she calls Little Roo. Her Nigerian father was absent from their lives, and as she reaches puberty and gains unwanted attention form Marcia’s boyfriend, she’s shipped off to live with her strict, Seventh Day Adventist grandparents.
The book explores Daley-Ward’s burgeoning sexuality and how she attempts to navigate it as she grows older and moves away from home. This journey is empowering in ways, but also lays out dark, haunted passages that hint at deeper struggles. We see how the author grapples with how she’s viewed, particularly in physical terms, in the modelling industry, by her mother, by men and by herself—and how this impacts her mental health.
The text of the book itself is often experimentally laid out on the page, belying Daley-Ward’s engagement with the pithy Instagram posts that made her name as a poet. She has a truly wonderful sense of self-creation, of language delivery, and of creativity and writing itself. As she writes at the book’s conclusion: It takes six moments to write a thing. 1) you dream 2) you wake up 3) you sit down 4) you settle on the chair/bed/floor 5) you think what is happening? is this the day nothing’ll come? Is this the end of it? 6) then you grip your heart, involuntarily and your soul comes up. Your soul comes up, I’m telling you.
In this book, we truly see the author’s soul laid bare on the page. And that is why The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward is my Book of the Week this week.