Long Live the Tribe of Father­less Girls [Review]

Long Live the Tribe of Father­less Girls [Review]

Jewish Book Council

Jessie Sza­lay

T Kira Madden, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, A Memoir (New York: Bloomsbury, 2019)

This stun­ning, com­pul­sive­ly read­able debut mem­oir tells the sto­ry of T Kira Madden’s com­ing-of-age in the swampy, sur­re­al world of wealthy Boca Raton, Flori­da. Despite her priv­i­lege wrought from her father’s shady deal­ings in gam­bling and stocks, young Mad­den faced crip­pling lone­li­ness and inse­cu­ri­ty. Her drug-addled par­ents were fre­quent­ly neglect­ful, strung out to what Mad­den calls ​“the oth­er place.” Though wealthy enough to attend prepara­to­ry school and own four hors­es, Mad­den fed her­self lit­tle but canned soup as a child. Her father rarely spoke to her and called her ​“son.” It’s no won­der that despite his phys­i­cal pres­ence for sub­stan­tial por­tions of her child­hood, Mad­den felt father­less. As a teenag­er, she fell into code­pen­dent friend­ships with oth­er ​“losers” who lacked sol­id parental sup­port. They found a sense of con­trol in drugs, eat­ing dis­or­ders, and sex, both enabling each oth­er in tox­ic behav­ior and being a lov­ing family.

It sounds like an aver­age ​“poor lit­tle rich girl” sto­ry. But Long Live the Tribe of Father­less Girls is much more than that, tak­ing tropes and ren­der­ing them with an undy­ing sense of com­pas­sion. The details of Madden’s ear­ly mem­o­ries are star­tling­ly vivid in a way that sug­gests she was in a per­sis­tent state of high alert, every pain etched in her brain for­ev­er. But for every men­tion of a ter­ri­fy­ing drug over­dose or her father leav­ing her at a base­ball game, there are sto­ries of her mother’s del­i­cate removal of lice from her daughter’s hair or her father’s ear­ly teach­ing of mag­ic tricks. Mad­den loves her fam­i­ly fierce­ly and in spite of it all, we nev­er doubt their deep-down love for her…

Read the entire review here.

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