Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, a stunning debut, is T Kira Madden’s story. A school girl’s coming of age in wealthy Boca Raton, Florida, the author struggles with her identity and shares with us the good the bad and the ugly. T Kira was born to a white, Jewish shoe developer from Long Island, and a Chinese Hawaiian mother. Although T Kira was privileged in some ways, she went to private school, was a member of the Madden shoe family (Steve Madden’s niece) and rode horses, she was forced to navigate her tormented youth as a biracial, gay teen with absentee, drug and alcohol addicted parents.
Her support system mostly consisted of other girls who had little parental supervision and enabled each other to make poor choices. They stuck together out of necessity and were often reckless. The lack of a father figure for these young girls was reflected in how they behaved and how they felt about themselves. Feeding in to her insecurities, one of T Kira’s father’s friends told her, “No child should be fatherless. No man will ever love a fatherless girl. She won’t know how to treat him right. How to rub a man’s feet.”
In her eyeopening and heartbreaking essays, the author shares her experiences, many of which are tragic, with frightening circumstances that were unthinkable. As I became absorbed in the writing, It was often difficult for me to remember this was a memoir. From being bullied and feeling ugly, to a frightening occurrence of sexual abuse and drug experimentation, Madden reveals the trials and tribulations of her messy childhood.
The impact her parents’ presence (and lack of) had on her identity was explored as Madden comes to terms with her mother’s past and how her experiences shaped her. She writes about her mother’s specific story, yet it is commentary on a bigger picture regarding the upbringing of young girls and what happens when what is unacceptable treatment has been accepted.
Madden consistently talks about her dad, the time they spent together, and his death. Clearly impacted by his minimal fathering, she says “When I think of my father, I think of my heart breaking in stages. A dull pain, then piercing. Electric. Still, somehow, gradual.”
T Kira Madden does not write like she feels sorry for what she has endured. From being left alone at a baseball game, to coming out, she talks about her experiences and how it was for her, in a way where you can imagine her emotions. Privilege and money did not build self esteem. T Kira is special in that she is a keen observer of behavior and had a mature way of processing what she saw with her parents and their addictions. She didn’t escape heartbreak and troubles and she participated fully in her childhood and coming of age with risky behavior. Lucky for her, and for us, she came out on top.
So many young girls have insecurities, indulge in experimentation and are faced with challenges and deep disappointments. T Kira Madden, armed with drive and perseverance, and showered with just enough love to keep moving forward, has forged a new path for herself which, in turn, gives hope to others. Revealing her toxic upbringing, dealing with her father’s death, and through her DNA search to connect with her true tribe, she has made an impression on me, and I’m sure other readers as well.
In her memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, you can feel the love she has for her family, despite their shortfalls. She is an observant woman and a compassionate writer with a gift for storytelling that will make you feel deeply. I highly recommend this memoir.
About the Author
T Kira Madden is a lesbian APIA writer, photographer, and amateur magician living in New York City. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an BA in design and literature from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College. She is the founding Editor-in-chief of No Tokens, a magazine of literature and art, and is a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in nonfiction literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Tin House, DISQUIET, Summer Literary Seminars, and Yaddo, where she was selected for the 2017 Linda Collins Endowed Residency Award. She facilitates writing workshops for homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals and currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. Her debut memoir, LONG LIVE THE TRIBE OF FATHERLESS GIRLS, is available now. There is no period in her name.