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Nondumiso Tshabangu Reviews The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward

The TerribleStar Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
The Terrible
Yrsa Daley-Ward
Penguin, April 2018
Online Price: R198


Poet, model and actor Yrsa Daley-Ward, best known for her debut poetry collection, Bone, and her spoken-word performances, has written a heartbreaking memoir in The Terrible, where she talks readers through a tale of a dark-skinned girl growing up in the north-west of England.

When she was young, living with her Seventh-day Adventist Jamaican grandparents and her brother seemed the most stable part of her life. Later, both Yrsa and her brother Roo face challenges. These are shared in raw and honest prose that allows the reader a glimpse into Yrsa’s soul.

The author tackles difficult topics like sexual abuse, addiction, death and bigotry, describing her experiences in a nuanced yet straightforward manner. Most of the memoir takes up the perspective of a child growing into an addict. But it is also a story of healing, about growing up and discovering the power of sexuality, of pitch grey days of pills and powder, of damage and pain, but also joy.

The Terrible does not run across the pages like a traditional work of creative non-fiction. Nor does it fall directly into prose-poetry format. There is the hint of the language of social media on its pages – social media being such a big agent of poetry’s new popularity and approachability,

Meet Ysra’s beautiful, careworn mother, Marcia; meet Linford, the man formerly known as Dad, ‘half-fun, half-frightening’; and meet little brother Roo, who sees things written in the stars.

Here is a memoir of going under, losing yourself, and finding your voice. Absolutely wonderful, beautiful, challenging, and one of a kind. I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Review by Nondumiso Tshabangu, editor of Africa’s Lit, the African literature-themed newsletter from Exclusive Books

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