Author T Kira Madden shares her memoir at Prairie Lights

Author of “Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls” T Kira Madden tells her story of growing up biracial and queer.


Jenna Galligan

Author T Kira Madden reads aloud from her memoir, “Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls” at a reading at Prairie Lights bookstore on Thursday, September 12, 2019. The memoir highlights Madden’s experience growing up biracial and queer, and Madden spoke on the topic with openness and humor. (Jenna Galigan/The Daily Iowan).

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

First time nonfiction writer T Kira Madden visited Prairie Lights Thursday night to read an excerpt from her memoir, “Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls.” The memoir is written as a series of essays that recount how being a bi-acial queer woman with an absentee father and a herion-addicted mother shaped her life, and does so in three parts: childhood, teenage years, and adult life.

Madden’s book is written entirely in present tense, as if the three stages of her life are narrated by fictional characters. This narrative choice is unusual for a memoir, but writing in the past tense would’ve taken from the feeling of raw honesty that her style evokes.

The ability to make an audience feel like they’re seeing your life unfold in real time immediately creates a connection with them, and Madden did just that. Every eye in the room focused solely on her, and remained that way until she finished.

In the excerpt she read at Prairie Lights, entitled “Womanly Things”, Madden shared her understanding— or lack thereof— of femininity, sexuality, and womanhood as she began puberty. Madden made no attempt to hide how painfully awkward some moments of her tweenhood were, which resulted in plenty of sympathetic laughter from the audience.

Many authors dismiss their younger thoughts and feelings as dumb “kids’ stuff” or use them purely as a source of comedy in their writing, but young Madden had some important insights to share— even if she didn’t really know they were insightful thoughts at that age— and it was refreshing to see an author who had such an honest take on what it’s like to be a girl at that stage in life.

Luckily, Madden didn’t have to figure out preteen life entirely alone. Madden’s best friend at the time, Misty, helped her navigate the trials of being a preteen, and was seemingly the first of Madden’s “tribe of fatherless girls”.

Related: Readings, readers, and writers: a brief history of Prairie Lights 

Even from only reading the excerpt, it became clear that Madden’s book is, in part, a love letter to girls who can relate to the trauma Madden has experienced.

“If you’re lacking a male figure in your life, what do you do, turn to other men? No. You find your tribe of women,” Madden said.

The last great thing to note about Madden’s story was the writing itself. There were moments where her word choice and word flow resembled poetry. When she was questioned about her writing style after the reading, Madden explained that when she writes a draft, she takes it sentence by sentence, adjusting the structure and wording until she feels satisfied with the result. Her voice feels as genuinely unique as her life story.

Madden said her purpose isn’t for the audience to simply learn about her life; it’s for them to understand everything she felt, even if those feelings don’t fit into a perfectly tidy and logical narrative. Her pieces were humorous, heartbreaking, and everything in between— just as a story about real life should be.