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The Terrible: A Storyteller's Memoir

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,641 ratings  ·  328 reviews
From an explosive new literary talent, a searing, moving memoir of family, adolescence and sexuality.

'You may not run away from the thing that you are because it comes and comes and comes as sure as you breathe.'

This is the story of Yrsa Daley-Ward, and all the things that happened - 'even the Terrible Things (and God, there were Terrible Things)'. It's about her childhood
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Penguin Books
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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“Pull yourself together. You are an African, the most magical kind of human there is.”

I knew that this book would break my heart and it did. It’s a memoir of Yrsa dealing with life’s challenges (understatement) and it is a raw, brutal and honest account.

There are four parts to this book, each section exploring a different stage in the authors life, the tone of the book and the language changing with it and echoing its time frame.

Thought it is poetry, the writing does an incredible job of weavi
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant! I loved Yrsa Daley-Ward's book of poetry Bone and was thrilled to see she'd written a memoir. The Terrible is part verse, part prose, telling the story of Yrsa's life thus far. She grew up with her younger brother, living with her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the north of England. She never knew her father, only that he was a professor in Nigeria. Her mother had issues of her own, leaving her unable to raise Yrsa and Roo when they were younger.

Roman Clodia
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I didn't find this as fresh or original as I hoped: Daley-Ward creates a dark memoir of alienation, depression and a downward spiral of drink, drugs and sex, occasionally lit by flares of imagination and sparse moments of love and connection.

But I found this over-written in places, and the free-verse form gimmicky with random line breaks and occasional right-margin justification which have no effect on meaning or interpretation.

There's so much white space on each page that this is a speedy read
Read By RodKelly
I knew this would be great but wow!

This memoir-in-verse is stunningly candid, often invoking painful memories that highlight what seems to be universal pain and trauma that black children inherit from their parents. The truth of this touched me while I read because Yrsa Daley-Ward does not shy away from the subject: she points a finger at her mother's parenting, her grandparents religious strictness, the stream of men who treated her as a sexual object, and consequently, her foray into being a
Paris (parisperusing)
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Everything about this book hurts.
Everything about this book is beautiful.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-writers
Disclaimer: I won this book for my BookTubeAThon Book Dominoes Challenge (woop woop!), I wasn't asked to review it but since I got it for free and wouldn't have picked it up on my own I think it's important to mention that. ///

I always feel like the ultimate asshole when I rate biographies and memoirs low because who am I to judge another person's life or how a person decided to share their experiences with the world, yet here we are. And I feel like a douche saying it: but The Terrible was pre
A few months ago I read Bone, and the only thing I had to say at first was that I so badly wanted to hear the poetry spoken out loud. Then, at the beginning of June, I actually got the opportunity to see Yrsa, as her book tour for The Terrible had a stop in my city. Listening to her speak was as beautiful and as powerful as I had imagined, and walking out of that bookshop, I felt so inspired. Since that day I’ve had a copy of The Terrible, but have been waiting for the right time to read it. Thi ...more
Lara Kareem
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is so terribly good, it carries Yrsa's essence from the onset to the end. It is one dark tale, with glimpses of lights here and there, but so dark and powerful, Yrsa can't help but capture my attention with her story.

To me this memoir is one of a kind because it is truly a piece of art, it's like reading a beautiful long poem, verse-prose? that starts with how she came to be in this terrible hard world and how from an early age she had to learn to always look out for herself, in order
Nikita Gill
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Yrsa Daley-Ward. I love the way she visualises her world. I love the way her brain works, and the way she puts pen to paper. Her work on instagram is gorgeous, but this, this was something otherworldly altogether. To make it clear, I have not yet read Bone, so this is the first full body of work I have read by Daley-Ward and it stunned me. Her command over language, her effective and simple way of telling an explosive story, it's all there. All of it. I wept for her in this memoir. I foun ...more
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
what a beautiful memoir. Yrsa Daley-Ward performs the hell out of the audiobook too. the byline of this book says it's "A Storyteller's Memoir," and it is absolutely right. ...more
Laura King
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Yrsa Daley-Ward's memoir is a breath of fresh air, though the content can be heartbreaking at times. She tells her story through poetry and through prose, in mixing both manages to keep their reader on their toes and refuses to let itself be just a standard autobiography. It tells the story of her mixed West Indian and West African heritage, the devout grandparents who brought her and her little brother up in the north of England, and her working out sexuality and trauma, and emerging as the adu ...more
Alice Lippart
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2018
Beautiful, raw and honest.
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Yrsa outdid herself in this one, my good folks.
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq, non-fiction, 2020
A breathtaking and heartbreaking about growing up in the North of England and the trials and tribulations of growing up.

This memoir is mostly told in verse and dabbles in various different sentence structures which I loved. Everything became so intense and was so quick to draw you in and fly through.

There was nothing I didn’t love.
4.5 stars - An emotional sucker punch.

Don’t you know you’re one of the lucky one? shouts the terrible. Don’t you know I’ve got you, you ungrateful, ungrateful creature? You wretch! Don’t you know those dark times kept you stronger? (thus sayeth the terrible). Don’t you know without me you would be just another girl with an everyday life and an almost-house always under construction and a man you tolerate and don’t really love and a father you met but who stopped you from doing anything and se
Megan O'Hara
Feb 21, 2020 rated it liked it
it was written as prose/verse to pretty much no effect and no offense to her or her story but this felt like a lot of other memoirs about being depressed and fucked up that I need to stop reading in general.

cw: sexual violence, rape, pedophilia, suicide
I was excited to read this book, because while I'm not really a fan of Yrsa Daley Ward's poetry, I do think the clarity she employs in that work would make for an intriguing memoir.

Not many things here are new experiences—oppressively religious grandparents, confusing and/or concerning childhood experiences with sexuality, and lots of self-despair, all of which funnel into a gripping depression beginning in Daley-Ward's young adult years, which we are still in the thick of by the end of this mem
Madalyn (Novel Ink)
Feb 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was beautifully written (and beautifully read by the author in the audiobook)! I’ve been on a memoir kick recently and this one is absolutely worth your time.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, own-it
In a style that transitions between traditional prose and a modified verse as well as first, second AND third person, Yrsa tells a heart-wrenching story of her mother’s troubles following a young pregnancy with her older brother and her own life as she grew up, exiled to her grandparents’ house because Marcia (her mother) had a boyfriend who couldn’t be trusted with Yrsa’s growing body. Separated from her younger brother, Roo, and her only parent Yrsa was forced to follow the strict religion of ...more
chantel nouseforaname
The way that pain echoes out in a life can either be constructed towards something larger than itself or internalized and carried to the grave. Yrsa Daley-Ward is an incredible writer.

After spending the majority of this weekend watching and re-watching Beyonce's new release Black Is King I kept seeing Yrsa's name as one of the main writers of the story. This led me to want to engage with more of her work, so I decided today to read her memoir. I own a copy of Bone, which I read years ago, but t
Louise Pennington
The Terrible is simply exquisite.
Review to come! I’m leaning towards 4.5 stars...
Cardyn Brooks
The following review first appeared on June 3, 2018.

Similar to the ways in which Billie Holiday and John Coltrane used the same musical notes and scales as other musicians yet managed to produce otherworldly compositions exponentially more complex than the sum of their individual elements, in The Terrible Yrsa Daley Ward has crafted a ballad of her life in prose poetry that exceeds conventional expectations of a memoir.

A prologue, four numbered sections, and an epilogue pr
Jul 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this memoir in verse which was a wonderful reading experience. Yrsa's way with words has made her one of my favorites and I can't wait to pick up more of her writing. ...more
Denise Cormaney
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finished this one in a day. Whoa. I've never read anything like it.

Sometimes we hear a story about someone who has labels that society is quick to judge (drug user, prostitute, private dancer/escort), and it's easy to see those labels and jump to those judgments, all the while forgetting the person is a human being with a story that led to the present circumstances. And chances are, this human being did not start out in life with a stable home environment and loving parents who one day dreamed
Jen Pennington
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So glad I stumbled upon Yrsa Daley-Ward this year. Reading her work is like holding a beating heart in your hand. So alive and frightening and exciting and rare.
Can you believe I took this book all the way to and across Japan, and all the way back without reading it? Memoirs aren't usually my thing - hence the delay in picking it up - but this one packs a punch. I finally picked it up on Thursday night and finished it by Friday. 🙈

Daley-Ward writes poetically about growing up in northern England, discovering her sexuality, falling into drugs, battling to discover herself. It can be an uncomfortable read but the author's effortless, silken prose demands t
Written in a combination of prose and poetry, this memoir evokes feelings of sadness, alienation and the need to belong.
The language is beautiful, the novel short, but it is a rather intense read.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a good story but it's written as a poem, to no real effect, and I was like

Samantha (AK)
Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone knows how to tell a story. Often, the likability of a given memoir comes down not to the content, but the way in which the story is told.

That said, a lot of people are going to bounce off this book. Told in a stream-of-consciousness narrative that’s somewhere between plain verse and experimental prose, the size and placement of a word on the page as important as it’s dictionary meaning… it’s not the most accessible style. I think it works, though, f
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Yrsa Daley-Ward is a writer and poet of mixed West Indian and West African heritage. Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Yrsa was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the North of England. Her first collection of stories 'On Snakes and Other Stories' was published by 3:AM Press.

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