Daddy by Madison Young: a sort-of book review

I want to write a review of Madison Young’s memoir, Daddy, which was recently published by Rare Bird. I think this book is important, and I want to put words down about why in the hopes that some people who read those words will get a copy of the book and have the same breathless experience I had in reading it. I want people to devour it at every possible moment, like I did. Bury their noses in it, breathe it in, and let it breathe back.

But I feel like I can’t write a review of it. The truth is, I’m way too far beyond biased to have anything like an objective point of view about this book for a few reasons. I know Madison, for one thing. We’re not besties or anything, but she’s slept on my couch and been involved in my art show, and I’ve written for one of her websites, and so on. So of course I went into the process of reading her memoir with all the hope in the world that I would enjoy it. The book was set up to succeed with me.

But it really, really succeeded, and the reasons why are difficult to put into words. There’s a certain something about Madison Young–a freshness, a youth and yet a profound wisdom, a bright and clean energy, and a genuineness that it’s hard to get across unless you’re familiar with her work (any of it, from her adult film performances to her directing to her workshops and lectures to her storytelling to her physicality to her performance art to just her smile). I think it’s something to do with the fact that in most situations, she is really experiencing life. There’s no pretension in her, no “cool” attitude; she is present in herself at all times, and she has done more with that presence than most people could ever aspire to. She’s not yet 35 and she’s already proven herself in easily a half dozen career tracks. She’s an activist wrapped in an artist wrapped in a performer wrapped in a beautiful soul.

And I don’t say these things just because I sit around thinking about Madison Young all the time (no really! I don’t do that! …often). I say this because I just read her book, and all of these praises I’m singing of her come across in it. The memoir of her life and relationship with her partner, her Daddy, James, feels like a long, face-to-face, intimate telling across the length of a pillow. It feels like she’s with you in the room, sighing and laughing and crying and screaming while you take it all in. Her writing is immediate and her presence in it is palpable. I was unsurprised to discover that she’s a beautiful writer with a natural skill for bringing scenes to life, but it’s one thing to be a pretty writer and another to be able to put oneself into one’s own writing, fully and transparently.

Like any memoir about someone whose life is worth recounting, Madison’s story is full of excitement, but also drama and tears. And this one, in particular, is full of decisions and actions that most of its readers would never be able to imagine themselves undertaking–bondage, porn, anal tears, naked performance art, pregnancy sex, a BDSM lifestyle, and much more. But while some of these things, not least of all her Daddy/Little Girl relationship, might not be fully understandable to many of us, Madison makes them relatable with her unflinching honesty and her sense of shared humanity. She knows that her readers will try to go where she goes, because she is smiling and offering her hand and whispering her mantra, “Reveal everything, fear nothing.” She is reminding them, always, that we are all humans here and that she wants you to be there with her while she tells you about the life she’s led. There’s nothing mysterious here, nothing “weird.” There is just a life that she’s led, and it’s beautiful and scary at the same time. Come along, she won’t bite.

I happen to travel in different circles than many of her readers will. Few of the things I read about in her book shocked me, and I might be in a minority there. But in the end, it’s not the shock that makes Daddy worth reading, it’s the willingness to explore together and the honesty that Madison brings to it that will keep you riveted. Even in her darkest of moments, Madison finds ways to experience transcendence, and to extend that joy to her reader. For those who don’t think they could fathom most kinds of kink, Daddy will be a guided tour that will leave even the most vanilla with an understanding that we are all human, and even the choices furthest from one’s own sense of propriety come from somewhere real. For Madison Young, those choices have brought her down a difficult but ultimately fulfilling path littered with a beauty most of us rarely imagine, and Daddy is a glimpse into that experience. I entreat you to take a peek. I think it will be really, really good for you.

(PS: Madison will be on tour in Toronto and New York next month giving several workshops and lectures and performing. I highly, highly recommend you go out to see where and when you can!)

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