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A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
AUTHOR: Dean Atta
REPRESENTATION: mixed-race MC (Jamaican/Greek-Cypriot), most of the characters are LGBTQ+
For me, the sign of a good book is a book that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a book that stays with me long after I’ve finished the last page. The Black Flamingo is one of those books. With themes of discovering your identity, exploring your gender and sexuality, as well as tackling the topics of racism, homophobia, and toxic masculinity, The Black Flamingo is a must-read for everybody.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are half anything…
You are a full human being. It’s never as simple as being half and half.
The Black Flamingo follows the story of Michael, a British half-Jamaican and half-Greek Cypriot, as he navigates through childhood to early adulthood. This book documents his journey of self-discovery and all the trials and tribulations that come along with discovering yourself. A major recurring theme of this book is relationships. Including Michael’s sometimes strained relationship with his mother, who tries but had to learn to be both a mother and a father to him. His relationship with his best friend, Daisy, and how her own internalised homophobia affects their friendship. To the most important relationship: his relationship with himself and coming to terms with all aspects of his identity.
Throughout his life, Michael has struggled with knowing who he is. Not Jamaican enough to fit in with his father’s family, not Greek enough to fit in with his mother’s. Too feminine. Not masculine enough. Too gay. Not gay enough. Not enough this. Too much that. I feel, at one point in our lives, we’ve all felt not good enough. We’ve all felt as though we don’t belong and have struggled to find where we fit. It’s at university where Michael, through the Drag Society, is truly able to blossom and find his place to belong as The Black Flamingo. It is there on stage where he is free to find where he belongs. As someone currently at university and having a slight identity crisis, this aspect to the story struck a chord.
He is me, who I have been,
who I am, who I hope to become.
Someone fabulous, wild and strong.
With or without a costume on.
This is a book that is written in verse but this in no way detracts from the enjoyment nor impact. With themes of exploring your identity, the verses of this novel hit hard. Despite where we all are in our journey of self-discovery, is something we can all relate to in one way or another. If you feel like this isn’t a book for you because of how it’s written, I encourage you to at least give it a try. I will hold my hands up and say I don’t usually enjoy poetry in any format, yet I adored this. The Black Flamingo is a beautifully written, poignant story that deserves to be experienced by all so please do not let the format put you off. After reading and loving The Poet X, another beautiful book told in verse, and now loving The Black Flamingo, I may just have to admit that I love free verse poetry!
I initially rated The Black Flamingo at four-stars. Writing this review made me realise just how much of an impact it had that I had to up the rating to five-stars. If that doesn’t tell you that this is a book you should read then nothing will. I adore this book and I cannot wait to read anything else by Atta. If you read any book this month (or any month) make sure it’s The Black Flamingo.