Review: Dean Atta – The Black Flamingo

Last month, I included The Black Flamingo in my blogpost about my 5 most anticipated LGBTQ+ releases for the rest of the year. And I was lucky enough to trade an ARC copy through Twitter so I could already read and review this wonderful book!

Fiercely told, this is a timely coming-of-age story, told in verse about the journey to self-acceptance. Perfect for fans of Sarah Crossan, Poet X and Orangeboy.

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.

*I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.*

The Black Flamingo

CWs: physical abuse, absent father, (internalized) racism, (internalized) homophobia, drug use, alcohol consumption, bullying, toxic masculinity

This is such a beautifully written coming-of-age story. I absolutely love verse novels, and this is possibly the best one I’ve read. Some of these poems were so good they gave me goosebumps. I cried, I laughed, and overall, it’s a really empowering book.

The story is about Michael, a mixed-race gay boy being raised by his white mother, and it’s a wonderful exploration of gender norms and toxic masculinity, of queerness, of blackness, and of being biracial. It’s also about feeling like you’re not enough – not black enough, not queer enough – and how these identities intersect and impact each other.

In this book, Michael goes through a lot of character development. You follow him growing up, making friends and losing them, making mistakes and learning from them, and becoming more comfortable with who he is and who he wants to be. There are several parts of the story in which Michael is educating himself, or educating others, or being educated by others. This is all portrayed in a respectful manner, and Michael himself is always ready to call other people out on their shit, but he’s also always ready to learn. The story is written in a vivid, honest voice that can’t help being relatable for no matter who reads it, because it’s such a genuine experience. And at the same time, it will be educational for many readers who are not black and/or queer.

Stylistically, this novel is truly amazing as well. Something that irks me in poetry sometimes are illogical line breaks or breaks that don’t flow smoothly when you read the poems aloud. In this novel, the line breaks worked really well, and I actually ended up reading a big part of the novel out loud to myself. And at times, even the form of the poems added to the story. For instance, there’s a poem at the start of the novel about flamingo eggs being egg-shaped, and then there’s a second poem, about Michael feeling like a bad egg, that’s shaped like a half egg.

I absolutely adored this beautiful verse novel, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a finished copy and reread it and put sticky tabs all over it. According to my ARC copy, there will me more art work throughout the finished copy as well, and I can’t wait to see it! The ARC edition already has some lovely illustrations by Anshika Khullar, a genderfluid Indian illustrator.



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