Monday, February 1, 2021

Black Flamingo - Dean Atta

 

Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: As February is Black History Month, Reading for Sanity is featuring Black authors and Black stories.

Just like the black flamingo itself, there are many things that are fabulous and interesting about this book. First off, the book is not a normal size. It’s a little bit smaller and almost square shaped. It instantly looks and feels different than a normal book. I can’t help but think this was on purpose, and a way that the author and publisher decided to delineate this book as something different than the norm, but fabulous in its own way. Also, the cover art is really beautiful and vibrant. I love good cover art that is catching and different. Additionally, this is a book that you don’t want to listen to—you want to read it. It is full of illustrations and pages that are different colors, font that varies, and many other delineations between sections/narrators/settings that make reading it an immersive experience. I love books that are able to engage other parts of my brain that aren’t necessarily engaged when just reading a normal book (although I love that, too).

This book is not just unique in its presentation, but also in the content and the audience in which that content was intended for. There are other books about LGBTQ+ teens, and even Black LGBTQ+ teens, but this book not only featured a timely story about a mixed race teen who is LGBTQ+, but one who is discovering himself (the pronoun he uses) and goes on a journey to see where he fits in. As with any journey to find yourself and find your tribe, there are many places that almost fit, or don’t quite fit, and it takes awhile to find what really works for you. In the end, he finds himself connecting to drag queens and the drag queen community.

I have to admit that I haven’t read anything about the drag queen community, but I am not unaware. And people—it was fabulous to read about it. I loved the sparkles, the makeup, the glam, and I loved that each individual was able to create a persona for themselves that felt more real and more themselves than their normal outward appearance. There were strong characters in this book, and some great heroes who came along the way to help the boy feel loved, understood, and able to express himself.

Although many teens and new adult readers won’t necessarily connect to the exact story of being a mixed race teen who ends up finding a drag community to relate to, they will be able to connect to the story of one who is trying to find how they fit in. I loved the message of this book, and the fact that the author wasn’t afraid to deal with tough and nuanced issues in a way that felt accessible to any person. It’s a coming of age story that takes a twist, and leaves the reader better for having taken the journey.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is language, some discussion of sex, and LGBTQ+ issues. Because the main character is a first year college student and therefore encounters older teen situations, I would recommend this for older teens.

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