Published by Balzer + Bray on August 8, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Format: Hardcover (416 pages)
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A fierce coming-of-age verse novel about identity and the power of drag, from acclaimed poet and performer Dean Atta. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Jason Reynolds, and Kacen Callender.
Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.
As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.
Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.
I was super excited for The Black Flamingo. First, the title. I’ve always felt a kinship with flamingos, probably because my last name sounds similar. Second, I’m always excited for new verse novels. Third, and most importantly, it’s about a biracial boy exploring his race, sexuality, and self expression. All of which, ultimately brings him to drag! Yes, please!
The Black Flamingo follows Michael from being a young boy, playing with Barbie, to a college student performing in his first drag show. Michael has always known he’s different. His family has always known he’s different. His peers have always known he’s different. He never really had any major events that made him feel badly for his differences, but he was always aware of them. Being biracial, he wasn’t Black enough for the Black crowd, nor did he quite fit in with his Greek family. He was also gay, and didn’t know any other Black gay men.
Michael tells his story in verse, which I loved. It makes this an extremely quick and pleasant read. It’s a mix of narration in verse and the poems he writes throughout his adolescence. Poetry was his original way of working through his feelings surrounding identity before he discovers drag at the start of college.
I highly recommend giving The Black Flamingo a try even if it’s not your usual type of read. Michael is fantastic and his story is so relatable. We’ve all questioned where we belong among our family and friends and society in general. I was 100% invested in his story from the early pages of him asking his mother for a Barbie doll, all the way until his epic performance at the end.