Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

Illustrations: Anshika Khullar

Stars: *****

This is another book I picked up solely based on the cover; it looked beautiful and really pulled me into the story before even reading the blurb, or opening to the first page. I was delighted when I did open the book (which was while I was sat outside the changing room of the next shop!) to discover it was a narrative poetry book.

Black Flamingo follows the story of Michael as he navigates his life, all the way from school through to University. It takes him time to find people who he feels comfortable with: where he can be himself. We follow Michael through his friendships, where he discovers that not everyone will act in the way you want or expect. Through both the highs and lows of relationships. Discovering the value of family.

But alongside this we see him discover his own identity as a mixed-race gay teen, and finally as the Black Flamingo in a drag society at University.

This whole book has a strong theme of belonging running through it. Sometimes, we can start life or new situations feeling as though we don’t, or never will, belong. Just like Michael, we will all have been through a coming-of-age discovery about ourselves, finding our place in life. I loved the way this book was frank and honest, giving us a real insight into what life could – and very often is – for some children, teens and even adults.

The inclusion of messages, chapters and first person poetry created a real connection with Michael through the story. I loved the way each of these features was used to create his personality and put a spotlight on different friend/relationships at different times within the book. It was an emotive read – you wanted him to find his place almost as much as he wanted it for himself.

It’s an open message to us all to be kind to everyone we meet. Don’t judge someone before we get to know them. Stereotypes need to be broken down.

This is a book I recommend for everyone to read.

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