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The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Michael is a mixed-race gay teenager in London, struggling to find his place in the world. Readers follow his journey from childhood through his first year of university, where he is introduced to the Drag Society. Thanks to the support of fellow members, Michael is able to explore his true self by performing as The Black Flamingo.
This is a beautifully written novel in verse, and reluctant readers will appreciate the spare but engaging prose, as well as the generous amount of white space on each page. Atta immerses readers in Michael’s life from the very beginning, offering a portrait of a sympathetic and relatable young man. As Michael explores his intersecting identities, he experiences racism (he is Greek-Cypriot/Jamaican), homophobia, and toxic masculinity. At the same time, he’s trying to cope with an absentee father, an overly supportive/invasive mother, and ambivalent friends and lovers. His debut as The Black Flamingo offers reassurance that everyone can find their place in the world, in spite of confusion and negativity.
Hand this to readers who have been inspired by OwnVoices coming-of-age stories like Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju, or The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert. Readers who enjoy novels in verse by Kwame Alexander, Ellen Hopkins, or Elizabeth Acevedo will appreciate the format and pacing of Atta’s text.
–Kathleen J. Barker