Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Black Flamingo by: Dean Atta

 Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Poetry 

Published: August 8, 2019 by: Hodder Children's Books

Pages: 360 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: racism, homophobia 

Michael is a mixed-race teen who has always been told he is not enough. He's not Black enough. He's not Greek enough. Michael also knows that he is gay, and he is struggling with how to accept all of his unique qualities that make him special. But, soon he finds solace in The Black Flamingo. The Black Flamingo gives Michael the opportunity to be unique, to be unapologetically queer. This story is told in verse, and spans  from Michael's young childhood, to his journey into a confident drag artist. 

I am loving novels in verse. They are always so impactful, so easy to get through, and so beautifully written. "The Black Flamingo" was no exception. I have never read a YA book about drag before, so I was excited to see how this book would handle it. I just loved how Atta wrote of the deep symbolism of drag. It is about being bold and beautiful. But, it is also about forming an identity that helps the person out of drag as well. 

I loved Michael as a character. I appreciated that Atta wrote this story from Michael's childhood and then into his teen and young adult life. Through this extensive timespan, I was able to get a clear picture about Michael's identity and some of his confidence issues. I think this timespan really makes Michael's character progression all the more impactful. 

I loved the symbol of the flamingo. And more importantly, the Black Flamingo. Through this symbolism, Atta explains that Michael is a unique individual made up of a lot of moving parts. He is Black, he is Greek, he is queer. He is also bold, like a flamingo. I really loved that this was the name that Michael picked for his drag and I thought it really added to the discussion of race within the text. 

I will say, I do wish we got a bit more drag in this novel. I was expecting that this novel would go deeper into Michael's journey as a drag artist. But because the story also talks about his childhood, drag comes very late into the story. I did love hearing of Michael's childhood as well, but if anything, I think this story could have been made longer. I would have loved more detail on the drag part of Michael's life, and I would have had no problem reading more of Michael's story. I think overall, it did wrap up a little too quickly for me. 

That being said, this was a great addition to my novels in verse collection. I have yet to find a novel in verse that I didn't like, and I think the format is such a powerful way to tell stories of marginalized people. I am excited to see what Atta writes next. 

Have you read "The Black Flamingo?" What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. "Through this symbolism, Atta explains that Michael is a unique individual made up of a lot of moving parts."
    That's very clever!

    1. I definitely have a huge appreciation for authors who use symbolism to their advantage :)

  2. This is another one on my never-ending TBR - there's a tendency for Gay culture to dominated by Cis White dudes, so it's always good to lift up more intersectional voices and perspectives :)

    1. For sure! And reading queer books from just white cis dudes is not the diversity that a lot of people think it is.

  3. I like that this story was told so effectively through verse. Sounds fabulous, and I've read so few novels in that format.

    1. I will always pick up a novel that's told in verse now. I just love them!