The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta Review

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta Review

If I could sum up this book into one word it would be powerful. This was a very quick, but enthralling and moving read. I truly recommend it to anyone!!

My rating for this book is 5/5 stars. It was really incredible and took my breath away, and let’s get into why I feel that way!

Plot 

This book follows the childhood and early adult years of Michael, a mixed race, queer boy from the UK. It talks about the intersections of Michael’s identities, focusing greatly on sexuality and race. I also really liked how it looked at social status, as Michael comes from a low income family and is raised by a single mother. 

Often I find it difficult to be immersed in a plot when a book is really short, but the descriptions and way the story was presented was super evocative. I adored the way drag came into this story, and how much it played into Michael’s identity. It really attested to the power of drag and the way it is such an important part of queer culture. It felt like a very raw and true portrayal of the importance of drag on identity, and how much it can positively affect a queer person’s life, and truly change it for the better. It’s something I personally really appreciated as someone who dabbles in drag and loves the culture of it. I loved the build up to Michael’s development of The Black Flamingo, and then what he learned from it. Really, the plot of this book was so solid and so beautifully portrayed, and I’m even more excited to move on and talk about the writing because the writing was what truly sold me on this beautiful novel. 

Style & Storytelling Execution

This book is written in verse, which always makes me nervous as it can really go either way with the quality of writing. Dean Atta has a way with words, though, and this book was just beautiful the whole way through. I love how poetry was sprinkled in as parts of Michael’s characterization, and it was all so very impactful. The story was so rhythmic and beautifully paced that it kind of felt like I was engaged in a piece of musical theatre. I realize that’s very odd to say, but despite the lack of stage and music, the writing read like a dance, fluid and with a distinct beat. I just adored it, and can’t wait to read more from Dean Atta!

I also want to share my favourite lines from this book. They gave me chills as soon as I heard them, and I had to stop and close my eyes to process how much they hit me deep in my core. 

“Remember you have the right to be proud. Remember you have the right to be you.” – Dean Atta

Characters

This book is very character-driven, as it focuses on the life story of Michael growing up. With shorter books, I often find myself not connecting well with the characters, but the way that this book was written and how Michael was characterized really flipped that commonality on its head. There was so much life breathed into Michael, down to minute details of his life that made him feel really real, like how crucial each piece of your life is to add up to who you are as a whole. 

I also loved the way outside characters were portrayed, too. It felt close to real life, in the way that many of us regard the people we care about most and who have the most impact on us, in comparison to those who only play a small role in our lives. I also liked how the book dealt with relationships that fade, but ultimately still shape who you are. It was so good!

Overall Experience

This book was so incredible to read. After finishing it I immediately wanted to read it again, and I ran to text a friend to get them to read it, too. I was so moved and in awe of how artful and stunning this book is. Seriously, pick it up! You definitely won’t regret it, it’s truly incredible.   

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