Prompt: A book from your TBR list that you meant to read last year but didn’t
Like many other bookworms, 2020 sent me on a flurry of book purchasing to support black writers and make a conscious choice to increase my reading diversity. As a high school English teacher in real life, I focused on YA fiction to expand my classroom library and be in a better position to make recommendations to students. One of the books I bought was The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta.
What it’s about?
A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
What I think:
What a book!
I love verse novels and this is a fantastic example of where poetry is so effective in telling Michael’s story.
Michael’s poetry explores his identity as a mixed race boy who has no real relationship with his father. He finds himself caught between his black family and his Greek family – feeling neither black enough or Greek enough.
Throughout the book Michael struggles to find his tribe and explores his feelings as a young guy man throughout his poetry. Scribbling verse in the back of his maths book at school, one day a teacher kindly and discreetly gives him a notebook in which to pursue his craft.
Michael experiences both prejudice and support as he tries to find himself.
As he gets to university- deliberately choosing Brighton as a place where he can study and explore his sexuality he finds that he still struggles until he is drawn to the flyer for the Drag Society.
Michael’s alter ego, The Black Flamingo, gives him a focus and an opportunity to truly be himself as both a person and an artist.
The verse form works wonderfully and gives Michael’s experiences authenticity and immediacy. The language is simple but beautiful. His performance as The Black Flamingo made my heart sing.
Such a wonderful book. You need to read it.