Review: The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Black Flamingo
Dean Atta
Balzer + Bray
Published May 26, 2020 (orig. 2019)

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Black Flamingo

A fierce coming-of-age verse novel about identity and the power of drag, from acclaimed poet and performer Dean Atta. Perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo, Jason Reynolds, and Kacen Callender.

Michael is a mixed-race gay teen growing up in London. All his life, he’s navigated what it means to be Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican—but never quite feeling Greek or Black enough.

As he gets older, Michael’s coming out is only the start of learning who he is and where he fits in. When he discovers the Drag Society, he finally finds where he belongs—and the Black Flamingo is born.

Told with raw honesty, insight, and lyricism, this debut explores the layers of identity that make us who we are—and allow us to shine.

The Black Flamingo on Goodreads

My Review

Early on in the pandemic, I placed a couple of book orders with independent bookstores, and THE BLACK FLAMINGO is one of the books I ordered. Obviously it took me a while to read it, but I’m so glad I finally did.

One of my favorite things about this book is how personal Michael’s journey is. I think part of what makes that work is that he’s a poet himself, and the novel is written in verse, too. Some of the poems are meant to be his, things he has written and performs. I felt like that made the story a lot more intimate if that makes sense?

I also loved the characters, from Michael’s mom and sister, Anna, to his best friend Daisy, to Jack, the repressed construction worker. Even the characters who only appeared for a few moments seemed rich and knowable.

The story begins when Michael is a child and runs through his early time at college, so I think it’s more of a coming-of-age story than traditional young adult fiction. I liked having that long span of time to see different moments in Michael’s life and how they affected him at the time and upon reflection.

All in all, this is a powerful story about self-discovery and courage and learning how to be true to yourself. I think fans of Elizabeth Acevedo will love THE BLACK FLAMINGO.

The Black Flamingo on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Michael is Greek Cypriot and Jamaican and a citizen of the UK. He’s also gay.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between two boys. References to sex between two boys (not shown).

Spiritual Content
A couple minor characters state their belief that being gay is a sin. (Later one person apologizes for this.)

Violent Content
Older boys bully Michael into fighting another boy. Someone leaves homophobic notes in Michael’s backpack. Girls say homophobic things to him.

Drug Content
Michael smokes pot and uses an inhalant with another boy in one scene. He smokes pot and drinks alcohol in several scenes.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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