cover image The Black Flamingo

The Black Flamingo

Dean Atta. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-299029-7

In this uplifting coming-of-age novel told in accessible verse, Atta (I Am Nobody’s Nigger, for adults) chronicles the growth and glory of Michael Angeli, a mixed-race kid from London, as he matures from a child to a man. Navigating cultural identity as Cypriot and Jamaican as well as his emerging sexuality, Michael sheds the painful baggage of his absent father by taking his mother’s name. He also grows from a kid who cries when he receives a Ninja Turtle instead of the Barbie of his dreams, to a teen who cries after being rejected by his crush, to a man who doesn’t cry but rather shouts when a partner breaks his heart. As a teen, he discovers his love of poetry and abandons his love for song, only to fall head over heels for drag at university. Atta expounds on matters of identity and the struggle to find love and community as a gay black man in a majority-white space—Michael feels neither Greek nor black enough, nor, in his estimation, queer enough to fit in. The book’s strongest asset is Atta’s poetic imagery, which reflects such memorable moments as the origin of Michael’s drag persona (from a news story: “a black flamingo/ has landed on the island”) and “How to Do Drag” (“Remember eyebrows are sisters,/ not twins”). Atta’s story uplifts as it informs and entertains as it affirms; in Michael’s words, “It’s about being free.” Ages 14–up. [em](May) [/em]