Hi everyone! This week I’ve been doing a lot of reading, both for university and for fun. One back that I’ve been seeing a lot of this year is The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. As someone who has spent 2020 trying to expand their reading tastes I had some serious doubts going into The Black Flamingo. It’s a coming of age story- a trope that I love. The main character is a black, gay, young man who discovers a community of drag queens at university- love. It’s set, in part, at university- one of my favourite book settings. It’s written fully in poems- this is where I took issue with it before reading. Despite my choice of degree and the couple of poets that I admire the work of, I really don’t like poetry. I spent too long in English classes being told what to think about poetry to really ever enjoy the genre. This is the reason I waited so long to read Atta’s book.
Despite my initial reservations I am in love with this book. The form of the book provides an eloquent backdrop for Michael’s powerful story. The way that Atta uses page colour, typography and page layout helps convey Michael’s emotions as well as provides a visual dimension to key moments in the text.
Although Michael’s story is at it’s core a coming-of-age tale it’s one I’ve never read before. The influence of drag culture on young people today really comes through in this novel. I have read books like Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda but I felt that The Black Flamingo definitely had a grown-up feel to it. The inclusion of dating apps, university societies and casual sex all felt organic and necessary. Whereas other novels with similar themes sometimes use an ‘outing’ as the main conflict of the book Atta instead focuses on Michael’s own feelings and anxieties. The contemporary feel of this book is sublime and it feels like a book that is already a modern classic.
The cast of characters are captured brilliantly although the usual detail is omitted due to the choice of poetry to tell the story. I could not believe how vivid I found the reading experience of The Black Flamingo as I typically find poems hard to get through and digest. However, the story flows so well despite this.
Overall I gave The Black Flamingo four stars on Goodreads. I really loved the book but did feel that some aspects, were glossed over and felt stagnant due to the form of the book. Have you read The Black Flamingo? What did you think of it? I hope everyone is having a great week! We’re so close to the end of Blogtober now and I can’t wait to see how this little project ends.