This story is about a young boy named Michael and his life as being a black, queer man. It is beautifully told in verse by Dean Atta and the story will move you and maybe even make you shed a tear. It’s starts off with Michael as a young child wanting a barbie for his birthday and instead getting a ninja turtle. He’s disappointed and confused as to why his girl friends can have barbies but he can’t. But he has a supportive mother who does buy him a barbie and does support Michael being Michael and we get to see the beauty of their relationship grow as Michael grows.
Michael feels from a young age that he is attracted to other boys, he may not have the words for it until he is older, but by the time he is in middle school, he claims a part of his identity. His relationship with this identity grows and changes as he does showing that things are more complicated than we want them to be. Michael’s time through school is not all simple, he suffers from bullying and fake friends, but also gets to experience love and crushes and friendship. He finds a love for poetry and it helps him to navigate the complex feelings he has.
The last and majority part of the book focuses on Michael’s time at university. A time where he struggles to find a group where he fits in. Not the Jamaican club, or the Queer Alliance, he feels lost in not feeling represented or whole. Until he finds the Drag group. There, he learns about Drag and the expression of it, the artistry, the power, the confidence. He learns to use his love of poetry as outward expression, he learns how to do his own makeup and create a persona for himself. He learns how to feel comfortable in his skin, to claim his identity for his own.
The Black Flamingo is powerful and meaningful and an absolutely wonderful book that I really think everyone should read. It’s a short read since it’s in verse and the audio book is about three hours long so real quick to get through PLUS it’s read by the author.