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. (May)
Gr 9 Up—Atta's character-driven debut novel in verse offers readers an angst-filled look into the life of 19-year-old Mike Angeli. Mike's story is set in modern London. He shares his views and experiences with identity beginning from the tender age of six; Mike is constantly reminded how he doesn't fit in due to his mixed (Greek-Cypriot and Jamaican) background; this is exacerbated when he comes out as gay. It is not until Mike joins the Drag Society at university that he begins to accept who he is, no matter what boxes the world wants to put him in. Mike is an authentic character; his triumphs and trials feel like the reader's own. His flaws and lessons learned make him human and easy to feel close to. The secondary characters, Daisy, Lennie, and others, have background stories and connections that add even more depth to the plot and to Mike's development. Readers may be left wanting to know more about Mike's time with the Drag Society, but that doesn't detract from the deserving applause of Mike's growth, and his path to self-acceptance. VERDICT A triumphant and emotional story about standing up for and embracing oneself that readers of any orientation and ethnicity will relate to.— Kharissa Kenner, Bank Street School for Children, New York
Courage and fierceness abound in this lyrical coming-of-age story about a young boy finding his way.
In his latest work, Atta flawlessly captures the pain, rage, and resilience of a boy growing to manhood while feeling like an outsider in his own life. Michael, a British boy of Greek Cypriot and Jamaican descent, feels caught between worlds: black and white, masculine and feminine, straight and gay. His story, told in verse form, allows readers to watch him grow and to experience each of the triumphs and tragedies that help him define himself on his own terms. Every moment, from asking for a Barbie for his birthday and receiving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to legally discarding the surname of the father who walked out on him, brings Michael vibrantly to life on the page, giving readers a protagonist to cry with and cheer for. Featuring a diverse cast of supporting characters, from Daisy, Michael’s mixed-race (black/white) best friend, to the red-haired drama kid whom he shyly asks out, the author uses Michael’s first-person narration as a mirror to reflect the world and its brightness, humor, and horrors. Central to the narrative is Michael’s loving yet complicated relationship with his hardworking single mother, who sees his talent, values his spirit, and sacrifices for him. Michael’s journey of self-discovery demonstrates the importance of not allowing labels to define you.
Gripping, unflinching, and unforgettable.
(Verse novel. 12-18)
"Captures its audience from the very first page, with verse poetry that grows and matures alongside its protagonist…. Michael’s internal dissonances are relatable on the most human level, leaving readers in a state of ultimate euphoria when he finally finds family in the Drag Society.”
The Black Flamingo is an essential addition to the canon of queer coming-of-age stories. Dean Atta has gifted us with words that are lyrical, hilarious and intimate. I’m obsessed with this book and you will be too."
"Unexpected and beautiful."
Winner of the 2020 Stonewall Book Award, this British verse novel by a poet and drag performer offers a welcome exploration of the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality…. [A] memorable YA debut.”
One of poetry’s greatest modern voices
An excellent book to spark discussions, break down barriers, open peoples eyes to other lives” 4*
A novel in verse, Michael’s tale explores how our identities and our discomfort mold us. Winner of the prestigious Stonewall Book Award, Atta’s thick debut novel is a fast read about a young man learning to feel comfortable in his own skin.
"The Black Flamingo presents expertly crafted, stirring poetry to portray an unforgettable teen who lives his liberation and truth in drag."
Shelf Awareness (starred review)
Bold and joyous hymn to self-discover and acceptance
Celebratory and passionate, Atta’s bold verse novel calls to its readers to find their own blazing, performative inner truth”