Feb 2021 LGBTQ+ Book Club – The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

We’re back again with a round up of our latest LGBTQ+ Book Club! For our February book, we decided to read the YA verse novel, The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. This was a really popularly liked book by everyone who attended. Read on to find out our thoughts as well as what we are reading for our March book club – anyone is welcome to join!

The Black Flamingo is told from the point of view of Michael, following him from young childhood to young adulthood. He is figuring out his identity, who he is, and what matters most to him. We follow his heartfelt and difficult journey to becoming The Black Flamingo and creating his space in this world.

The whole group were full of love and praise for this wonderful book! Everyone really enjoyed that it was written in verse. Half of the group had rarely read poetry or verse novels before, some people were not a fan of poems. However, this was still popular amongst those not into poetry and those who do enjoy it. Everyone found that it was paced really well and enjoyed that it followed Michael from childhood – going into it, myself and others thought it was just going to be him in his late teens but it was so lovely to be able to see him grow as well as his relationships with others in his life. The exploration of identity was really well portrayed – Michael has a Jamaican dad, a Greek Cypriot mum, and has grown up in Britain. This and queer identities are discussed, both his and others around him.

We loved how well developed the characters were, which is a great skill in a book which spans a large amount of time and has a much smaller word count than a traditional novel of it’s size because of being written in verse. We all also loved the illustrations – rather simplistic at points but whether more simple or more complex, they all enhanced the story and made it even more enjoyable to read. The cover is also beautiful and is probably one of my favourite book covers ever. The book also ends with Dean Atta’s poem, How to Come Out As Gay, which is also featured in the Proud anthology. It’s such a brilliant poem and I’m so glad it featured here too!

Average Rating
As mentioned above, this book was really popular and was rated all 4 and 5 stars! It was loved for the reasons mentioned above and we also discussed how great of a book this is for teenagers. It’s the kind of book which would be a fantastic one to have in a school library. It really speaks to a teenage experience and it discusses sexuality, racial identity and gender identity in really fantastic ways.

LGBTQ+/Queer themes and representation in The Black Flamingo
The queer themes in this book were one of the main themes and were brilliantly represented. Though Michael goes through a lot of difficulties, the book is overwhelmingly positive. At the end, we know everything isn’t perfect but we also know that Michael is so much more confident and comfortable about who he is. He refuses to conform to what other people expect him to be. He is beautifully and courageously himself and this is shown at so many points. There is a great discussion about internalised homophobia after his friend Daisy says a very offensive remark about lesbians. We see Michael deal with crushes he has on different boys, both at school and university. We are shown so many insightful snippets of authentic and real situations for queer people, including being closeted to all those you know.

We see him trying to fit in and feel comfortable which is highly relatable for most people but particularly queer people. A very poignant section is when he tries out different societies at university as he wants to surround himself with others who may have similar experiences to him. He joins the LGBTQ+ society but doesn’t feel queer enough, he joins the African Caribbean society but doesn’t feel Black enough, and he joins the Hellenic society but doesn’t feel Greek enough. Michael joins the Drag society and loves it there – he feels free to express himself and feels enough. It’s through Drag society (and a little from LGBTQ+ society) that he learns more about gender identity and sexuality and how varied they can be. He meets people who support him and who all support each other. It’s such a wonderful moment for him and we see him blossom and gain confidence with help from his friends in the society and through becoming The Black Flamingo.

Here’s a few quotes about the queer representation and themes in The Black Flamingo from people who attended Book Club!

I thought the LGBTQ+ themes were explored really well in this book. I like that the narrative of the story followed the main character through his life and we got to explore his identity alongside him.

Charlotte – Twitter | Instagram

I really enjoyed how we saw Michael’s exploration of both his race and his sexuality, and how they changed as he got older. I also enjoyed that tis book touched on gender, too. I think the exploration of trying to find your place in the world and the focus on identity was really well done.

Jaz – Twitter | Instagram

Very genuine and could tell it was written from personal experience.

Tom – Twitter | Instagram

I think they are all portrayed excellently through the medium of verse. This book covers a lot of themes but does them well and in a way anyone can understand.

Lois – Twitter | Instagram

They also had a couple of further comments on the book.

This book has some excellent illustrations that I feel enhance the reading experience.

Lois – Twitter | Instagram

I enjoyed it a lot!

Tom – Twitter | Instagram

I also really enjoyed the exploration of friendships and families. I think especially friendships in this book were really lovely to see – particularly how friendships develop and then change as you get older.

Jaz – Twitter | Instagram

I found it really easy to read. It was a good balance between a standard fiction book and a verse novel and the way it was written made it really easy to understand.

Charlotte – Twitter | Instagram

Our next LGBTQ+ Book Club meet up will be on Thursday 25th March at 7pm GMT. We will be discussing Out of the Woods by Luke TurnerLet us know if you’d like to join us and we will send you the link closer to the time! As always, a huge thank you to everyone who supports us. We are super grateful for everyone who has ever attended.

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