I will admit that I am very late to the game when it comes to this book. Every review for it that I have read gushed at how fantastic it was and this one will be no different. I know my review will be the echo that bounces off the cave walls after the initial undenyable praise, but I so amazed by the sheer beauty of this that I felt I simply had to write a review.
Initially, I didn’t pick up this book for one reason and one reason alone: I do not get on with poetry. I know – I feel like that is almost blasphemous to say, especially considering I am both a Literature graduate and an English teacher, but there is always something I just cannot get … past when it comes to poetry. I think its because I adore the ‘natural-ness’ that comes with novel writing that leaves me completely immersed. Poetry always feels a bit like modern art – at no point are you meant to believe that what you are looking at is a literal representation of life but a mere reflection of it. And, much like modern art, no matter what way I turn my head or how hard I squint, half the time I cannot work out what is happening in the poem.
As we entered Pride month, and I was left to face the glaring gaps in my shelves that should be filled with more diversified voices and characters, I decided to buy the book everyone was raving about and discover it for myself. And let me just tell you – I am agape with the sheer wonder of this read.
Written as prose – a combination of poetry and stylised narratives – The Black Flamingo follows Michael through his life, exploring the impact of every form of identity, both in its liberating qualities and its restrictive forms. It chronicles how relationships change, what is permitted in childhood but forbidden in adolesence, the confusing nature of aging, as well as finding a version of yourself which is just for yourself. Whilst this book focuses on queer and black identity, the discussions within it are instantly recognisable and relatable.
This is not about being ready, it’s not even about being fierce, or fearless, It’s about being Free.
Michael waits in the stage wings, wearing a pink wig, pink fluffy coat and black heels. One more step will see him illuminated by spotlight. He has been on a journey of bravery to get here, and he is almost ready to show himself to the world in bold colours …
Can he emerge as The Black Flamingo?
For me, this is one of the most brutal and honest reads I have come across. On each page you can feel the heart poured onto it, can feel the emotion bleeding from each page, and share in the vulnerability that peppers each sentence. I could not help but emphasise and absorb Michael at each stage of his life, recognising with shame behaviour from others than I have witnessed around me. I felt like I knew the issues surrounding identity before, but it was like I saw them with the torch from my phone and this book became the searchlight illuminating all. This has to be the most powerful and beautiful books I have read this month, if not the year.