Last semester I did the Black British Contemporary Literature module with Veronica Barnsley and it was so great. I have almost exclusively been reading Black British Lit since and it’s been exciting to expand and diversify my reading list; a recent addition to which was ‘The Black Flamingo’ by Dean Atta.
I had just read Bernadine Evaristo’s novel ‘Lara’ which is written in the verse form for the module, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a young adult novel using the same style. Atta’s novel is written in a more relaxed, approachable style to Evaristo’s due to the younger target audience. However, this made it the perfect thing to read with my breakfast to ease into the day.
Another way in which this book connected to the module was in it’s mixed race protagonist, Micheal. A lot of the texts we studied had mixed race protagonists and it seems a common theme in much contemporary literature. The novel explored the Micheal’s struggle with not only his mixed race identity but his queer identity. To avoid spoiling it, I won’t say much more but eventually Micheal finds a place in the drag community and as an avid fan of drag race, I loved reading about that. Also, I found it really refreshing to read about a British queer person of colour in YA fiction which is saturated with white, straight characters.
Finally, in my experience young adult books have mostly been American (John Green was all the rage when I was 15) so I felt a bit alienated from the narrative and characters. Therefore it was so nice to read a novel from the perspective of someone who grew up in the same time and country as me. I also really enjoyed that we got to follow Micheal from childhood to uni as I haven’t read a lot of YA which follows the characters past high school. That being said, I recognise that my connections to the novel are not half as important as the book’s positive representations of marginalised communities like the queer black community.
Finally, the novel is not only beautifully written but the cover is gorgeous and it has illustrations and unique formatting throughout. For me, these enhanced the narrative and made reading an aesthetically pleasing experience as the words connected with the colour of the page, the text or the illustrations.
If you’re looking for some well written, quick, relaxed, refreshing fiction, definitely give ‘The Black Flamingo’ a try.
-Yzzy (English Literature and Hispanic Studies)