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The Black Penguin

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  226 ratings  ·  34 reviews
A devout young boy in rural Ohio, Andrew Evans had his life mapped for him: baptism, mission, Brigham Young University, temple marriage, and children of his own. But as an awkward gay kid, bullied and bored, he escaped into the glossy pages of National Geographic and the wide promise of the world atlas. The Black Penguin is Evans's memoir, travel tale, and love story of hi ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by University of Wisconsin Press (first published 2017)
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  226 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Vera Marie
Apr 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-memoir
This fascinating memoir can be read two ways. It gives us a marvelously detailed picture of an overland journey from Washington D.C. to the Antarctic. But it is also a part of a series called "Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies", published by the University of Wisconsin Press.
The title and cover photo emphasize the Antarctic and the black penguin, a rare bird that doesn't fit in with the tuxedo-clad King and tiny Adélie penguins crowding the icy land. That unique all-black bird makes an
Jim Coughenour
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Andrew Evans would be the perfect guy to sit next to on a long bus-trip – bright, well-traveled, friendly and unpretentious – and he's definitely your guy if the bus bangs into a cow in the middle of the night or slides sideways off a muddy road in the misty Andes. But you may want to bring along a thermos of Sleepy Time tea, and a couple Ambien.

For The Black Penguin he's taken his partly-published epic of a journey by bus from Washington DC to Tierra del Fuego, and interspersed it with memoiret
Libbie Buchele
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have often liked an author after finishing their book, but in this case, I liked the author first, and then read his book. I'm happy to say that the book is just as likeable as the author. It is partially a travel book and partially a memoir of growing up Mormon and gay in middle America. I wasn't sure the combination would work, but it does.

It an engaging read, and the sweetness and warmth that make this author so special as a person really shine through in the book. I loved reading it. At t
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fantastic! Andrew Evans is an excellent writer and his book is fascinating. I had to force myself to take my time with it so that I didn’t finish it too quickly. Part memoir, part travel journal, I was amazed by all of it. I think this book could be hugely popular if only it would get more notice. You might have a hard time finding it at your local library since it’s from a university press, but it is well worth the money to buy it. (My library did have a copy but I bought one for mys ...more
Scott Abbott
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A couple of weeks ago John Fowles, a former student of mine when I was teaching in the BYU Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, wrote me from China, where he was on business. “I’ve been reading your ‘non-memoir’ Immortal for Quite Some Time,” he said, “and like it very much.” He had just read another book, The Black Penguin, by Andrew Evans, whom he had known at Oxford, and thought I might find it interesting.

I did.

Andrew Evans grew up in a large Mormon family in Ohio. He was bullied mer
Barbara Nutting
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Since it is Thanksgiving Day I will say I am grateful I had the opportunity to read this book. It was a beautiful adventure by buses from Washington DC to Antarctica. I would have titled it “At the End of the Rainbow”.🌈 It was a story of love and hate and redemption. So well written, “mashed potatoes in the
sky ” describing clouds. I was expecting a tale of penguins and instead traveled on this journey with Andrew via my globe and world map. It also pointed out the narrow-minded attitude of the
Guðlaugur Kristmundsson
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book by Andrew was fascinating. I have been lucky to get to know Andrew through my line of work and was thrilled to read his personal memoir mixed up with a bus ride to the Antartica. The book intertwines three stories at the same time - and sometimes even added my own. At times the read of the journey on a bus to the Antartica from DC was tiresome - probably a portion of what the real bus ride was for Andrew. He was able to bring emotions from the bus ride, the thrill and the love from his ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I finally get why it's called The Black Penguin... and it's so much better to not know going into the book because the discovery as you travel along Andrew's side makes the surprise even better. ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Vaguely annoyed. That’s how I felt after months of following Andrew Evans on Twitter. When was this guy’s paid vacation going to end? Did he really think he could infect me with his exuberance for world travel? Who was funding him? Annoying! The only reason I followed Andrew was Twitter told me to. That and it seemed a little fun, keeping tabs on a literal globe trotter. Plus, his tweets often displayed a celebratory quality about our world.

Okay, so my early annoyance turned out to be jealousy.
Brad Turner
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite travelogues. Evans weaves anecdotes from his bus trip from D.C. to Patagonia plus boat trip to Antarctica with memoir-style reflections growing up gay in the Church Of Latter Day Saints. Both parts are are curious, well written; , amusing, revelatory.

Evans practices really refreshing travel writing. He is imperfect like us. He feels joy, awe, and reverence. He has adventures like being on a bus in Colombia that hits a cow and a bus in Bolivia that gets stuck in mud. H
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Travel writer and National Geographic correspondent Andrew Evans has written a wonderful book about his 45 day trip, by bus (!), from Washington D.C. to Antartica. I heard him on NPR and noted that he was raised Mormon, as I was, so it caught my attention and after listening to his interview, I wanted to read the book. What I discovered is a heartwarming, and sometimes heart wrenching personal story, not only about his trek across two American continents but about his life and personal struggles ...more
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent storytelling

I know Andrew Evans personally, but that fact alone does not carry with it a requirement to positively review this book. This book stands on its own merit easily. The greater portion of the story, of traveling by bus from one end of the world to the other, is fascinating and engrossing before a turn to exhilarating. I learned much about travel and geography, especially through Central and South America and Antarctica. The coming out portions of the book are intimate and p
Michael Nielsen
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a child, Andrew Evans loved geography. As an adult, he traveled the world, eventually going by bus from Washington DC to the southern-most tip of South American, and then to antarctica by ship. Along the way we learn of his encounters with people, his experiences in different places, and the past that shaped him. Once in antarctica he photographs a very rare black penguin. Read this book and travel along with Andrew. You'll be glad you did. ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Was following Andrew & his hike across Jordan & thus found out about his book "The Black Penguin." I looked forward to reading it, and I enjoyed the story of his life and his relationship with his family and how he grew along his path... I am hoping he does a book (or film!?) about his hike across Jordan. ...more
Natalie Cardon

I loved vicariously reliving Andrew’s adventures. Funny, suspenseful, and moving! The writing is beautiful and authentic. I also loved reading about Andrew’s experiences growing up with the trial of being gay and Mormon. Reading, just like traveling changes & broadens your perspective. I’m glad to have had the pleasure of that with this book.
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Adventure Story

I thoroughly enjoyed this magnificent travel adventure. The book was very well written and I appreciated the dude story of a young gay man dealing with his sexuality. I am also a gay man and the struggles the author described were identical to my own. I'm so happy I bought the book. I intend on reading it again.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been saving this book and today was the day. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t put it down. Andrew Evans is so observant, so honest, and so fearless that my admiration for him —- already high —- has just magnified itself a zillion times. This is a poignant memoir of a born traveller and gifted storyteller. Highly recommend it.
Jan 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
Oh boy. I abandoned this at pg 106. I cannot deal with his privileged, judgemental and casually racist ramblings. As a queer woman dedicated to improving the lives of cis and trans POC folks in my community and constantly working to dismantle my own privilege, I find white cis gay men like Mr. Evans the most egregious and won't waste my time finishing this book. ...more
Sam Wolfe
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a fellow explorer, I appreciated this chance to join my friend, Andrew, via his generous storytelling along an ambitious route all the way south. Stories, like Andrew's, of discovery and transcendence of unaccepting religious traditions are of tremendous value. His voice and humor shine through the pages as a favored travel companion. ...more
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best travelogue I’ve ever read. But, more than that, I came close to tears seeing myself in Andrew Evans as a lonely gay kid who found refuge in the pages of the encyclopedia and National Geographic magazine. I loved reading about Andrew’s adventures, his struggles with family and church, and his seemingly endless capacity to meet the world with love.
For my fellow science nonfiction lovers, this book does focus much more on Andrew's journey, both literally and figuratively, than on the natural history aspects of the Antarctic and the sights along the way. In terms of a travel memoir it is interesting, though like Andrew himself you tend to long for him to linger slightly in the places he stops through. Worthwhile. ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay, non-fiction
Does what good travel writing is supposed to do: inspires you to travel and to write. But the book is more than just a travelogue of Evans's bus trip from D.C. to Tierra del Fuego, it's also part memoir and part meditation on why we travel. ...more
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Andrew does a great of job of weaving his past experiences that were crucial to shaping his desire to reach Antarctica -- and makes a compelling case for the inevitable insights and personal changes that happen along the way to chasing a dream.
Oct 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this quirky adventure of a national geographic author's journey through the Americas by bus to reach the South Pole. The flashbacks to coming of age tales of a young, gay Mormon were also relatable. ...more
Wendy Taylor
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Part travelogue, part social commentary. Fascinating read.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read full of interesting travel stories and a beautiful memoir of his life growing up gay and Mormon. The two stories are interwoven beautifully.
Toby Murphy
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved this book! Great memoir and great travel writing. At times, the two two could’ve worked together a bit better but a great read.
Grace Hoffmann
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read it almost all on a XC flight -- fun read. Just the right amount of gay angst combined with National Geographic obsession.
Nov 08, 2020 rated it liked it
He just left Marvin passed out in that truck?
Sep 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
While parts of this narrative were incredibly engaging and well-written, how can I in good conscience say he’s a good writer or that this is a good book when he says things like he wanted to go native or that all Argentinians are thieves or the countless paragraphs documenting two dimensional benevolent or malevolent brown people?
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