Stevie Carroll's Reviews > Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen

Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi
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really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed-elsewhere

Previously reviewed on The Good, The Bad, and The Unread:

While I’ve lucked out recently in finding a thriving community vibe for non-binary folk in West Yorkshire, that demographic feels, locally at least, very (though not exclusively) white. I was very glad, therefore, to see this book pop up on my Netgalley feed and give me the opportunity to learn a little about how gender-divergent identities are experienced by those growing up in other cultures. Amrou Al-Kadhi and their twin brother were born in London to Iraqi parents, living in Dubai, then Bahrain and then London again through their childhoods, plenty of scope for culture clashes, particularly given Amrou’s burgeoning sexuality and gender identity.

Having earned their parents’ displeasure by announcing their attraction to boys at the age of ten, Amrou spends the next decade or so struggling to find a place to fit in. Theatre seems to offer a sanctuary; however, the roles on offer are limited by white people’s perceptions of Amrou’s race and heritage. Eventually, while a student at Cambridge, Amrou discovers drag and decides to put on a show with a bunch of like-minded misfits, in spite of having next to no experience or knowledge.

The troupe becomes successful, and Amrou sets off on a whirlwind of adventures, still estranged from their parents and often finding themselves at odds with their heritage and religion. Eventually, both issues are reconciled and Glamrou the performance artist becomes all the stronger for that, as does Amrou themself.

I found a lot to identify with in this book, as well as seeing a lot of familiar situations that I know occur with monotonous regularity for people of colour, especially those in the LGBT+ community. There were times when I was cross with, or fearful for, Amrou as their behaviour got out of control and their coping mechanisms broke down. Overall, though, this was a positive and affirmatory book that made me want to learn more about what the author is doing now. It’s also a book that’s very hard to summarise any better than the blurb manages, so it’s probably best to just take my advice to read it and see what you think.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 7, 2019 – Shelved
October 7, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed-elsewhere
October 7, 2019 – Finished Reading

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