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Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi - Review

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


I saw this book on Netgalley and was intrigued, so I requested it. Thank you so much to 4th Estate for granting me the access to read this. I was provided with an electronic copy of this book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Let me give you the blurb of this book from Netgalley:

From a god-fearing Muslim boy enraptured with their mother, to a vocal, queer drag queen estranged from their family, this is a heart-breaking and hilarious memoir about the author’s fight to be true to themself.
My name is Amrou Al-Kadhi – by day. By night, I am Glamrou, an empowered, fearless and acerbic drag queen who wears seven-inch heels and says the things that nobody else dares to.
Growing up in a strict Iraqi Muslim household, it didn’t take long for me to realise I was different. When I was ten years old, I announced to my family that I was in love with Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. The resultant fallout might best be described as something like the Iraqi version of Jerry Springer: The Opera. And that was just the beginning.
This is the story of how I got from there to here: about my teenage obsession with marine biology, and how fluid aquatic life helped me understand my non-binary gender identity; about my two-year scholarship at Eton college, during which I wondered if I could forge a new identity as a British aristocrat (spoiler alert: it didn’t work); about discovering the transformative powers of drag while at university (and how I very nearly lost my mind after I left); and about how, after years of rage towards it, I finally began to understand Islam in a new, queer way.
Most of all, this is a book about my mother. It’s the journey of how we lost and found each other, about forgiveness, understanding, hope – and the life-long search for belonging.

I haven't heard of Amrou or their drag alter ego, Glamrou, but I was intrigued to read the memoir of a queer person of colour, especially one who grew up in the middle east. I read this book really quickly, it's very compelling and isn't very long. Amrou grew up in the middle east and realised early on that they were not straight. This was squashed by the family, leading to Amrou becoming obsessed with getting perfect grades at school. These OCD tendencies were described in a beautiful and painful way, which I liked reading. I loved the parts about Amrou's fish tanks.

At sixteen they went to Eton, and tried desperately to fit in there, mostly by squashing their Muslim and Iraqi heritage and trying to be like the white boys. There, Amrou had their first sexual experiences, some of which sound really sad and awful. Amrou then went to Cambridge, and there found drag, and a queer family, and began to settle into themselves.

The parts where Amrou was estranged from their parents really got to me, they're told amazingly but I could feel the hurt behind every word. This is a really honest memoir and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am giving it four out of five.

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