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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Amrou Al-Khadhi writes a remarkably poignant, profoundly moving and unflinching memoir of his challenging life coming from an Iraqi Muslim conservative family to become Glamrou, an exuberant, confident, acerbic, gay drag queen, saying all the things that Amrou himself cannot. It begins with a performance in Edinburgh that is to prove pivotal in re-evaluating himself in terms of his religious faith, family and sense of identity, when a group of hajib wearing Muslim women in the front row result i Amrou Al-Khadhi writes a remarkably poignant, profoundly moving and unflinching memoir of his challenging life coming from an Iraqi Muslim conservative family to become Glamrou, an exuberant, confident, acerbic, gay drag queen, saying all the things that Amrou himself cannot. It begins with a performance in Edinburgh that is to prove pivotal in re-evaluating himself in terms of his religious faith, family and sense of identity, when a group of hajib wearing Muslim women in the front row result in him falling apart backstage. Amrou and Rafy are twin brothers, with Amrou growing up close to his beloved fashion conscious mother and all things feminine, and Rafy closer to his father, and all things masculine, such as football. In this memoir, he reflects, warts and all, on growing up constantly seeking the attention and love of his mother, the hostility to who he is and the policing of his sexuality by his family, attending Eton, and going to Cambridge, where he helped establish the drag troupe, Denim and the character of Glamrou, and his mental health issues. Amrou outlines his traumatic and damaging years at Eton with its racism, bullying, Islamaphobia, and some of its controlling and manipulative students that reinforced his personal sense of failure, worthlessness and fuel his growing self hatred, where his dreams to identify as a English gentleman are destined to burn to ashes right from the start. He portrays his experiences with drugs and chemsex, giving the reader a well thought out, painful but insightful look at what being a man entails, masculinity, and the gay community, with its well known homophobia, racism, the often problematic perceptions of drag queens, and the surrounding issues of power and control, and its cultural biases against Islam. Of particular interest to me was how marine biology helped Amrou to actualise his identity as a non-binary aquatic being, with a 'they' pronoun, and how quantum physics contributed to validating who he is. It is with a sense of relief that I read of how Rafy helped Amrou and his parents come to terms with each other and reconnect, I was particularly touched by how Amrou slowly becomes aware of the pressures that his mother faced with his father, and of the partriarchal system that deny women the right to be who they are. This is an inspirational read, smart, thought provoking, and fascinating at how Amrou shifts his perspectives on Islam, to see how it incorporated all that he is and belonged to him, an integral part of him as he comes to own it. I was so thankful to see how he returned to his family roots, in particular his mother, and came to understand her better. This is a memoir so worth reading, there is so much to learn from it, so much more than just being a gay muslim drag queen, ultimately it is about the complexities of what it is to be human. Highly recommended. Many thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alexis Hall

    Oof. This was … a lot. But it’s very powerful and very beautiful, and explores of lot of not-so-visible intersectional spaces: gender-fluidity, queerness, race, religion, class. It goes to dark and complicated places, and is definitely not an easy read, though I will say Amrou’s sharp wit keeps the narrative from sinking too deeply into the darkness. It feels appropriative as fuck to say I felt some sense of connection here but the way Amrou talks about queerness and alienation, about the way we Oof. This was … a lot. But it’s very powerful and very beautiful, and explores of lot of not-so-visible intersectional spaces: gender-fluidity, queerness, race, religion, class. It goes to dark and complicated places, and is definitely not an easy read, though I will say Amrou’s sharp wit keeps the narrative from sinking too deeply into the darkness. It feels appropriative as fuck to say I felt some sense of connection here but the way Amrou talks about queerness and alienation, about the way we search for belonging when our selves are in chaos, the need to create an narrative of who we are from the fragments the world allows us … gah … it just hit me really hard. Also, on separate occasions, Amrou searches for meaning and identity in both marine biology and quantum physics: I mean, how could I not connect? And I hope it’s okay for me to say that. And to recognise a little of myself here, while claiming no ownership of a story that is very, very much not mine. Especially because as a white British person I’m inherently complicit in several of the systems of oppression Amrou has to navigate. One of the most fascinating threads in the book is Amrou’s troubled relationship with his mother. They’re very close when Amrou is growing up but thee bond becomes fractured around Amrou’s need to express and live their queer identity. Amrou’s family are complex mixture of supportive (it’s clear throughout the book they sincerely love Amrou—if it is possible, that is, to love someone without accepting who they are) and very conservative (with all the tensions and the hypocrisies that entails). Needless to say, this creates a profoundly damaging dynamic for Amrou, the impact of which is felt throughout the narrative and probably will be felt by them for the rest of their life. But there is something of a reconciliation at the very end of the book (paralleling to some degree Amrou’s reconciliation with their faith) where they have a very painful talk, in which it becomes clear that it’s hard for Amrou’s mother to accept their queerness, and the way they embrace the more feminine aspects of their identity, because for Amrou’s mother masculinity is freedom, and being a kind of prison. Whereas, of course, for Amrou heteronormative masculinity was the prison. Oof. I say again. Oof. Anyway I sincerely, deeply and with all my heart recommend this. Content guidance for emotional abuse, sexual abuse, just about every possible phobia going (Islamophobia, racism, queerphobia, femmephobia) so, as ever, do take care of yourself first and foremost. But this is a book that needs to read. It is so very full of important things, terrible things, beautiful things. I will be thinking about it for a long time. Also I might have cried at the end.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    Coming out stories will always be an important part of LGBT literature since the way we arrive at a queer identity is a unique journey for every individual growing up in a predominantly heterosexual society. Sometimes I'll idly wonder if we've had enough of them and then come across a tale which is so moving and says something vital about how difficult it is to grow up feeling different in the world today. Amrou Al-Kadhi's memoir is like none I've read before as it describes their life growing u Coming out stories will always be an important part of LGBT literature since the way we arrive at a queer identity is a unique journey for every individual growing up in a predominantly heterosexual society. Sometimes I'll idly wonder if we've had enough of them and then come across a tale which is so moving and says something vital about how difficult it is to grow up feeling different in the world today. Amrou Al-Kadhi's memoir is like none I've read before as it describes their life growing up in a strict Iraqui Muslim household, moving to England and developing a fearless drag queen persona named Glamrou. Even though Amrou's life is very different from my own there were so many aspects of their feelings of alienation and moments of solace that I found relatable. From fancying a cartoon fox to intensely identifying with bizarre undersea lifeforms, I connected strongly with the experiences described. Other parts of this story felt new and surprising to me especially how Amrou became a perfectionist in their studies as a way of dealing with being rejected from their family. From the outside it's difficult to understand a mania to get everything exactly right but when a child feels like they have no value it makes perfect sense. Read my full review of Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi on LonesomeReader

  4. 5 out of 5

    K.S. Marsden

    Before he ever dreams of performing drag, Amrou has to survive the isolating life of being different. I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. This follows the story of Amrou, a boy who was born in the UK, raised in Iraq, before going to school in London, and can't understand why he doesn't fit in with his father and twin brother, in the strict gender identities imposed by the Muslim community. Amrou would rather spend time with his glamorous mother, and is entranced Before he ever dreams of performing drag, Amrou has to survive the isolating life of being different. I received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. This follows the story of Amrou, a boy who was born in the UK, raised in Iraq, before going to school in London, and can't understand why he doesn't fit in with his father and twin brother, in the strict gender identities imposed by the Muslim community. Amrou would rather spend time with his glamorous mother, and is entranced by how only art can overcome the normal gender expectations. Growing up, he has to internalise his gender dysphoria, and attraction to other boys, as it has been made clear that being different is a sin, and he will bring great unhappiness to Allah and his family. This is all compounded by his painfully-self-destructive OCD and anxiety. No matter the outward appearance, of an obedient Muslim son, or a out-and-proud gay man; inwardly there is constant punishment and guilt and doubt. Amrou's unflinching autobiography is written by someone who is clearly intelligent, and with a good sense of humour. He explains quantum physics and aquarium care with the same openness and ease as Ru Paul and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Even as he makes his way and starts to establish his own identity as a gay man and drag sensation, Amrou admits that he isn't perfect. He makes mistakes along the way, sometime hurting friends, but mostly hurting himself. Despite being judged constantly by everyone around him, Amrou rarely judges others. He accepts their prejudices, the varying levels of racism and homophobic comments. Perhaps because he doesn't know any better, after being brought up to think that he is the faulty individual; or because these people are just people. They are flawed, ignorant, and rude, but they aren't bad people. It's a very sorry reflection on what is still socially-accepted, in the modern UK. I don't read many memoirs, but I enjoyed this one. The author isn't a fabulously smooth writer, and their stories do jump about a bit. It's not always the easiest book to delve into, but I liked how it was styled as Amrou telling the stories of his life with self-deprecation and humour, despite the depressing content.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    “As a queer person, I believe almost dogmatically in difference, in the idea that every single person is unique, with their own innate sense of self, and that it is this difference which brings all of us together as one.” A powerful and necessary narrative which comes and fills in the gaps of the LGBTQ+ literature. Amrou Al-Kadhi tells their story – this is not an analogy of Muslim Drag Queens as I’ve read in some reviews (if you think it is, you’ve completely missed the point!) – the story of fi “As a queer person, I believe almost dogmatically in difference, in the idea that every single person is unique, with their own innate sense of self, and that it is this difference which brings all of us together as one.” A powerful and necessary narrative which comes and fills in the gaps of the LGBTQ+ literature. Amrou Al-Kadhi tells their story – this is not an analogy of Muslim Drag Queens as I’ve read in some reviews (if you think it is, you’ve completely missed the point!) – the story of finding their identity growing up in a religious surrounding, in a traditional British school and within themselves more than anything else. I listened to the audiobook while reading my physical copy – Amrou Al-Kadhi narrates it and it made all the difference. It was like they were confiding in me and told me everything they needed me to know. Their relationship with their mother, the expectations that ensued in the Muslim community, the racism and homophobia they faced in England, the abuse of others who didn’t necessarily understand them but didn’t realise they only needed to accept Amrou. It was eye-opening and I particularly enjoyed the conversation that emerged from this, with my friend, who kindly shared her own experience with the religion in her upbringing and who she is as a person today. This is what this book does – it teaches you what you need to know but also brings people together, sharing their own stories with one another and spreading awareness to combat ignorance. Even if you don’t feel particularly connected to the topic, it is essential to read this and learn about others, to learn about how the society we live in and benefits you as a person, has introduced others’ struggled and challenges throughout their lives.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Krutika Puranik

    • r e v i e w • . "I find a great affinity with unicorns. They are the ultimate outsiders, destined to gallop alone. They share the body of a horse and are similar in form, but are a different nature, almost able to belong in an equine herd, but utterly conspicuous and irrefutably other.” - Amrou Al-Kadhi. "And what is acting besides a sublimation of childhood trauma in order to get an agent?" - Amrou Al-Kadhi. . Many months ago someone recommended this memoir in the comment section and it had been o • r e v i e w • . "I find a great affinity with unicorns. They are the ultimate outsiders, destined to gallop alone. They share the body of a horse and are similar in form, but are a different nature, almost able to belong in an equine herd, but utterly conspicuous and irrefutably other.” - Amrou Al-Kadhi. "And what is acting besides a sublimation of childhood trauma in order to get an agent?" - Amrou Al-Kadhi. . Many months ago someone recommended this memoir in the comment section and it had been on my mind ever since. Unicorn turned out to be exactly the way the title suggests. Vibrant, majestic and unique. Although I've read memoirs of queer men and of those from the LGBTQ community, what set this apart was the background of the protagonist. Being a Muslim man from an Iraqi heritage, he had to fight harder to come out of the closet. With zero support from his parents, Amrou faced a torrent of emotions throughout his adolescent and adult life. It was only when he donned the role of a drag queen that he finally found peace. It made him complete. . The book opens with Amrou performing in a drag show filled with fear when he spots a group of burqa clad women sitting in the front row murmuring something inaudible. To his surprise, the women shower him with praises, a gesture so uncommon amidst conservative muslim community. This episode warmed my heart and was such a wonderful thing to read. Being brought up in Bahrain and Dubai, Amrou shared a close bond with his mother who happened to be a glamourous diva but their relationship changes instantly when she realises Amrou's liking towards men. The more he tried to please them, the more he felt trapped. This pushed him to rebel against his parents which lasted throughout his entire teenage years. . Amrou's life goes through a rollercoaster ride as he goes to Eton, a prestigious British boarding school where he was bullied constantly. His desire to be accepted by his peers made him do things he didn't want to. To top it off, he was at the receiving end of Islamophobia. He was physically and psychologically abused for many years as he was on the lookout for love. It was only when he moved to the university that he discovered drag shows and was instantly comfortable in the makeup and costumes. He led shows and met fellow drag queens who formed a strong bond of trust. His relationship with his parents remained bitter for a long time but I was relieved to read how his mother accepted him in her own way. Amrou's story is as real as it gets. He writes in detail about how his confused filled teenage years triggered his obsessive need to score good marks at school. He sacrificed his sleep and food, pushing himself to the verge of a mental breakdown. Many parts of this memoir were difficult to read. The hate that he received for years and the fact that many young boys/girls like him are still being subjected to such harsh realities is a chilling and hurtful thing to accept. . Unicorn was a wonderful memoir but I often felt disconnected from the story. It may have to do with the narration because I couldn't stay focused for too long. He adds a touch of humour to ease the discomfort and to probably buff out the edges of sharp incidents. But I do however recommend this memoir to those who are seeking knowledge about what it feels like to be a queer person growing up in a hostile environment and to finally find acceptance within onself. Amrou is undoubtedly a Unicorn and this memoir proves why. . Rating : 3.9/5.

  7. 5 out of 5

    sri ⁷

    i-- spectacular, phenomenal, gorgeously written, emotionally packed, gripping, unique and i could go on and on. i was already teary eyed but when i read the last chapter?? a bitch shed some happy tears. note : it was so refreshing to take a look at a brown non binary person's struggles and everytime i turned a page, as a brown girl i felt so connected to the author and-- god I'm all over the place I'll just stop here. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK is all I'll say i-- spectacular, phenomenal, gorgeously written, emotionally packed, gripping, unique and i could go on and on. i was already teary eyed but when i read the last chapter?? a bitch shed some happy tears. note : it was so refreshing to take a look at a brown non binary person's struggles and everytime i turned a page, as a brown girl i felt so connected to the author and-- god I'm all over the place I'll just stop here. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK is all I'll say

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    A really beautiful but heartbreaking read about what it's like to grow up as a queer POC in Dubai then Bahrain and finally the UK. I really enjoyed learning about the freedom they felt when they learned about the fluidity of sea creatures and queer interpretations of the Quran. A really quick read as well. A really beautiful but heartbreaking read about what it's like to grow up as a queer POC in Dubai then Bahrain and finally the UK. I really enjoyed learning about the freedom they felt when they learned about the fluidity of sea creatures and queer interpretations of the Quran. A really quick read as well.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Scott Baird (Gunpowder Fiction and Plot)

    I loved this. What an interesting life they have had.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I find it very hard to review autobiographies. It's all too easy for criticism of a book to look like criticism of the person and their life and that's not what I intend. I just found this book to be a bit misleading. There didn't seem to be enough about life as a 'Muslim Drag Queen' to justify the title. I read in ebook format (via Borrowbox) and was surprised to get to the end and find no photographs at all. Perhaps I was unrealistic to expect a bit more of the glamour of Glamrou and less of t I find it very hard to review autobiographies. It's all too easy for criticism of a book to look like criticism of the person and their life and that's not what I intend. I just found this book to be a bit misleading. There didn't seem to be enough about life as a 'Muslim Drag Queen' to justify the title. I read in ebook format (via Borrowbox) and was surprised to get to the end and find no photographs at all. Perhaps I was unrealistic to expect a bit more of the glamour of Glamrou and less of the 'poor me' childhood. My bad, as they say. If it wasn't about being a Muslim drag queen, then what was it? Mostly a lot about life as an OCD perfectionist and about fighting with his unsupportive family and parents. His privileged childhood lacked only acceptance of his sexuality and his parents were horrified that their little boy had turned into such a monster. Like many young people, Amrou spent a lot of his life feeling like an outsider, trying way too hard to fit in (mostly with Eton toffs who probably weren't worthy of his efforts) and attempting to come to terms with a sexuality that was so at odds with his religion. As 'misery memoirs' go, this is no Angela's Ashes. As a tribute - twisted perhaps - to his much-loved mother, it's contradictory and complex. When your mother is the living embodiment of the type of woman that many drag queens aspire to be, it's a kick in the teeth that she can't accept her son wants some of that. There's a deeply inciteful passage near the end where Amrou's mother explains that she can't understand why anybody lucky enough to be born a man would want to swap that for being a woman. That's one of the points where the penny drops, and lots of unpleasant things make sense (but are not, of course, to be forgiven). If the book had been either 'My cross-cultural gender identity conflicted childhood' or 'Life as a fabulously extravagant drag queen', I suspect there's plenty of material to fill two volumes. However, for me, there wasn't enough of the 'Muslim Drag Queen' and rather too much of the bitter little boy looking for other people to blame. As an aside, I loved the tropical fish tank as a metaphor for Amrou's teen ambitions and conflicts.

  11. 5 out of 5

    AnnaG

    Some autobiographies can be very difficult to rate and this one is a classic in that vein. The problem with this book is that whilst well-written, Amrou hasn't done enough to fill 320 pages with interesting content, so we spend chapter after chapter in boring domesticity, making our way through childhood and school. It read to me very similar to The Outrun: A Memoir, which is also one of my lowest rated books of the year - I am very queasy reading autobiographies that are really about a dysfunct Some autobiographies can be very difficult to rate and this one is a classic in that vein. The problem with this book is that whilst well-written, Amrou hasn't done enough to fill 320 pages with interesting content, so we spend chapter after chapter in boring domesticity, making our way through childhood and school. It read to me very similar to The Outrun: A Memoir, which is also one of my lowest rated books of the year - I am very queasy reading autobiographies that are really about a dysfunction in a family. I don't see what Amrou's parents have done to deserve this public scorn and I think less of the author for monetising the family's private problems. As an added issue, I really enjoy a catty narrator in fiction, but in autobiography I find it nauseating. These are real people that Amrou is writing about and it's so rude to publish this kind of vitriol. All the digs at people's personal appearance - it's childish. Taking a meta view - I'm not surprised that Amrou has had such difficulties fitting in and making friends in a wide variety of settings, if this is the inner monologue going on.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alice-Elizabeth

    This was such a heart-wrenching memoir to read. I couldn’t believe that Amrou had to try and overcome lots of hardships throughout their life living in a country where homosexuality is illegal but still wanting to stay true to themselves. Having a family that doesn’t accept you as a person is never easy and Life As A Unicorn is an example of having to hide who you really are which is painful and difficult. Not an easy book by any means due to the subject content (abusive family, bullying, slurs This was such a heart-wrenching memoir to read. I couldn’t believe that Amrou had to try and overcome lots of hardships throughout their life living in a country where homosexuality is illegal but still wanting to stay true to themselves. Having a family that doesn’t accept you as a person is never easy and Life As A Unicorn is an example of having to hide who you really are which is painful and difficult. Not an easy book by any means due to the subject content (abusive family, bullying, slurs etc) but wishing Amrou all the best for their future!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Claire (Book Blog Bird)

    This book was awesome. It was terrifying and heartbreaking, but it was awesome. It's the story of a boy who grows up in the middle east and then at a public school in Britain and is gay. It's about intolerance and racism and bullying and toxic parents whose approval you would do anything to have. It's about drag and gay culture and the courage to choose your own family. Side note - the author makes Eton sound like the absolute cesspit of cunts I've always suspected it to be. This book was awesome. It was terrifying and heartbreaking, but it was awesome. It's the story of a boy who grows up in the middle east and then at a public school in Britain and is gay. It's about intolerance and racism and bullying and toxic parents whose approval you would do anything to have. It's about drag and gay culture and the courage to choose your own family. Side note - the author makes Eton sound like the absolute cesspit of cunts I've always suspected it to be.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ayala Levinger

    I loved this book!! and also the fact that Amrou al-Kadhi is the narrator of their audio book was so special. Amrou has a very pleasant voice. Beautifully emotionally written memoir to cry and laugh with (sometimes at the same moment) love love love it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Arianna Valentini

    One of the most moving stories I have read recently. A window to fluid gender identity, and intersection with culture. Heartwarming, authentical and beautifully written. I even read the acknowledgements. Thank you for your story Amrou. ❤️

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Cooke (Bookish Shenanigans)

    Bloody loved this!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    One of the most beautiful books I have read. I have so much love for Amrou for sharing their story. Not only is this a beautiful book, but it is also fantastically written. Every time I opened its pages, it felt like I was sitting down on a couch with Amrou, having a glass of wine, and having one of those friendship chats about life and the universe. Deep, inspiring, tragic, hopeful, I found many parts of the universe in Unicorn's pages. One of the most beautiful books I have read. I have so much love for Amrou for sharing their story. Not only is this a beautiful book, but it is also fantastically written. Every time I opened its pages, it felt like I was sitting down on a couch with Amrou, having a glass of wine, and having one of those friendship chats about life and the universe. Deep, inspiring, tragic, hopeful, I found many parts of the universe in Unicorn's pages.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    Portsmouth Library book. Thank you to Michelle for recommending this book. This is the second drag queen biography I've read and this one was heartfelt and engaging. Glamrou is Iraqi and raised in mainly in Britain. Their story of growing up in the UK and their conflict with their culture reminded me of my time in Egypt and the people I knew there struggling with western and middle-eastern ideologies clashing. Most interestingly was Glamrou's reconnection with Islam that so far had excluded and dem Portsmouth Library book. Thank you to Michelle for recommending this book. This is the second drag queen biography I've read and this one was heartfelt and engaging. Glamrou is Iraqi and raised in mainly in Britain. Their story of growing up in the UK and their conflict with their culture reminded me of my time in Egypt and the people I knew there struggling with western and middle-eastern ideologies clashing. Most interestingly was Glamrou's reconnection with Islam that so far had excluded and demonised them in their past and make it their own as part of a queer muslim group. This biography was heartfelt and had all the ups and downs of being queer in current society. It was also interesting to read about Eton College and Cambridge University from a non-Conservative point of view.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Josalynne Balajadia

    Very honest, self-reflective, and insightful. I really liked how the memoir was laid out, I have had troubles with memoirs this year, this was the only one to keep my interest.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Endlesscribbles

    A courageous and realistic story that was told in genuine way of the reality of the Amrou Al-Kadhi's live and the people around him.. A good story that it is capable of invoking emotion. An NeGalley UK ARC was given to me for a honest review A courageous and realistic story that was told in genuine way of the reality of the Amrou Al-Kadhi's live and the people around him.. A good story that it is capable of invoking emotion. An NeGalley UK ARC was given to me for a honest review

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nadja

    2021 Asian Readathon: 5. Read any nonfiction book written by an Asian author.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aisha Ayoosh

    This book started off a little over dramatic for my liking and I thought to myself, “I hope this book will not be a huge Muslim / Islamic bashing monologue”. Turns out it wasn’t. Reading Amrou’s painful journey of trying to find a sense of belonging is something I’m sure we all can reflect on at some point in our lives. What I enjoyed most about this book was finding solace in being Muslim and living it on your terms. Islam is supposed to be diverse, diverse in people, culture and in thinking. Y This book started off a little over dramatic for my liking and I thought to myself, “I hope this book will not be a huge Muslim / Islamic bashing monologue”. Turns out it wasn’t. Reading Amrou’s painful journey of trying to find a sense of belonging is something I’m sure we all can reflect on at some point in our lives. What I enjoyed most about this book was finding solace in being Muslim and living it on your terms. Islam is supposed to be diverse, diverse in people, culture and in thinking. Yet we are made to believe (mainly growing up from my mother, my father was of the total opposite opinion) that it’s regressive, subjugating and difficult. Any institution that comes off this way can only chase you away. Is it unsurprising people often rebel in the worst ways when you’re made to feel chained up physically and mentally? I’ve had to realise by myself and conversations with my father (RIP) that Islam is really easy. It’s a way of life. Make it what you want, you can make it fit you. It always will. This really resonates with what Amrou was going through, (he has been through much worse tbh) you can belong... and belong on your terms!! Faith is personal! I repeat that over and over again. We are not in this world to police over one another, but support each other. 💕

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Usai

    TW: homophobia, Islamophobia, sexual/emotional abuse, substance abuse I cannot fully express how equally beautiful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking this memoir was to read. Charting the journey of Amrou Al-Khadi, a queer, non-binary Muslim who navigates the bafflingly toxic yet familial landscape, “Life As A Unicorn” reveals the struggles of children whose parents (misguidedly) ‘only want what’s best for them’ - before proceeding to control them emotionally through tradition and community. T TW: homophobia, Islamophobia, sexual/emotional abuse, substance abuse I cannot fully express how equally beautiful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking this memoir was to read. Charting the journey of Amrou Al-Khadi, a queer, non-binary Muslim who navigates the bafflingly toxic yet familial landscape, “Life As A Unicorn” reveals the struggles of children whose parents (misguidedly) ‘only want what’s best for them’ - before proceeding to control them emotionally through tradition and community. Throughout their memoir, which is delivered in witty and candid prose, Al-Khadi discusses the complex relationship with their socially conservative mother, whom they would eventually draw inspiration from for their alter-ego, the stellar and graceful, Glamrou. Al-Khadi’s writing made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me pause to reflect more than once. Accessible albeit not simplistic in its message, their memoir taught me about the intersectionality of queerness, Islam and third-culture identity. Cannot recommend this enough. Thank you to 4th Estate and Amrou Al-Khadi for a #gifted copy of this memoir in return for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anna Morgenstern

    Wow! "Unicorn" is both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. This astounding memoir gives a voice seldom heard, of a Queer, Drag Queen Muslim non-binary person. It managed to break my heart one moment and the next, swell with happiness. I cannot stress enough how important this read is. TW: homophobia, sexual assault. Wow! "Unicorn" is both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. This astounding memoir gives a voice seldom heard, of a Queer, Drag Queen Muslim non-binary person. It managed to break my heart one moment and the next, swell with happiness. I cannot stress enough how important this read is. TW: homophobia, sexual assault.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bella Fitzpatrick

    It’s an interesting story abs perspective but the writing has no momentum

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dona van Eeden

    Heartbreakingly honest and moving memoir. I almost couldn't put the book down, I just wanted to get back into Amrou's life everytime i closed the book. Their memoir has enlightened me so much more on the Muslim religion and Islamic practices. Their struggle to accept things that they hate but eventually got them to where they are, the difficulties faced by the QTIPOC+ community, the brief pockets of acceptance in a world where you do not feel welcome... it's all there and ready to bring tears to Heartbreakingly honest and moving memoir. I almost couldn't put the book down, I just wanted to get back into Amrou's life everytime i closed the book. Their memoir has enlightened me so much more on the Muslim religion and Islamic practices. Their struggle to accept things that they hate but eventually got them to where they are, the difficulties faced by the QTIPOC+ community, the brief pockets of acceptance in a world where you do not feel welcome... it's all there and ready to bring tears to your eyes. Amrou writes with an amazing flow and knack for storytelling, which is difficult to do when your life is so full and when doing so much introspection. They wrote about their familial relationships, growing up in a restrictive religion, struggles with mental health, rejecting their entire identity as well as the slow process of stringing it back together, the illuminated memories that opened up a life that feels authentic. The reader even gets exposed to a mind enamoured by marine biology and quantum physics, which greatly expanded my love and knowledge on the topics. I left so much out - this book is imposible to summarise but an absolute treat to read, so do yourself a favour. Some quotes that will stay with me: "Have you ever seen or heard something - a film, a painting, something fleeting out of a car window, a song or a sound - and felt a sudden emotional clarity, as if whatever you've just encountered has always been a part of you, and in that moment, both parts have finally been reunited?" "It was one of those moments when you see something new and it ignites a fire in you, and you think, 'no matter what anyone says, this is what I want. And I am going to do whatever I need to be part of this.'" "At sixteen I wanted not only a place to belong to, but a history; a tried and tested narrative that bore none of the chaos of my own." "Once I realised that the laws of reality were merely a construct, at odds with the behaviours of the subatomic particles that actually comprise reality, then it struck me that surely all constructed notions of gender, racial hierarchy and identity were also imprisoning impositions. I was made up of trillions upon trillions of subatomic particles that basked in their multiplicity, existing as many things and in many places at once, and all the anxieties that had come to govern me came from restricting their natural behaviours."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Susan Hampson

    You would think that growing up in a family where he lacked for nothing would bring with it a perfect childhood but what Amrou needed more than anything was acceptance for who he was and living in an Iraqi Muslin household made that impossible. Amrou tells his story from childhood openly, honestly, with barbs and wedges that wounded and grew wider as the years went on. From early years Amrou knew that he was different from other people but his innocence in sharing his feelings and thoughts ruptur You would think that growing up in a family where he lacked for nothing would bring with it a perfect childhood but what Amrou needed more than anything was acceptance for who he was and living in an Iraqi Muslin household made that impossible. Amrou tells his story from childhood openly, honestly, with barbs and wedges that wounded and grew wider as the years went on. From early years Amrou knew that he was different from other people but his innocence in sharing his feelings and thoughts ruptured family harmony, costing him dearly of the closeness that he had shared with his mother. His twin brother went places with their father but Amrou had preferred shopping expeditions with his mother and watching her dress up and apply makeup. He learned a lot from her. So many times he tried to fit into his surroundings. But because he thought perfection would bring acceptance with his peers, he strived to be perfect at what he did. His compulsion was heartbreaking. At times it felt more like he was Rapunzel so isolated from everyone, especially through his early University days. I admire Amrou so very much from reading his story, so very brave and courageous seeking to be loved for who was is not what others wanted him to be. I thought this would be a light-hearted read but I had been wrong, it was so much better. I loved the rawness and honesty, warts and glamour. I wish to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marianna

    One of the best memoirs I've read, I loved everything about Amrou Al-Kadhi. Their realness, their openess and rawness and how they never shied away from the truth even if that truth painted them in a more "bad" light. They are a person with flaws and intense trauma and they are FABULOUS! I listened to this on audio which I cannot recommend enough; Amrou's narration is so theatrical and gives so much more to the story!! tw // mention of non consensual sex, and a lot of homophobic commentary One of the best memoirs I've read, I loved everything about Amrou Al-Kadhi. Their realness, their openess and rawness and how they never shied away from the truth even if that truth painted them in a more "bad" light. They are a person with flaws and intense trauma and they are FABULOUS! I listened to this on audio which I cannot recommend enough; Amrou's narration is so theatrical and gives so much more to the story!! tw // mention of non consensual sex, and a lot of homophobic commentary

  29. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I found Life as a Unicorn to be an interesting immersion into a perspective one doesn't usually encounter, even as a regular viewer of Drag Race and its spinoffs. It was at times exhausting to experience Amrou's story secondhand as a reader, which gives some indication of how difficult their journey has been, navigating being queer and Muslim in a life and family spanning the UK and Middle East. I hope that this book helps others with similarly intersectional and marginalized identities feel emp I found Life as a Unicorn to be an interesting immersion into a perspective one doesn't usually encounter, even as a regular viewer of Drag Race and its spinoffs. It was at times exhausting to experience Amrou's story secondhand as a reader, which gives some indication of how difficult their journey has been, navigating being queer and Muslim in a life and family spanning the UK and Middle East. I hope that this book helps others with similarly intersectional and marginalized identities feel empowered to live their truth.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rhi

    Raw, honest & true 💕.

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