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Ratings and Book Reviews (2 4 star ratings
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    Becoming the person you were meant to be

    This is a heart-breaking but ultimately redemptive story about one person’s long and often tortuous struggle against their culture, race, religion, family and gender expectations, to ultimately become a glorious and joyful fusion of aspects of their past with their new found freedom, at peace with themselves and the world. The book is told in the first person, and is a very honest and no-holds-barred story of the author’s fight with themselves and with their environment. They are not always a likeable person, but having read the story, you can understand why they acted as they did – even if you may not always approve. I spent so much of the book being furious at the author’s parents (as did the author!). Even if they did not approve of their lifestyle, why could they not at least say – “we don’t understand you or your life choices, but we will always love you”. The author spent so much of their life feeling alienated by family, religion and the society that they experienced – all they needed was someone(s) to say “I love you” and “you belong”. Two moments brought tears to my eyes. The first (at the start of the book, but end of the story) when an Arab female, in full Islamic robes, after watching their drag show said: “Your song to Allah … it broke my heart. I’ve been there – I’m a woman living in Saudi Arabia. But the thing is, Glamrou – Allah loves you”. The second was when their mother FINALLY sent a message ‘Please take care of yourself habibi. Please. I love you so much.’ That message, and acceptance, finally lead to the author and their mother (whom they had adored as a child) becoming once more reconciled. The considerable trials and tribulations suffered by the author often hindered them from seeing the world from the point of view of others, in particular their mother’s and other women’s views. ‘Amrou. Amrou. You are so lucky to be a man.’ …‘Do you know what I have had to suffer because I am a woman? Do you know how hard life is as a woman? … Being a woman is hell. And you, my special Amoura, with your special brain, choose to be a woman, even though you are lucky enough to be a man? I don’t understand it.’ I began to understand the lengths to which she had been a victim of the patriarchy, and how my ability to transgress was in her eyes a patriarchal privilege. This book is not just about becoming a drag queen. It is about loving and accepting yourself, so that others will love and accept you. If you are not able to respect yourself, then you will always be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse – as the author found time after time. But few people can do it alone – most need someone special to encourage them and show them the way – a friend, teacher, a family member … The book also points out the crucial role that positive role models have on a person’s emotional development and maturity. For the author there were none from their race, religion, persuasion etc to latch on to when they needed it. (I kept thinking: what about Grayson Perry, Eddie Izzard, David Bowie, Elton John, Quentin Crisp? – all white, and not all gay. Leo Varadkar is not white, but does not dress in drag). Of course, nowadays with the internet – and Rupaul’s Drag Race – young would-be drag queens and LGBTQ+ persons have a lot of potential role models. But for a young Amrou Al-Kahdi there was no-one. This is not an easy book, but is a wonderful story to read and absorb - whatever your gender, sexuality, or life-choices. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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    Extraordinary. A must-read.

    Hilarious, heartbreaking, uplifting and life-affirming. A book that will make you laugh out loud at one moment, and weep in the next. A breathtaking story about defying all the odds on a quest to be yourself, at once so unlike anything you'll ever read, yet extraordinarily universal. I couldn't put it down. I couldn't recommend it more.
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