Unicorn is certainly an appropriate title for this gem of a memoir, it has to be the most unique story I’ve come across!
Born in Saudi Arabia to Iraqi parents, Al-Kadhi and their family eventually moved to the UK where they went to school. The experience of a young person from an Iraqi Muslim family growing up in a very white Britain and even attending Eton would be enlightening in itself. As would a young person growing up struggling to understand their sexuality. As would a young person growing up struggling to understand their gender identity.
Unicorn is about a young person from an Iraqi Muslim family growing up in a very white Britain struggling to understand both their sexuality and their gender identity. This is the very definition of intersectionality where Al-Kadhi had to navigate trying to gain acceptance from a family that could not accept queerness, from a religion that saw it as a sin, from gay men who would not accept their gender expression, from white peers, friends and lovers who would not accept their ethnicity.
Rejection at every corner led to mental illness, insecurity and heartache and was at many points painful to read. However, I didn’t find this to be a depressing book. The writing was accessible, full of moments of joy and humour alongside the sadness – the anecdote about the author’s mother having herself welded into a dress to keep up appearances made me laugh out loud! I was rooting for Glamrou throughout and am so full of admiration for the life they’ve built for themselves. This book also gave me a new understanding and appreciation of drag culture and the experience of non-binary identities – as well as tropical fish! That will make sense when you read it…
There are a couple of content warnings which I have listed at the bottom of this post for those who are particularly affected by themes of mental illness and violence.
Overall, a fabulous memoir from a fabulous person, full of strength, vulnerability and wisdom. Highly recommend!
Thank you to 4th Estate & Harper Collins for gifting me an advanced copy of this memoir.
Mental illness – Al-Kadhi suffers from OCD as a young person and the book describes their compulsions in quite a lot of detail, which fellow OCD sufferers might find difficult to read
Sexual violence – Some of Al-Kadhi’s early sexual experiences could be triggering to survivors as they include a psychologically abusive partner and some experiences that the author identifies as non-consensual