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.
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
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.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amrou Al-Kadhi is the founder of drag troupe Denim and has written an episode for Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon’s upcoming series for Apple (US), Little America, as well as for BBC America’s hotly anticipated series, The Watch. Amrou has two original TV-series in development, one with Channel 4 Comedy and the other with BBC Drama. Amrou has written and directed four short films that focus on the intersection of queer identity and race, and has features in development with Film4, the BFI and BBC films. Their journalism has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Gay Times, Attitude, CNN and Little White Lies, among other publications. Unicorn is Amrou’s first book.