LIFE AS A UNICORN: The story of Amrou, a Muslim drag queen

For this second episode of our Pangea series, Large Movements celebrates Pride Month 2023 by recommending the book “Life as a Unicorn: A Journey from Shame to Pride and Everything in Between” by Amrou Al-Kadhi. As it often happens with successful memories, this book is altogether moving, engaging, hilarious and sincere. 

Just a heads up: the book is not yet available in Italian, but you can easily find it in English. Also, Amrou is a non-binary person so in this article we will use the pronoun “them” as stated by the author in an interview.

Fresh and ironic, the book follows Amrou’s hard life and their search for belonging through a painful yet astonishing transformation path from a god-fearing, Muslim person to a daring, blunt drag queen.

After introducing us to their childhood as a Muslim Iraqi boy and to their patriarchal family – markedly concerned with reputation and observance, Amrou leads us through their moving story of personal identity by examining the way that social constructs can shape and hinder who we wish we were, the influential role our parents can play in defining who we are as human beings and the way that even other members of the queer community can sometimes be noxious.

In this sense, Amrou reveals a sympathetic yet critical queer community who can be at the same time open and exclusive, empowering and incapacitating. Confronted with paradoxical forms of homophobia, racism, body shaming and fragile masculinity, Amrou rejects and argues against any community idealization. We are introduced to Amrou’s conflicting relationship to the islamic faith, their family and the weight of expectations, as well as to the healing process from their personal crisis and the attempt to bring together only seemingly opposite dimensions so as to reach a free, authentic and confident way of living. 

Easy-to-read and ironic, Amrou’s style skillfully balances lightness and hilarity with more serious and upsetting issues such as self-harm, mental health, self-loathing and much more. Also, by way of a passionate and sincere narration, they  manage to stress the importance of listening and understanding as a way of becoming more welcoming and kind individuals, while breaking down the painful and blind intersection between racism, homophobia and transphobia.

Unicorn guides us into becoming better human beings by setting up an intimate space that makes us feel engaged in a deep conversation with someone standing in front of us rather than just reading.

This book therefore has particular significance for LGBTQIA individuals, but it can also be read as an all-embracing story about being ourselves against all difficulties, as well as against any religious, cultural, social or familiar pressures.

Amrou is capable of drawing a wide range of readers, both for their unhindered style (as unhindered as they now are) and for their intelligence (particularly evident in their analytic skills but also in their sharp irony). Fair and square, this book will gradually reveal Amrou’s desire to not only tell their story, but also highlight universal issues and obstacles with the aim of opening the reader’s eyes about certain aspects of intercultural and generational conflicts.

We are confident that everybody can learn something from this inspiring book, even when concerned by completely different situations. It is particularly worth reading to celebrate Pride Month, for it is an iconic symbol of the fight for both one’s own individuality and the rights of a whole community.

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