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
‘It should be read far and wide’ Ian McKellen
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.
Reviews of Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen
- ‘This book is as rare, fabulous and beautiful as the creature it is named for. A masterpiece of psychology, a major study of Islam and a definitive study of drag, it made me cry, it made me rage and it made me hoot. Full of anger, insight and philosophy, along with some cracking great gags, this is a magnificent and essential document of the twenty-first century. It moved my heart and soul’ Russell T Davies
- ‘A heartbreaking, healing book. it will make you better’ Simon Amstell
- ‘Astonishingly brave and engaging, Unicorn shows us a side of life seldom explored’ Joanna Lumley
- ‘Amrou’s book is slightly magical, I think. They are a survivor, a storyteller and yes, a unicorn’ Juno Dawson
- ‘Amrou’s story is at times painful, at times hilarious, but always completely resonant. If you’ve ever felt like an outsider, or caught among several identities, this book is a light in the dark and a soothing balm on the pain of loneliness and alienation’ Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
- ‘This is a masterpiece, an incredible emotional voyage, moving, funny, provocative, educational, a book you must read whatever your ethnicity or your sexual or gender identity. Beautifully written by an author whose voice must be heard’ Owen Jones
- ‘Amrou writes with a confidence and lightness of touch, meaning you will laugh and you will cry and you will see real tender moments in a life fully lived. An incredibly adept writer and performer, Amrou brings to readers an important story unlike anything else you will read for a long, long time, and yet so incredibly universal.’ Nikesh Shukla, author of Coconut Unlimited and editor of The Good Immigrant
- ‘Tender and hilarious in equal parts, this is a memoir like no other. A beautiful, honest account of what it is like to grow up between multiple expectations, and an uplifting reminder that it is possible to find happiness by being yourself. I was gripped at every page’ Angela Saini, author of Superior