Evans, Andrew. “The Black Penguin”, (Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies), The University of Wisconsin Press, 2017.
Andrew Evans was a devout young boy in rural Ohio, whose life was mapped out for him: baptism, mission, Brigham Young University, temple marriage, and children of his own. However, Evans is gay and those plans do not work with his sexuality. As “an awkward gay kid”, he was bullied and he escaped into the pages of “National Geographic” and the dream of traveling the world. “The Black Penguin” is Evans’s memoir, a travel tale, and love story of his eventual journey to the farthest corners of the world and it is quite touching adventure that took him to some of the most exciting and beautiful landscapes on the world.
As a young man he was thrown out of his church and
shunned by his family and this was the catalyst for him to journey halfway across the world. He rode on public transportation, crossed swamps, deserts, mountains, and jungles as he fulfilled his lifelong toward his ultimate goal of Antarctica. He experienced “laughter, pain, unexpected friendship, true weirdness, unsettling realities, and some hair-raising moments that eventually lead to a singular discovery on a remote beach at the bottom of the world”. This journey was a soulful quest to balance faith, family, and self. He reminds us that ultimately, our lives are defined by the paths we take, the places we visit and the people we love.
Evans’ was on parallel journeys: he was a travel journalist on an epic and sometimes perilous gig for National Geographic; and he was a gay man born into a devout Mormon family. He unites disparate genres and themes and what he has to say is captivating and often hair-raising. This is the story of Andrew, a boy who rode city buses daily at the age of five and a voracious young map reader who came in third in the National Geography Bee for the state of Ohio at age 10. It was then that he was bullied throughout school and conflicted by the values and practices of his family’s faith. He began a heart wrenching inner journey to reconcile who he is. Here is a book that will make you laugh and make you cry as anger and sadness come together to give us a very personal story of a life.