Give me something pretty to look at: drag queens at storytime
One of the most beautiful things about public libraries is that they serve everyone. Toothless damp infants, surly teens oozing with bad attitudes, stay at home moms eager for adult interaction, and gently snoring elderly men propped up behind newspapers in discreet corners. All are welcome, all are served. We see families with gender fluid preschoolers and families with two dads. Our programs are diverse and unique and we hope that our patrons connect with our wide selection of offerings. We want to show that we value and honor all types of people.
Sequins, feathers, and a thick coating of makeup — what’s not to love? Drag queen storytimes are popping up at libraries all over the U.S. in recent years. Orlando Public Library, New York Public Library, The Free Library of Philadelphia, Brooklyn Public Library, and Boston Public Library have all hosted drag queen storytimes, emulating Michelle Tea and RADAR Productions (www.dragqueenstoryhour.org), who originated the program in San Francisco in December 2015. Part of a larger effort called “Queering the Castro,” Drag Queen Story Hour was created to highlight the full range of queer culture.
Response has been favorable, with enthusiastic responses from gender fluid and queer families as well as families who want to embrace the wide range of gender expression and identities that make up our communities. It allows libraries a chance to present queer role models, offer creative dress up role playing, prevent bullying, and promote acceptance of difference. Children arrive in tutus and glitter, staring in awe at the magnificent drag queens that will read to them. Books like Todd Parr’s It’s OK to be Different, My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis, Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman and 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert are read to the children by glamorous sparkly and fabulous drag queens, clearly sending the message that the world is full of a wide variety of types of people and that there is more than enough room for all of us.
Fifi Abu writes and illustrates picture books and graphic novels. A graduate of Humboldt State University, Fifi also has an M.A. in Children’s Literature and a master’s degree in library and information science, both from Simmons College. Fifi has been a judge of the Associates of the Boston Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence Program for the past several years, is an active member of SCBWI and a Children’s Book Academy graduate. She is a member of the 2019 Caldecott Award Committee and holds the position of Manager of Youth Services at the Boston Public Library. Find Fifi online at fifiabu.com and @fifiabuillustration.