Drag Queen Story Hour Puts the Rainbow in Reading

Drag Queen Story Hour Puts the Rainbow in Reading, by Una Lamarche.

Story hour, long a mommy-and-me staple, had never looked so colorful.

She stood well over six feet tall, the reader at the Hudson Park branch of the New York Public Library in Greenwich Village, her height aided by six-inch heels on purple patent leather boots. Her outfit was an oxymoronic neon camouflage bodysuit and a purple tutu. A tuft of fuchsia hair curled from under a spandex headdress with fabric-covered cylinders lined up in a row, like a Keith Haring-inspired Mohawk.

As she entered, the adults clapped politely, but the preschool- and kindergarten-age children huddled on a rug went wild. With the elation typically reserved for a “Frozen” character, one toddler screamed “Yay!” and clapped furiously, squirming in his mother’s lap.

“My name is Harmonica Sunbeam,” the reader said, in a voice used to loud rooms. As a warm-up, she had the children sing “This Land Is Your Land” and then march vigorously in place. …

She sat down and read aloud from “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress” by Christine Baldacchino. The book is about a boy who wore a beloved dress to school every day. …

This is Drag Queen Story Hour. The brainchild of the writer Michelle Tea and Radar Productions, it is exactly what it sounds like: drag queens reading stories to children. It began in San Francisco in December 2015 and spread to Brooklyn last summer, thanks to social media attention. …

After reading a few more books from the library’s preapproved list — some, like “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress” or “It’s Okay to be Different” by Todd Parr, address themes of diversity and gender expression, while others are simply story time favorites — Ms. Sunbeam distributed scarves and asked the children to shout out their favorite ice cream flavors, an exercise that inspired a more contentious debate than that over the astronaut’s dress. …

When asked to pinpoint the main difference between story hour and an evening drag show, Ms. Sunbeam said jokingly, “I’m sober.”

Drag queens are reading feminist fairytales to kids. The future of our civilization is not like its past.

hat-tip Matthew