Yas Queen! These 10 books about drag are royally good

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Vancouver Public Library and V.I.A. have teamed up to help you discover new reads, hidden book gems and surprising literary finds. 

Victoria Day is usually associated with the birthday of Queen Victoria. We would like to celebrate another branch of royalty – the Drag Queens and Kings of popular literature.

Whores of Lost Atlantis by Charles Busch

This joyous romp from Charles Busch leaves no satirical stone unturned. Campy humour, over-the-top characters, and vivid recreations of experimental, Theater of the Ridiculous, and off-off-Broadway productions are just a few of the book’s many charms. Busch writes: “Drag is being more, more than you can be. When I first started drag I wasn’t this shy young man but a powerful woman. It liberated within me a whole vocabulary of expression. It was less a political statement than an aesthetic one.”

The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara

The House of Xtravaganza emerged from New York’s underground ball scene as one of the dominating cultural forces of the 80’s and 90’s. Joseph Cassara takes inspiration from that time period and its rival houses in order to create a narrative of four gay and transgender youth navigating the ball scene at the height the AIDS epidemic.

Queer History of Fashion

A fascinating book that looks at the LGBT community’s contribution to fashion and style since the 18th century. Many of the top fashion designers were gay such as Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. The content also focuses on queer history and culture. Wonderfully written with amazing illustrations.

GuRu by RuPaul

RuPaul has put together a distinctive collection of experiences from a fabulous career that spans over thirty-five years. There are 80 stunning photographs that help you envision the life you want. GuRu offers a self-actualizing philosophy that breaks with tradition and awakens the spirit within.

Venus Boyz by Gabriel Baur (DVD)

This documentary opens with a Drag King Night in New York. Performers are interviewed and share what draws them to explore issues of “masculinity” and “femininity.” For some it is a performance, but for others it is a life-long, transformative experience.

Hosanna by Michel Tremblay

Tremblay’s ground-breaking play about the relationship of a drag queen known as Hosanna has been called everything from political allegory to reactionary since its first performance in 1973. Recent productions show the play still speaks to modern generations.

Queer Nuns by Melissa M. Wilcox

Some activists get their point across with anger, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence support their causes with love and joy. Wilcox’s book considers the history and social context of the Sisters. Founded in San Francisco in 1979, the group combines drag, stylized religious costumes, and street performance to both enlighten and entertain. Vancouver, of course, has its very own chapter.

Drag by Frank DeCaro

If you want to educate yourself about drag herstory this is the book for you. Decaro takes you through over 100 years of drag in a series of witty and informative essays. The book is illustrated by over 100 photos, many of which are from the author’s personal collection.

I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

A frank and forthright autobiography of a New York City drag queen named Aqua. Sordid details are redeemed by the joy in the retelling of the story. The author has a personality bubblier than Craig Russell doing a Carol Channing impersonation. For a tamer story, check out Kilmer-Purcell’s current persona as one of the Beekman Boys.

Drag Teen: A Tale of Angst and Wigs by Jeffery Self

Could a drag teen competition be the ticket out of Clearwater, Florida that JT so desperately needs? The first prize, a college scholarship, could make JT’s dreams of being the first person in his family to go to college a reality.