A must-read for anyone interested in drag and LGBTQ+ history.
By Elyssa Maxx Goodman ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Goodman’s comprehensive report on the history of drag is a vibrant chronicle of the renegades and rebels who have created and maintained the drag lifestyle since the mid-1800s. The author has conducted meticulous research, including numerous hours of interview material, to explore the proliferation of gender impersonation in the 1800s despite a suppressive 1846 “masquerade law” forbidding it. This led to the popularity of masquerade “drag” balls in Harlem and Greenwich Village, which provided a more liberated form of performance and inspired actors like Mae West to defy conformity laws. However, law enforcement continued to disrupt the party, with increasingly violent raids on gay clubs and performance venues, adding fuel to a burgeoning liberation rebellion that culminated in the Stonewall riots of 1969.
The popularity of drag continued to grow, championed by artists like Andy Warhol, who increased awareness throughout the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Goodman also spotlights the fearless queens who embraced their craft regardless of naysayers or prohibitive laws, such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Joey Arias, and Divine. Venues like the East Village’s Pyramid Club, which was known for AIDS fundraisers, became a cultural workshop for queens to cultivate community, inspire activism, and develop their personas. Drag has since become more mainstream and commercialized thanks to programs like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Throughout this lively and celebratory book, Goodman portrays the dynamic forces of a fearless community bound by their love of performance and using “glamour as a potent force of resistance.”
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Review Posted Online: yesterday
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023