cover image The Art of Drag

The Art of Drag

Jake Hall, Sofie Birkin, Helen Li, and Jasjyot Singh Hans. Nobrow, $22.95 (136p) ISBN 978-1-910620-71-7

This stylish coffee-table/conversation piece illuminates the history of drag from its ancient roots in mime and traditional theater to the present day. With inset text in full-page illustrations, the volume covers such subjects as the all-male casts of Shakespeare plays, Kabuki theater and the Peking Opera, the Kathakali dancers of precolonial India and the Köçek, and young male dancers of the Ottoman empire. The lineage of cross-dressing performers is traced from Vaudeville and Pantomine to Jazz Age nightclubs, silent film stars, and the Harlem Renaissance, and to the key roles queens played in the queer liberation movements of the 1960s–1970s, overlapping with the founding of ballroom culture. The impact of prominent celebrity queens on popular culture is also highlighted, including Divine, Lady Bunny, and RuPaul. The American drag scene is more thoroughly explored than the rest of the world, though there are sections on Thailand’s version of Drag Race and the country’s Miss Tiffany’s Universe competition. The pages glow with brilliantly colorful illustrations, capturing all the queenly glamour; hot pinks and moody teals are contrasted with butter yellows and acid greens. Wigs have never looked taller, nor eye shadow so excessive. The result is a truly fabulous combination history and gift book. (Sept.)