Over the next few months, we’ll be hearing from different community voices about what a Modern First Library means to them! Below, Austin drag queen and storyteller Honey St. Claire shares her story. Read more from the series here.
I’m Honey St. Claire, Austin’s most prominent gluten-free drag queen. During my time as a performer and alleged local celebrity, I’ve been involved in a variety of artistic endeavors: I’ve created and hosted a monthly cosplay drag show, I’ve impersonated Kim Davis and crashed a wedding, I’ve danced on stage with Brooke Candy while wearing a gorilla suit– and all of it in heels, no less! One of my crowning achievements thus far though, has been the opportunity to host a Drag Storytime at BookPeople.
On a Tuesday morning, myself and a couple of other drag performers selected and read some of our favorite children’s books while a sea of children looked and listened in earnest. We laughed, we cried, we were done before noon. Despite the brevity of the event, the impact was immediate and severe. Not only did we as LGBTQIA artists get to experience and interact with children, but the amount of queer and inquisitive children in attendance completely stunned us. We saw little kids who were free to wear what they wanted, act how they felt was natural, and express themselves in a safe and accepting space. Something that I, and many others from my generation and prior, never had access to.
The library as a whole seems to be hurling towards modernity at long last. The idea of a Modern First Library, to me, is a place where anyone can walk in and see themselves reflected in the pages of a book. Not only LGBTQIA children, but also disabled children, multiracial children, and children of all shapes and sizes. It is a lot different from when I was a child. When I was young, I could only really find myself in two forms: the dusty old tomes of science, which viewed me and others like me as more of a case study than a community of living human beings; or in the yellowed pages of tawdry shock novels that always tried to insert a couple of token LGBTQIA characters to the delighted gasps of their readers. Neither of these options were particularly easy to come by, nor were they suitable for children. All of that is changing for the better. Libraries are gaining entire Pride sections for curious children to browse through. They are filling with books that are educational, sensitive, and realistic for young readers. I wish it would have been that way for me, but that remorse does nothing to dampen my excitement for the generations to come.
I know what you’re thinking: “Enough of the sob story! What books should I read?” Well, I’m delighted to tell you some of my favorites. At the top of my list is Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton and illustrated by Dougal MacPherson. It presents the story of a teddy bear that transitions. It’s simple, it’s short, and it examines the fact that true friends will be there regardless of how you identify. Next time you are at any bookstore or library, take 5 minutes out of your day to pick it up. If they don’t have it, ask that it be ordered. It’s heartwarming and beautifully illustrated. It’s truly a favorite of mine.
Another one I’d like to recommend is Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall. Simply put, this fun tale lets kids know that the labels we are made to wear don’t always accurately describe who we really are. It’s brilliant, it’s beautiful, and it’s easy for children of all ages to understand. Another great choice is Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. It’s a tear-jerker about becoming who you want to be, as well as the importance of a family that accepts you. Also, the illustrations in this book are absolutely breathtaking. Each page on its own is gallery worthy.
All of these three books are great stories for any and all children. Because even if your own child doesn’t identify with any of the characters, chances are they know another kid who will. It’s never too early to talk about acceptance.
So, there you have it, one drag queen’s short look into an evolving literary scene and the bright future for the LGBTQIA youth of tomorrow. I hope that you will take some time to read the books I recommended, as well as take the time to find some favorites of your own. If you’re ever in Austin, Texas please stop by Drag Storytime at BookPeople. I hope that more kids will be able to find entertainment and inspiration in the LGBTQIA adults that came before them.
I also recommend that you, the adult reading this, find some time for yourself to read some children’s books, because your inner child is still alive– and most likely very bored.
Ms. Honey recommends:
- Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton & Dougal MacPherson
- Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
- Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
- The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone & Michael Smollin
- Maurice the Unbeastly by Amy Dixon & Karl James Mountford