The world of drag is as diverse as the rainbow it celebrates. There are young queens, old queens, pink queens, and every kind of queen you can think of. There is plenty of room for a more androgynous take on drag, as well as high-fashion, and even the classic comedic old lady style. So you’d be right in thinking that the books about drag are just as diverse.
Growing up, I loved Dame Edna, even though I didn’t understand what drag was then. I can look back to my childhood to find the basis for my love of drag, and it’s Dame Edna and her epic taste in glasses. I also really like Elton’s glasses when planning my drag, so I definitely have a giant-sparkly-glasses thing!
But drag queens are more than just what they look like. Queens are famously multi-talented, with some of the world’s best actors, models, comedians, dressmakers, singers, and dancers finding their home in the drag industry. With so many creative talents, it was only a matter of time before drag queens turned their hands to writing and photography.
The list below includes books by drag kings and queens. Lotte Jeffs is a particular inspiration of mine. She seems so confident and secure in herself, and I both admire that and aspire to be that. She is also the Deputy Editor of ELLE UK, which is a fantastic achievement. Her book is all about ‘the art of soft power in hard times, ‘ which is very relevant for the times we live in these days. It is incredible to see a queer woman taking up a very visible space.
I have tried to include as many women as possible, but drag undeniably slants to being predominately male. However, while in drag, queens often use she/her pronouns. I hope there’s something on this list to brighten up your world.
Drag Queen by Robert Dodi
First up, a satire. For some good old fashioned gender satire, look no further. Drag Queen is from 1995, but it couldn’t be more relevant right now. It also has a legal angle, as it’s about a gay attorney. I’m really into my legal books right now, so a legal novel starring a queer person, and drag queens? All the yes.
Dragman: A Novel by Steven Appleby
Dragman is a novel written by a drag queen. Steven Appleby is famous for his comics in Britain, but Dragman is a superhero story. The best part is that the superhero is a drag queen whose superpower is wearing women’s clothes. A fun read about one queen’s mission to save London. It’s worth checking out just for the illustrations alone.
Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez
A fun, illustrated book about queer history, with a focus on RuPaul’s Drag Race. You could look at the cover all day, there’s so much color and detail. The book frames Drag Race as a museum for queer history, with its library of iconic looks. A great choice for Pride month.
The Drag King Book by Del LaGrace Volcano, J. Jack Halberstam
Another drag king book! This one asks why women who dress up as men are not as well-known as men who dress up as women. It takes a look at some of the prejudices about drag kings and covers some famous drag king performers, like Elvis Herselvis.
Drag Stories of DRAG411, Vol. 1 featuring Alexis Matteo
Alexis Matteo is one of my favorite drag queens, so to see her starring in an anthology about drag is fantastic news. The book was released to aid queens (and kings), affected by HIV/AIDS. The focus of the anthology itself is humor.
The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara
A literary novel set in 1980, The House of Impossible Beauties follows the drag ball scene of Harlem, New York. It covers some heavy-hitting topics, like HIV/AIDS, but it is a beautiful story focusing on the wonderful world of Latino drag. The House, in question, is the House of Xtravanganza, an all-Latino house, and the first of its kind in Harlem.
Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
A fluffy YA novel about a lesbian, drag kings, and love. Join Nima as she navigates the crazy world of queer identity, drag, and romance. It’s written by someone who used to do drag, as a king, so it’s another excellent entry to the #OwnVoices roster.
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
If you haven’t heard of this beautiful picture book by now, I don’t know where you’ve been! But I’m glad to be the one to share it with you. Jessica Love’s picture book is about a little boy who wants to look as pretty as three women he sees in glamourous outfits. Julian particularly likes the ends of their dresses, which glitter like fishtails.
The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top by Michelle Visage
Everyone’s favorite sassy judge, Michelle Visage, tells it like it is. Her book explains the diva rules every female-identifying person could ever need. Michelle has achieved a huge amount in her career, and overcome an equally huge amount in her personal life, so her words of wisdom are priceless.
How to be a Gentlewoman: The Art of Soft Power in Hard Times by Lotte Jeffs
Not specifically about drag, but in the league of drag kings, Lotte Jeffs’s book teaches you everything you need to know about dressing like a gentlewoman. And it’s not just about dressing – Jeffs includes things like how to use a power drill! A fantastic choice if you’ve read everything on your shelf and are looking for something a little bit different.
Dr.A.G. by Christopher Logan, Mamio Marais
Looking for a sequin-filled coffee table book to liven up your living room? Take a look at this photo book of drag artists doing what they do best – performing. Just what you need to freshen up your lounge, having spent the last two or three months in it.
Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig
Caleb Roehrig’s novel had me at hello when I saw it was about a heist. And then I saw the words: “Four kick-boxing drag queens.” Here, take my money. If you’re getting depressed right now, this novel is the antidote. It is full of fun and adventure, and it has a stunning cover.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
A delightful tale about a prince and the wonderful dresses he wears. There’s a strong element of friendship, as well as drag, in this touching graphic novel by Jen Wang.
I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Another memoir, this one full of ‘tragi-camp’ and pageants, glitter, and nightclubs. The author is known for The Fabulous Beekman Boys TV show.
The Art of Drag by Jake Hall, Sofie Birkin, Helen Li, Jasjyot Singh Hans
An upcoming non-fiction book, full of gorgeous art. It shows readers the history of drag through beautiful illustration and fun comic characters. It came out in September this year.