“Yes, they can!” one child cried out.
“No, they can’t,” said another.
“Boys can’t wear dresses,” a third added.
The debate continued as Harmonica Sunbeam listened. Then she leaned down, addressing the children in a conspiratorial stage whisper.
“Has anyone ever said anything mean to you?” she asked. The children responded with yeses and nos. “Sometimes it happens.”
This is Drag Queen Story Hour. The brainchild of the writer Michelle Tea and Radar Productions, it is exactly what it sounds like: drag queens reading stories to children. It began in San Francisco in December 2015 and spread to Brooklyn last summer, thanks to social media attention.
“I saw a Facebook post about it,” said Rachel Aimee, the Drag Queen Story Hour coordinator for New York, “and as soon as I saw it, I said, ‘Oh, this is what I’ve been waiting for.’” (Ms. Aimee, who doesn’t get paid for her work, plans on incorporating the program as a nonprofit.) She held the first reading at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn last August and caught the eye of Kat Savage, the children’s librarian at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Subsequent library events were a huge success, bringing in hundreds of patrons and the news media. That, in turn, caught the attention of Hudson Park’s children’s librarian, Stevie Feliciano.