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The Art of Drag

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Before RuPaul’s Drag Race propelled the cultural phenomenon into the global spotlight, drag had been around for thousands of years. Immerse yourself in the rich history of drag in this lusciously illustrated guide. The history of drag has been formed by many intersections: fashion, theatre, sexuality and politics—all coming together to create the show stopping entertainment Before RuPaul’s Drag Race propelled the cultural phenomenon into the global spotlight, drag had been around for thousands of years. Immerse yourself in the rich history of drag in this lusciously illustrated guide. The history of drag has been formed by many intersections: fashion, theatre, sexuality and politics—all coming together to create the show stopping entertainment millions witness today. In this extensive work, Jake Hall delves deep into the ancient beginnings of drag, to present day and beyond. Vibrant illustrations enhance the rich history from Kabuki theatre to Shakespearean, the revolutionary Stonewall riots to the still thriving New York ballroom scene. Nothing will go undocumented in this must-have documentation of all things drag.


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Before RuPaul’s Drag Race propelled the cultural phenomenon into the global spotlight, drag had been around for thousands of years. Immerse yourself in the rich history of drag in this lusciously illustrated guide. The history of drag has been formed by many intersections: fashion, theatre, sexuality and politics—all coming together to create the show stopping entertainment Before RuPaul’s Drag Race propelled the cultural phenomenon into the global spotlight, drag had been around for thousands of years. Immerse yourself in the rich history of drag in this lusciously illustrated guide. The history of drag has been formed by many intersections: fashion, theatre, sexuality and politics—all coming together to create the show stopping entertainment millions witness today. In this extensive work, Jake Hall delves deep into the ancient beginnings of drag, to present day and beyond. Vibrant illustrations enhance the rich history from Kabuki theatre to Shakespearean, the revolutionary Stonewall riots to the still thriving New York ballroom scene. Nothing will go undocumented in this must-have documentation of all things drag.

30 review for The Art of Drag

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maia

    A beautifully designed, brightly colored coffee-table style book, informative and very pleasing to the eye! There's definitely a Western/American focus, but other traditions are included as well from Kabuki theater, Peking opera, the Kathakali dancers (of precolonial India), to Thailand's Miss Tiffany Universe competition and Thai Drag Race. Drag queens who have had particular culture impact, such as Divine, RuPaul and Lady Bunny, get features as does the involvement of drag queen in queer liber A beautifully designed, brightly colored coffee-table style book, informative and very pleasing to the eye! There's definitely a Western/American focus, but other traditions are included as well from Kabuki theater, Peking opera, the Kathakali dancers (of precolonial India), to Thailand's Miss Tiffany Universe competition and Thai Drag Race. Drag queens who have had particular culture impact, such as Divine, RuPaul and Lady Bunny, get features as does the involvement of drag queen in queer liberation movements.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kazen

    The Art of Drag is pure joy, written and illustrated by queer folx. It's a book for the community, by the community that left a smile plastered on my face. The good: - It's an inclusive and all-encompassing look at drag from its history to the future of the art form. I especially love that we get to see drag from many parts of the world, including Eastern traditions such as kabuki and Takarazuka from Japan. - Artists of color and those that fall outside the drag queen mold are highlighted, includin The Art of Drag is pure joy, written and illustrated by queer folx. It's a book for the community, by the community that left a smile plastered on my face. The good: - It's an inclusive and all-encompassing look at drag from its history to the future of the art form. I especially love that we get to see drag from many parts of the world, including Eastern traditions such as kabuki and Takarazuka from Japan. - Artists of color and those that fall outside the drag queen mold are highlighted, including drag kings as well as androgynous and genderqueer performers. - The art style on the front is the entire book - bright colors, impactful spreads. Each chapter is done by a single artist and while their styles differ the cohesive color palette means everything hangs together. - Theoretically it's a one sitting book, but if you're like me you'll end up down delightful YouTube rabbit holes, watching Marlene Dietrich in classic movie scenes and performances by Lypsinka. The not-good-for-me: - This falls into the realm of personal taste, but I didn't gel with one of the artists. The faces were so exaggerated I wondered if x person really looked like that. I learned so much and delighted in every part of Art of Drag. If you have any interest in drag or queer culture this is an easy recommend. If you'd like to hear gushing right after I read it check out my February Wrap Up Part 1 on YouTube. Thanks to Nobrow Books for providing an advance copy.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brionny Fox

    This book is beautiful. So much so, that it almost didn’t really matter what was written in it. I did learn about a few drag pioneers that I’d not heard of before, but let’s be honest, this coffee table book is all about the illustrations. In particular the cover artist Helen Li and her chapters on ‘Art of Freak’ and ‘Influence’. Sickening.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    Stunning!! A beautifully brightly colored, hardback book, chocked full with information and joyful illustrations. With a mostly Western focus, other traditions are included as well from Kabuki theater, Peking opera, the Kathakali dancers, to Thailand's Miss Tiffany Universe competition and Thai Drag Race. With a dash of Pantomime Dames and Drag Comics of the UK, to Drag in Hollywood films. (Mrs Doubtfire) Drag queens who have had particular culture impact, such as Divine, RuPaul and Lady Bunny, get Stunning!! A beautifully brightly colored, hardback book, chocked full with information and joyful illustrations. With a mostly Western focus, other traditions are included as well from Kabuki theater, Peking opera, the Kathakali dancers, to Thailand's Miss Tiffany Universe competition and Thai Drag Race. With a dash of Pantomime Dames and Drag Comics of the UK, to Drag in Hollywood films. (Mrs Doubtfire) Drag queens who have had particular culture impact, such as Divine, RuPaul and Lady Bunny, get features as does the involvement of drag queen in queer liberation movements. This is lovely starting point on the history of Drag, and i am very pleased it has been produced in such an artistic way.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I LOVED this! I found this in the bookshop I used to work in and the illustrations caught my eye. This is such a beautifully crafted book and would make a perfect gift and coffee table book. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, it covers quite a diverse history of drag. It is mainly US-centric but it does talk about the history of drag in other countries. I particularly loved the section titled "the future of drag" which focused on a few drag kings and queens and how they are shaping drag I LOVED this! I found this in the bookshop I used to work in and the illustrations caught my eye. This is such a beautifully crafted book and would make a perfect gift and coffee table book. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, it covers quite a diverse history of drag. It is mainly US-centric but it does talk about the history of drag in other countries. I particularly loved the section titled "the future of drag" which focused on a few drag kings and queens and how they are shaping drag and what they want to see in the future. It also has a brilliant bibliography for further viewing and reading which I also loved.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brittney

    What a great book! Even though this is considered adult nonfiction, it read to me like a nonfiction YA graphic novel because there was so much focus on the art, and I really liked it! I learned a lot about the history of Drag culture, and I had fun googling a lot of the people they talked about. Although it looks a little chunky it is actually a really quick read. Very fun, I recommend! RECOMMENDED FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO READ ABOUT: LGBTQIA+ culture, history, human rights, art, fashion, pop cult What a great book! Even though this is considered adult nonfiction, it read to me like a nonfiction YA graphic novel because there was so much focus on the art, and I really liked it! I learned a lot about the history of Drag culture, and I had fun googling a lot of the people they talked about. Although it looks a little chunky it is actually a really quick read. Very fun, I recommend! RECOMMENDED FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO READ ABOUT: LGBTQIA+ culture, history, human rights, art, fashion, pop culture.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    beautiful illustrations :') beautiful illustrations :')

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hayley Dunning

    An uplifting celebration and beautiful history.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Klassen

    Super beautiful, colourful, bold, inspirational book. From the first recorded instances of cross dressing to Shakespearean and kabuki theatre to RuPaul and her many, many children, drag is for EVERYONE.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol Youssif

    This book's strength relies on the well researched information, and the fact that it's not USA-centric. I learned a lot more about cultures and other countries' drag scene and LGBTQIA issues. I loved this book and highly recommend it! This book's strength relies on the well researched information, and the fact that it's not USA-centric. I learned a lot more about cultures and other countries' drag scene and LGBTQIA issues. I loved this book and highly recommend it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    that girl who reads

    Drag as a concept has always fascinated me. However, my knowledge of drag comes almost exclusively from watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. This book did such a phenomenal job at exploring the history of drag throughout several cultures as well as its intersections with politics, theatre, music and fashion. The whole design of this book is absolutely stunning! I am obsessed with its vibrant, gorgeous illustrations. I loved the fluorescent pink borders and sprayed pages, the iridescent details on the cov Drag as a concept has always fascinated me. However, my knowledge of drag comes almost exclusively from watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. This book did such a phenomenal job at exploring the history of drag throughout several cultures as well as its intersections with politics, theatre, music and fashion. The whole design of this book is absolutely stunning! I am obsessed with its vibrant, gorgeous illustrations. I loved the fluorescent pink borders and sprayed pages, the iridescent details on the cover and even the exposed binding of the pages is so so cool. I think the illustrations and cover design make it the perfect coffee-table-book to flick through in awe. Jake Hall ambitiously whisks us through such a vast range of topics at such a quick pace. It is a great introduction to drag’s many forms and influences, but definitely goes for breadth over depth. For me, this was exactly what I wanted, but I can see that anyone looking for a more in-depth discussion would be left hungry for more. I absolutely plan to make my way through the lengthy bibliography of documentaries and films to delve further into the sections that captured my interest most. I think that is probably the best way to use this book, like map rather than a completed journey. I think what I loved about this book most is its emphasis that “drag is for everyone”. It was such a brilliant celebration of all genres of drag, not just the commercially successful ones. As a RuPaul fan, it opened my eyes to what even RuPaul’s Drag Race is lacking and emphasised that there is more to drag than Drag Race, which I really liked. Like myself, there are many people who are ignorant about drag despite enjoying it. I think that understanding its roots has made me appreciate it even more as an art form. I particularly celebrated it’s focus on how women and BAME have been just as crucial in pushing drag forwards as white men have. Although gender is obviously discussed, this book goes beyond even that. It is about being human and celebrating self-expression, in whatever form that might take. I think for this reason, this book, and drag itself, really is for everyone. It carries such a powerful and positive message that we can all learn from. We can all apply drag to our own lives, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary you strive to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    The Art of Drag is a semi-graphic novel written by Jake Hall and illustrated by the team of Sofie Birkin, Helen Li, and Jasjyot Singh Hans. This stylish coffee-table/conversation piece illuminates the history of drag from its ancient roots in mime and traditional theater to the present day. This graphic novel covers such subjects as the all-male casts of Shakespeare plays, Kabuki Theater and the Peking Opera, the Kathakali dancers of pre-colonial India, and the Köçek, and young male dancers of th The Art of Drag is a semi-graphic novel written by Jake Hall and illustrated by the team of Sofie Birkin, Helen Li, and Jasjyot Singh Hans. This stylish coffee-table/conversation piece illuminates the history of drag from its ancient roots in mime and traditional theater to the present day. This graphic novel covers such subjects as the all-male casts of Shakespeare plays, Kabuki Theater and the Peking Opera, the Kathakali dancers of pre-colonial India, and the Köçek, and young male dancers of the Ottoman Empire. The lineage of cross-dressing performers is traced from Vaudeville and Pantomime 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 Art of Drag is written and constructed rather well. With inset text in full-page illustrations, 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, but capture the art of drag wonderfully. All in all, The Art of Drag is a wonderful and colorful history of the history and art of the drag.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    Hugely disappointing. From the very odd binding (text block attached only at the back cover) to the illustrations. Apparently the awkward binding is on purpose so the pages will lie flat. But only Most of them lie flat. Where the page signatures come together the pages are glued and don't lie flat. I thought most of the artwork was ugly, some more than others. A few gave me a hint of the gorgeousness of the original, but I was hoping for photos of real people, not somebody's cartoonish depiction Hugely disappointing. From the very odd binding (text block attached only at the back cover) to the illustrations. Apparently the awkward binding is on purpose so the pages will lie flat. But only Most of them lie flat. Where the page signatures come together the pages are glued and don't lie flat. I thought most of the artwork was ugly, some more than others. A few gave me a hint of the gorgeousness of the original, but I was hoping for photos of real people, not somebody's cartoonish depictions. I got a bit of the history and other cultures behind drag influences, but not enough. This is the only reason there's even a 2-star review. Except for the historical part and the minimal amount on Japanese, Chinese and Turkish influences, it rates only one star. The binding is especially a problem because I got my copy from the library. This won't last as long as library books are supposed to. Chapters are: The art of Performance, The art of Glamour, The art of War, The art of Freak, The art of Charisma, The art of Influence, The Future of Drag. There's a 2-page bibliography, an index, and brief biographies of the contributors. Of course, I'm not the target audience, just somebody curious to learn more of an unfamiliar culture. Based on this book, I'm not inclined to find out more. I certainly won't ever care to reread this or recommend it to anybody.

  14. 5 out of 5

    B

    This has to be the best illustrated historical novel I've ever read.I learned so much about the history of Drag in all its many forms. Its diverse history intersects with so many other minorities and I never realised it. The pictures are lush and vibrant too. Each spread is brightly colored and beautiful. Perfectly unique, each image is used to illustrate its descriptive paragraph allowing readers to immerse themselves in history and art. Every page was like an adventure through time The book it This has to be the best illustrated historical novel I've ever read.I learned so much about the history of Drag in all its many forms. Its diverse history intersects with so many other minorities and I never realised it. The pictures are lush and vibrant too. Each spread is brightly colored and beautiful. Perfectly unique, each image is used to illustrate its descriptive paragraph allowing readers to immerse themselves in history and art. Every page was like an adventure through time The book itself becomes a work of art worth of any collector.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ally

    Not only is this book an absolute work of art, it does a great job of covering the fascinating history of drag, performance, and important figures of both past and present who refused to conform to gender boundaries and restrictions. I DEVOURED this book in less than a day and absolutely loved the artistic aesthetic: it was neon eye candy that was as over the top and fabulous as drag itself. Highly recommend as a coffee table book as well as an informed look at drag his(her)story!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Davina

    I love books about the art and history of drag beyond the Drag Race franchise. The art in this one is playful and exquisite and I appreciated the inclusion of several famous drag kings I had never heard of before. Additionally, I really loved that the authors made the point that drag is and always has been for everyone, including trans and nonbinary people as well as cisgendered women.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    I was ready to love this, but I was not prepared to gag on its eleganza. Hall et al. take the reader through a history of drag and cross-dressing that many may not know, followed by analysis of modern drag pop culture, then a hopeful look to the future. The whole work is filled with beautiful, colorful illustrations perfectly befitting the style and glamor of the drag queens.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

    The history of the art of drag is so incredibly fascinating. I loved learning about every element of drag - the lgbtqia+ history, the pioneers of drag, the importance of ballroom, the influence from and on film, television and in music, and the inclusion of several high profile drag queens who have brought drag to where it is today. Inclusive, interesting, and beautifully illustrated and written!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    This is one of many illustrated history nonfiction books I've read recently, chronicling the earliest forms of drag up until today. I appreciate that they didn't conflate drag with sexual orientation/gender, although it does go hand-in-hand with the LGBT movement. This is one of many illustrated history nonfiction books I've read recently, chronicling the earliest forms of drag up until today. I appreciate that they didn't conflate drag with sexual orientation/gender, although it does go hand-in-hand with the LGBT movement.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mikey The High School Librarian

    Great book for people who want a 101 experience to Drag culture and it’s history. Lots of key words to dig deeper. I feel like this is a great starting point for anyone who loves Drag. The art is amazing!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Megan Mann

    A STUNNING historical look at the lifetime of drag dating back all the way to Ancient Greece and ending on what some current trailblazers believe is the future of drag. Absolutely incredible and a must read for drag, art, and history buffs alike. Love love LOVED it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy through Edelweiss.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Krisha Mae

    I want to read this too

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachael

    Very informative and fabulously colourful book!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dez

    Really enjoyed the illustrations.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Léa Heynitz

    Beautiful

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie Botnick

    The illustrations and book design are absolutely gorgeous. There are three separate illustrators, and their different aesthetics are unique but also blend seamlessly. It’s such a visual treat.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Crupper

    Wonderful illustrations!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Holbert

    Overall Opinion: Absolute read for fans of the drag scene and culture, or anyone wanting more information on the topic.

  30. 5 out of 5

    dale ✿

    this book has stunning art and was fun to read!!! :) i really enjoyed it.

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