Thank you to all of the writers, academics, scholars, & historians who provided us with these great works for all of us to learn and enjoy !

If you have any books to recommend that we can add to our bookstore, please let us know.
Write us at info@dragkinghistory.com

African American Performance and Theater

Edited by Harry J. Elam Jr and David Krasner
Published by Oxford University Press, 2001

African-American Performance and Theatre History is an anthology of critical writings that explores the intersections of race, theater, and performance in America. Assembled by two esteemed scholars in black theater and composed of essays from acknowledged authorities in the field, this volume is organized into four sections representative of the ways black theater, drama, and performance past and present interact and enact continuous social, cultural, and political dialogues. The premise behind the book is that analyzing African-American theater and performance traditions offers insight into how race has operated and continues to operate in American society. The only one-volume collection of its kind, this volume is likely to become the central reference for those studying black theater.

 

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The Art of Drag

by Jake Hall, Sofie Birkin, Helen Li, Jasjyot Singh Hans
Published by Nobrow, 2020

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, brimming with dazzling colors and fabulous facts, all held together with a unique Swiss binding that lets each spread lay flat so that you can experience this book in all its trailblazing glory! 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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Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies

by James F. Wilson
Published by University of Michigan Press, 2011

Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies shines the spotlight on historically neglected plays and performances that challenged early twentieth-century notions of the stratification of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. On Broadway stages, in Harlem nightclubs and dance halls, and within private homes sponsoring rent parties, African American performers of the 1920s and early 1930s teased the limits of white middle-class morality. Blues-singing lesbians, popularly known as “bulldaggers,” performed bawdy songs; cross-dressing men vied for the top prizes in lavish drag balls; and black and white women flaunted their sexuality in scandalous melodramas and musical revues. Race leaders, preachers, and theater critics spoke out against these performances that threatened to undermine social and political progress, but to no avail: mainstream audiences could not get enough of the riotous entertainment.

Many of the plays and performances explored here, central to the cultural debates of their time, had been previously overlooked by theater historians. Among the performances discussed are David Belasco’s controversial production of Edward Sheldon and Charles MacArthur’s Lulu Belle (1926), with its raucous, libidinous view of Harlem. The title character, as performed by a white woman in blackface, became a symbol of defiance for the gay subculture and was simultaneously held up as a symbol of supposedly immoral black women. African Americans Florence Mills and Ethel Waters, two of the most famous performers of the 1920s, countered the Lulu Belle stereotype in written statements and through parody, thereby reflecting the powerful effect this fictional character had on the popular imagination.

Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies is based on historical archival research including readings of eyewitness accounts, newspaper reports, songs, and playscripts. Employing a cultural studies framework that incorporates queer and critical race theory, it argues against the widely held belief that the stereotypical forms of black, lesbian, and gay show business of the 1920s prohibited the emergence of distinctive new voices. Specialists in American studies, performance studies, African American studies, and gay and lesbian studies will find the book appealing, as will general readers interested in the vivid personalities and performances of the singers and actors introduced in the book.

 

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The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre

by Laurence Senelick
Published by Routledge, 2000

The answers to these questions – and much, much more – are to be found in The Changing Room, which traces the origins and variations of theatrical cross-dressing through the ages and across cultures. It examines:

• tribal rituals and shamanic practices in the Balkans and Chinese-Tibet

• the gender-bending elements of Greek and early Christian religion

• the homosexual appeal of the boy actor on the traditional stage of China, Japan and England

• the origins of the dame comedian, the principal boy, the glamour drag artiste and the male impersonator

• artists such as David Bowie, Boy George, Charles Ludlam, Dame Edna Everage, Lily Savage, Candy Darling, Julian Clary and the New York Dolls.

Lavishly illustrated with unusual and rare pictures, this is the first ever cross-cultural study of theatrical transvestism. It is a must for anyone interested in cross-dressing, theatre, and gender.

 

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Crossing the Stage: Controversies on Cross-Dressing

Edited by Lesley Ferris
Published by Routledge, 1993

Crossing the Stage brings together for the first time essays which explore cross-dressing in theatre, cabaret, opera and dance. The volume contains seminal pieces which have become standard texts in the field, as well as new work especially commissioned from leading writers on performance.

Crossing the Stage is an indispensable sourcebook on theatrical cross-dressing. It will be essential reading for all those interested in performance and the representation of gender.

 

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The Drag King Anthology

by Donna Troka, Kathleen Lebesco, Jean Noble

Dispelling the myth that drag kings are simply, “women doing drag”, the Drag King Anthology, presents enlightening essays that address gender, sexuality and feminism.Using prose, poetry and, photographs, an eclectic mix of scholars, performers and fans offer cultural and political, insights on the international growth and, development of drag king troupes and communities.

 

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The Drag King Book

by Judith “Jack” Halberstam & Del LaGrace Volcano

This book, the first to chart the explosive rise of drag kings, combines the photographs of (100 of drag kings from London, New York, and San Francisco) Del LaGrace Volcano with the text of Judith Halberstam.

 

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Drag: The Complete Story

by Simon Doonan

Drag is transformation, communication, and, above all, exaggeration, where gender non-conformity is the plat du jour. This fearless book observes this increasingly complex world by exploring drag’s journey – from the surprising, to the sophisticated, to the utterly bizarre – through the twentieth century and up to the present day.

With witty text, dazzling photography, and corralled into thematic chapters, this is the first flamboyant and poignant survey of drag culture. Drag is not just for fabulous queens and drag enthusiasts, but for anyone interested in gender fluidity and the culture surrounding it.

 

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Female Masculinity

by Jack Halberstam
Published by Duke University Press, 1998

In this quintessential work of queer theory, Jack Halberstam takes aim at the protected status of male masculinity and shows that female masculinity has offered a distinct alternative to it for well over two centuries. Demonstrating how female masculinity is not some bad imitation of virility, but a lively and dramatic staging of hybrid and minority genders, Halberstam catalogs the diversity of gender expressions among masculine women from nineteenth-century pre-lesbian practices to contemporary drag king performances. Through detailed textual readings as well as empirical research, Halberstam uncovers a hidden history of female masculinities while arguing for a more nuanced understanding of gender categories that would incorporate rather than pathologize them. He rereads Anne Lister’s diaries and Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness as foundational assertions of female masculine identity; considers the enigma of the stone butch and the politics surrounding butch/femme roles within lesbian communities; and explores issues of transsexuality among “transgender dykes”-lesbians who pass as men-and female-to-male transsexuals who may find the label of “lesbian” a temporary refuge. Halberstam also tackles such topics as women and boxing, butches in Hollywood and independent cinema, and the phenomenon of male impersonators. Featuring a new preface by the author, this twentieth anniversary edition of Female Masculinity remains as insightful, timely, and necessary as ever.

 

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Gay L. A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians

by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons

Award-winning historian Lillian Faderman teams with journalist Stuart Timmons to write the first history of gay life in America’s ultimate frontier town: Los Angeles

The exhortation to “Go West!” has always had a strong hold on the American imagination. But for the gays, lesbians, and transgendered people who have moved to L.A. over the past two centuries, the City of Angels has offered a special home–which, in turn, gave rise to one of the most influential gay cultures in the world.

 

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Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940

by George Chauncey

The award-winning, field-defining history of gay life in New York City in the early to mid-20th century. Gay New York brilliantly shatters the myth that before the 1960s gay life existed only in the closet, where gay men were isolated, invisible, and self-hating. Drawing on a rich trove of diaries, legal records, and other unpublished documents, George Chauncey constructs a fascinating portrait of a vibrant, cohesive gay world that is not supposed to have existed. Called “monumental” (Washington Post), “unassailable” (Boston Globe), “brilliant” (Nation), and “a first-rate book of history” (New York Times), Gay New York forever changed how we think about the history of gay life in New York City, and beyond.

 

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Girls Will Be Boys

by Laura Horak

Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn all made lasting impressions with the cinematic cross-dressing they performed onscreen. What few modern viewers realize, however, is that these seemingly daring performances of the 1930s actually came at the tail end of a long wave of gender-bending films that included more than 400 movies featuring women dressed as men.

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100 of the Most Influential Gay Entertainers

by Jenettha J. Baines

Original couture fashion design. Flawless makeup. Perfectly executed performances. Attention-commanding stage presence. This is only the beginning of what makes an entertainer engaging and truly memorable. Welcome to a backstage pass into the intimate details of the lives of some of the world’s most influential gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and inter-sexed entertainers. These are their stories. Discover their fears and motivations. Experience the joy, excitement and fascination of working in the entertainment business.

These entertainers are locally appreciated, nationally known, and world traveled. They have performed everywhere from small smoke-filled clubs to Las Vegas stages. Their impact on the GLBTQI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, inter-sexed) communities in the United States and around the world is immeasurable. Entertainers such as RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants Nina Flowers, Ongina, and Rebecca Glasscock; legendary performers Mr. Charlie Brown from the infamous Backstreets of Atlanta; Tommie Ross and Hawaiian Goddess Dina Jacobs; celebrity impersonators Hot Chocklate as Tina Turner, Coti Collins as Reba McIntyre, Leigh Shannon as Bette Miller, and Andy “6-Pak” Citino as Kid Rock; Queen of Hawaii Tiana Anderson, Queen of Bermuda Sybil Barrington; the many faces of Tasha Long; the mother of Atlanta Niesha Dupree; female-to-male illusionists Romance St. James and Gage Gatlyn; the multi-talented actress and star of “The Dred Love Experience”, MilDred “DRED” Gerestant; the beautiful and talented Raquell Lord, Erica Andrews and Stasha Sanchez; “at large” Kelexis Davenport, Chelsea Pearl and former Alvin Ally student and house music diva Ebonee Excell; New York actress and comedian Harmonica Sunbeam and her sidekick Sugga Pie Koko, and the greatest femme and stud promoters of all time, Miss Theresa from New Jersey, Regina Franklin from Atlanta, Madison from New York, and many, many more entertainers across the United States and beyond!

 

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Intimate Investments in Drag King Cultures

The Rise and Fall of a Lesbian Social Scene
by Kerryn Drysdale

This book takes the globally recognised phenomenon of drag king performances as an opportunity for critical inquiry into the rise and fall of an urban scene for lesbian and queer women in Sydney, Australia (circa 1999-2012). But what happens when scenes fade, as they invariably do? Intimate Investments in Drag King Cultures is unique in capturing the perspective of a scene at the moment of its decline, revealing the process by which the contemporary drag king movement becomes layered with historical significance.

For a FREE PDF Download of this book, please contact the author Kerryn Drysdale. She will happily send you a copy.

 

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Just One of the Boys

by Gillian M. Rodger

Female-to-male crossdressing became all the rage in the variety shows of nineteenth-century America and began as the domain of mature actresses who desired to extend their careers. These women engaged in the kinds of raucous comedy acts usually reserved for men. Over time, as younger women entered the specialty, the comedy became less pointed and more centered on the celebration of male leisure and fashion

 

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Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America

by Lillian Faderman

Lillian Faderman tells the compelling story of lesbian life in the 20th century, from the early 1900s to today’s diverse lifestyles. Using journals, unpublished manuscripts, songs, news accounts, novels, medical literature, and numerous interviews, she relates an often surprising narrative of lesbian life. “A key work…the point of reference from which all subsequent studies of 20th-century lesbian life in the United States will begin.”—San Francisco Examiner.

 

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Mother Camp

by Esther Newton

For two years Esther Newton did field research in the world of drag queens—homosexual men who make a living impersonating women. Newton spent time in the noisy bars, the chaotic dressing rooms, and the cheap apartments and hotels that make up the lives of drag queens, interviewing informants whose trust she had earned and compiling a lively, first-hand ethnographic account of the culture of female impersonators. Mother Camp explores the distinctions that drag queens make among themselves as performers, the various kinds of night clubs and acts they depend on for a living, and the social organization of their work. A major part of the book deals with the symbolic geography of male and female styles, as enacted in the homosexual concept of “drag” (sex role transformation) and “camp,” an important humor system cultivated by the drag queens themselves.

 

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Early Professional Women in Northern Europe, c. 1650-1850

Edited by Johanna Ilmakunnas, Marjatta Rahikainen and Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen

This book focuses on early examples of women who may be said to have anticipated, in one way or another, modern professional and/or career-oriented women. The contributors to the book discuss women who may at least in some respect be seen as professionally ambitious, unlike the great majority of working women in the past. In order to improve their positions or to find better business opportunities, the women discussed in this book invested in developing their qualifications and professional skills, took economic or other kinds of risks, or moved to other countries. Socially, they range from elite women to women of middle-class and lower middle-class origin.

In terms of theory, the book brings fresh insights into issues that have been long discussed in the field of women’s history and are also debated today. However, despite its focus on women, the book is conceptually not so much focused on gender as it is on profession, business, career, qualifications, skills, and work. By applying such concepts to analyzing women’s endeavours, the book aims at challenging the conventional ideas about them.

 

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Queering Drag: Redefining the Discourse of Gender-Bending

by Meredith Heller
Published by Indiana University Press, 2020

Theatrical gender-bending, also called drag, is a popular form of entertainment and a subject of scholarly study. However, most drag studies do not question the standard words and ideas used to convey this performance genre. Drawing on a rich body of archival and ethnographic research, Meredith Heller illuminates diverse examples of theatrical gender-bending: male impersonation in variety and vaudeville (1860-1920); the “sexless” gender-bending of El Teatro Campesino (1960-1980); queer butch acts performed by black nightclub singers,; and the range of acts that compose contemporary drag king shows. Heller highlights how, in each case, standard drag discourses do not sufficiently capture the complexity of performers’ intents and methods, nor do they provide a strong enough foundation for holistically evaluating the impact of this work. Queering Drag offers redefinition of the genre centralized in the performer’s construction and presentation of a “queer” version of hegemonic identity, and it models a new set of tools for analyzing drag as a process of intents and methods enacted to effect specific goals. This new drag discourse not only allows for more complete and accurate descriptions of drag acts, but it also facilitates more ethical discussions about the bodies, identities, and products of drag performers.

 

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Sex, Drag, and Male Roles

by Diane Torr & Stephen Bottoms

This book documents the evolution of Torr’s work by blending first-person memoir and commentary from Torr with critical reflections and contextualization from leading performance critic Stephen J. Bottoms. The book includes a consideration of the long cultural history of female-to-male cross-dressing and concludes with Torr’s “Do-It-Yourself” guide to becoming a “Man for a Day.”

 

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Sex, Drag, and Male Roles

By Brenda Leedham and Lizzee Leedham
Published by The Crowood Press Ltd, 2020

The poetry and plays of William Shakespeare continue to provide inspiration for designers in all aspects of media. Shakespearean Wig Styling offers detailed historical guidance on the styles and fashions of the day, and guides you through twelve different wig designs covering a wide range of archetypal Shakespearian characters. Each example offers different techniques to meet the needs of the design, from material, knotting and curling to the final styling choices. Covering both the Tudor and Stuart periods, there are clear instructions within each example for making wigs from start to finish and adapting from the universal full-lace foundation to create alternative foundations, including added support for complicated styles such as the fontange. In addition, the book covers what to expect when working in the theatre or as a freelance wig-maker; fitting your client, measuring and taking a shell; methods for preparing the hair under a wig; knotting facial hair, hairpieces, hairlines, napes and partings; methods for breaking or dirtying down and finally, creating bald caps and receding hairline effects. This comprehensive book is an ideal companion for the newly qualified wig-maker and all professionals looking for a detailed reference guide to hairstyles from the Shakespearean era. 339 colour photos and 6 black & white photos.

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Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present

by Lillian Faderman

A classic of its kind, this fascinating cultural history draws on everything from private correspondence to pornography to explore five hundred years of friendship and love between women. Surpassing the Love of Men throws a new light on shifting theories of female sexuality and the changing status of women over the centuries.

 

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Vampires And Violets

by Andrea Weiss
Published by Penguin Books, 1992

A revelatory survey of lesbian identity in film–from the crossdressing stars like Garbo, Dietrich, and Hepburn to the vampire movies of the late ’60s, Silkwood and The Color Purple. With wit and political acumen, Weiss reveals the concealed world of a host of movies both popular and forgotten.

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Vested Interests

by Marjorie Garber
Published by Routledge, 1997

Beginning with the bold claim, “There can be no culture without the transvestite,” Marjorie Garber explores the nature and significance of cross-dressing and of the West’s recurring fascination with it. Rich in anecdote and insight, Vested Interests offers a provocative and entertaining view of our ongoing obsession with dressing up–and with the power of clothes.

 

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The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

by Lillian Faderman

The sweeping story of the modern struggle for gay, lesbian, and trans rights from the 1950s to the present—based on amazing interviews with politicians, military figures, legal activists, and members of the entire LGBT community who face these challenges every day.

In the words of the eyewitnesses who were there through the most critical events, The Gay Revolution paints a nuanced portrait of the LGBT civil rights movement. A defining account, this is the most complete and authoritative book of its kind.

 

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When Brooklyn Was Queer

by Hugh Ryan

Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer is a groundbreaking exploration of the LGBT history of Brooklyn, from the early days of Walt Whitman in the 1850s up through the queer women who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, and beyond. No other book, movie, or exhibition has ever told this sweeping story. Not only has Brooklyn always lived in the shadow of queer Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Harlem, but there has also been a systematic erasure of its queer history—a great forgetting.

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Women Playing Men

by Jin Jiang
Published by University of Washington Press, 2009

This ground-breaking volume documents women’s influence on popular culture in twentieth-century China by examining Yue opera. A subgenre of Chinese opera, it migrated from the countryside to urban Shanghai and morphed from its traditional all-male form into an all-female one, with women cross-dressing as male characters for a largely female audience.

Yue opera originated in the Zhejiang countryside as a form of story-singing, which rural immigrants brought with them to the metropolis of Shanghai. There, in the 1930s, its content and style transformed from rural to urban, and its cast changed gender. By evolving in response to sociopolitical and commercial conditions and actress-initiated reforms, Yue opera emerged as Shanghai’s most popular opera from the 1930s through the 1980s and illustrates the historical rise of women in Chinese public culture.

Jiang examines the origins of the genre in the context of the local operas that preceded it and situates its development amid the political, cultural, and social movements that swept both Shanghai and China in the twentieth century. She details the contributions of opera stars and related professionals and examines the relationships among actresses, patrons, and fans. As Yue opera actresses initiated reforms to purge their theater of bawdy eroticism in favor of the modern love drama, they elevated their social image, captured the public imagination, and sought independence from the patriarchal opera system by establishing their own companies. Throughout the story of Yue opera, Jiang looks at Chinese women’s struggle to control their lives, careers, and public images and to claim ownership of their history and artistic representations.

 

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