Saturday, August 12, 2023

Book Review: Glitter and Concrete

From the lush feather boas that adorned early female impersonators to the sequined lip syncs of barroom queens to the drag kings that have us laughing in stitches, drag has played a vital role in the creative life of New York City. But the evolution of drag in the city—as an art form, a community and a mode of liberation—has never before been fully chronicled.

For the first time, journalist and drag historian Elyssa Maxx Goodman unearths the dramatic, provocative untold story of drag in NYC in all its glistening glory. Goodman ducks beneath the velvet ropes of Harlem Renaissance balls, examines drag’s crucial role in the Stonewall Uprising, traces drag's influence on disco and punk rock as well as its unifying power during the AIDS crisis and 9/11, and culminates in the era of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Glitter and Concrete will be published September 12, 2023. Hanover Square Press, an imprint of Harlequin Trade Publishing, provided an early galley for review.

Growing up in the 70's seeing Milton Berle, Flip Wilson and Bugs Bunny on television, drag was always just another aspect of the entertainment industry to me. It was something that I felt normalized to. It was not offensive. It was not subversive. It was something that went back to the times of Shakespeare and likely even further. And, I have always been a huge fan of The Birdcage and The Adventures of Prscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I must applaud Goodman for doing her research. She presents so many amazing profiles from the history of drag, stretching back to the middle of the 19th Century up through the first fifth of the 21st Century. I appreciated how she explained the evolution of the art-form as the times and social norms changed as well. She weaves in the ongoing in the Big Apple with the lives of the interesting individuals, creating a living breathing narrative. I learned a lot about the culture from reading this book.

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