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Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life

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Legendary Children centers itself around the idea that not only is Drag Race the queerest show in the history of television, but that RuPaul and company devised a show that serves as an actual museum of queer cultural and social history, drawing on queer traditions and the work of legendary figures going back nearly a century. In doing so, Drag Race became not only a repos Legendary Children centers itself around the idea that not only is Drag Race the queerest show in the history of television, but that RuPaul and company devised a show that serves as an actual museum of queer cultural and social history, drawing on queer traditions and the work of legendary figures going back nearly a century. In doing so, Drag Race became not only a repository of queer history and culture, but an examination and illustration of queer life in the modern age. It is a snapshot of how LGBTQ folks live, struggle, work and reach out to each other – and how they always have.


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Legendary Children centers itself around the idea that not only is Drag Race the queerest show in the history of television, but that RuPaul and company devised a show that serves as an actual museum of queer cultural and social history, drawing on queer traditions and the work of legendary figures going back nearly a century. In doing so, Drag Race became not only a repos Legendary Children centers itself around the idea that not only is Drag Race the queerest show in the history of television, but that RuPaul and company devised a show that serves as an actual museum of queer cultural and social history, drawing on queer traditions and the work of legendary figures going back nearly a century. In doing so, Drag Race became not only a repository of queer history and culture, but an examination and illustration of queer life in the modern age. It is a snapshot of how LGBTQ folks live, struggle, work and reach out to each other – and how they always have.

30 review for Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Giveaway win! 4.5 Stars I loved this book! I would have given it 5 stars, had it been longer. This book was simply too short. Legendary Children is about the history of Queer culture told through the prism of RuPaul's Drag Race. RuPaul is a legend. He was one of the first Drag Queens I ever saw on tv. I can't remember if I saw Divine in Hairspray or RuPaul's Supermodel music video first. I was fortunate enough to have grown up knowing several Drag Queens. My mom's best friend from high school Bobb Giveaway win! 4.5 Stars I loved this book! I would have given it 5 stars, had it been longer. This book was simply too short. Legendary Children is about the history of Queer culture told through the prism of RuPaul's Drag Race. RuPaul is a legend. He was one of the first Drag Queens I ever saw on tv. I can't remember if I saw Divine in Hairspray or RuPaul's Supermodel music video first. I was fortunate enough to have grown up knowing several Drag Queens. My mom's best friend from high school Bobby was a Drag Queen and he used to tell me and my sister that he was our real mom. Bobby was fabulous and when I was a kid I wanted to be a Drag Queen when I was older. Of course I'm a girl so I can never be a Drag Queen but I like to think that I live my life like a female Drag Queen. Legendary Children felt more like an appetizer. I wrote down a couple names so I could do further research and in the introduction the authors say as much. They want the reader to Google these amazing and brave trailblazers. Here are the names of people I either already have researched on plan on researching. - Crystal LeBeija - Venus Xtravaganza - Jackie Shane - Gladys Bentley And so many more. I learned so much about Queer culture and like all things cool and revolutionary Black and Latinx people were on the front lines. Let's just be honest Black and Latinx people make everything cooler. Legendary Children made me laugh and it made me shake with rage at how brutally some of these beautiful and brave people were treated. AIDS is an asshole and so were the world leaders and medical "professionals" who ignored it because it was "only killing those people". Culture has come along way but we still have an extremely long way to go. Transgender people (mostly of color)are being murdered at an alarming rate. In most states its still legal to discriminate against Queer people in various ways. We've made progress but we still have lots of work to do and we as Cis-gendered people need to do more. A must read! I highly recommend it! Drop everything and read this book!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    Could this book have been more up my alley? I guess if it had also somehow included Agatha Christie, perhaps, but oh man, this was exactly the kind of niche social history I adore about a topic I love. I learned so much in this book about the history of queer performance communities in the last hundred years (BTW, so thankful to discover I am alive in the same time of history as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence), and I appreciated how the book used Drag Race as a jumping off point to explore Could this book have been more up my alley? I guess if it had also somehow included Agatha Christie, perhaps, but oh man, this was exactly the kind of niche social history I adore about a topic I love. I learned so much in this book about the history of queer performance communities in the last hundred years (BTW, so thankful to discover I am alive in the same time of history as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence), and I appreciated how the book used Drag Race as a jumping off point to explore its roots in earlier queer media traditions. The only thing that would have taken this up to 11 for me would have been to get even more specific or analytical about the Drag Race element that served as the entry point into the topic being discussed- I would have liked a little more Drag Race, basically. Like I thought the section analyzing Latrice's performance really drove home the bigger picture the authors were painting about the function of lip sync in drag communities. More of that would have made the book amazing... still HIGHLY recommend this as a fun, inspiring type of social history that gave me a new level of respect & appreciation for the art of drag

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    At the beginning of this, the authors say they expect you to read it with one hand always googling the folks they write about to get a deeper knowledge than they can give. Let me tell you: they are right. Much like a great oral history (I’m thinking of EDIE or MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM), Tom and Lorenzo’s book is catnip for people wanting an entry into a world they think they know, but have barely scratched the surface on. LEGENDARY CHILDREN is sneaky af in getting you to pick it up for the Drag R At the beginning of this, the authors say they expect you to read it with one hand always googling the folks they write about to get a deeper knowledge than they can give. Let me tell you: they are right. Much like a great oral history (I’m thinking of EDIE or MEET ME IN THE BATHROOM), Tom and Lorenzo’s book is catnip for people wanting an entry into a world they think they know, but have barely scratched the surface on. LEGENDARY CHILDREN is sneaky af in getting you to pick it up for the Drag Race component - yes, don’t worry, that’s in there, but this is really an entry point for people to learn the (I’m gonna say it) herstory of queer, trans, and non-binary artists and performers of the past century and a half. It’s pretty remarkable and so very very well done.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    Legendary Children is less a history of Drag Race than it is a primer on a century of queer (almost entirely American) history which uses the show as a lens to examine everything from Tom of Finland’s fetishisation of the male form to the Stonewall Riots, from the iconic lipsync of Tandi Iman Dupree (seriously, look that one up on YouTube) to the communal activism of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez are keen to stress that this is not an attempt to provide Legendary Children is less a history of Drag Race than it is a primer on a century of queer (almost entirely American) history which uses the show as a lens to examine everything from Tom of Finland’s fetishisation of the male form to the Stonewall Riots, from the iconic lipsync of Tandi Iman Dupree (seriously, look that one up on YouTube) to the communal activism of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez are keen to stress that this is not an attempt to provide a definitive history of either Drag Race or queer life in the U.S. post-1880. If you approach the book with the expectation that it will be either, you will be disappointed; even with that caveat granted, there were times when I wanted a little more depth, a little more discussion of some of the people discussed. But I think younger LGBTQ readers in particular should appreciate it for its light, often witty tone paired with careful contextualisation of the figures and moments who are discussed. Fitzgerald and Marquez take pains to excavate the deep, multi-branched roots of drag and to show how much history the culture does have.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    There was something cheesy about this but also I learned so much that it didn't really matter. It had a really logical structure, with each chapter connecting an area of Drag Race (lip syncing, runway, acting, etc.) to a larger part of queer/trans history. It's much more about that LGBTQ history than about Drag Race itself. It really is a great read if your main introduction to or knowledge of drag comes from the show, because it gives an incredible amount of context and breadth to the world and There was something cheesy about this but also I learned so much that it didn't really matter. It had a really logical structure, with each chapter connecting an area of Drag Race (lip syncing, runway, acting, etc.) to a larger part of queer/trans history. It's much more about that LGBTQ history than about Drag Race itself. It really is a great read if your main introduction to or knowledge of drag comes from the show, because it gives an incredible amount of context and breadth to the world and history of drag. If you already know a lot about drag ancestors you probably don't need to read this book! I love that it encourages you to do more research and to always be looking up the people they're talking about. It would have been nice if this book had a visual component! The cover is so incredible it makes me wish it was a graphic novel (specifically illustrated by the artist Cheyne Gallard) or even a coffee table book (I looked at so many incredible photos of different queens and performers while reading this). My main gripe is that I think they could've been a lot more critical while still maintaining the nuance they were striving for. Overall, I am just so pleased with how much I learned!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Legendary Children is a fun and important read that delves into queer history dating back to the early 1900’s to today—but all framed within the context of RuPaul’s Drag Race. How does that work? Oh, bitch it does!⁣ ⁣ Legendary Children paints RuPaul’s Drag Race as a shrine or museum for queer history and culture. It exposes the show and how everything—literally every detail: from lipstick messages to fashion runways—is inspired by, a reference to or is honoring queer culture, history, and our her Legendary Children is a fun and important read that delves into queer history dating back to the early 1900’s to today—but all framed within the context of RuPaul’s Drag Race. How does that work? Oh, bitch it does!⁣ ⁣ Legendary Children paints RuPaul’s Drag Race as a shrine or museum for queer history and culture. It exposes the show and how everything—literally every detail: from lipstick messages to fashion runways—is inspired by, a reference to or is honoring queer culture, history, and our heroes of the past. ⁣ ⁣ But this book is not a RuPaul’s Drag Race book. It uses it as a jump off point and a connection to the mainstream—as arguably their largest connection to queer culture. Really though this is a history book. And an important one. ⁣ ⁣ The authors make this information digestible to read. And if you’re like me and never got higher than a C in white history that public school forces you to take then you’re gonna love their approach. ⁣ ⁣ But the fact that it’s a light read isn’t to its detriment. The authors encourage you to read this book with one hand. Using your other hand to pick up your phone to YouTube these queer icons and watch their legendary performances, to fucking google and do your own deeper dive, to find photos, and to make your own stronger connections to this history and it’s people. ⁣ ⁣ It was a really awesome read! I loved it. Thank you @penguinbooks for sending me this ARC!⁣

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher as a part of a Goodreads giveaway. I'll start with the good. The voice of this book was fun--usually breezy but with the ability to dig its claws in when necessary--and it was genuinely a delight to read. Were this a blog, I'd be happy to settle down with a post once a week as a quick read. It also has a great set of suggestions for further reading and viewing with regard to queer history, ball culture and drag, and I've put several of its suggestio I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher as a part of a Goodreads giveaway. I'll start with the good. The voice of this book was fun--usually breezy but with the ability to dig its claws in when necessary--and it was genuinely a delight to read. Were this a blog, I'd be happy to settle down with a post once a week as a quick read. It also has a great set of suggestions for further reading and viewing with regard to queer history, ball culture and drag, and I've put several of its suggestions on hold at the library. However, it's the structure of this book that fundamentally did not work for me. The loosely connected essays are, taken individually, bite-sized bits of LGBTQ+ history, but when they are sorted into categories based on the segments of Drag Race and placed in an order that makes sense for those segments but not for the essays I am left asking who this book is for. Is it for people unconnected with queer history and culture but familiar with Drag Race? If so, the fractured nature of the structure could leave them just as lost as they were before. After all, do the early references to Paris Is Burning really make sense when the book doesn't touch ball culture until near the end? Does the interwoven history of "queens" give them the vocabulary and context to differentiate drag as gender presentation or performance from trans identities when the book breezes back and forth between the two so quickly? Will the rapid fire, non-chronological mentions of media properties, figures in queer history, and historical events make any more sense in this context than they do merely referenced in Drag Race itself? Is it for people who are familiar with these references? For people who have seen Paris Is Burning and can keep that thread in their minds as they pop from Dorian Corey to a list of ball scene figures, back and forth through history? If it is for these people, can it also expect its audience to accept things like the absolute briefest mention and subsequent in-text absolution of the criticisms against RuPaul or the odd assertion that Rocky Horror connected with a mainstream audience upon its release? Is merely explaining the reference going to be enough for this audience? In the end, I was left ambivalent about this book. The voice was fun and I enjoyed the process of reading its individual pieces, but the whole is ultimately weaker than the sum of those parts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    I have watched every season of Drag Race (even the blurry first one). However, I never fully understood the history of drag before reading Legendary Children. This book adds context to Rupaul’s Drag Race that I was completely missing. Each chapter starts with some section of the show and explains how it fits into drag, and sometimes LGBTQ+, culture. From the Pit Crew to Untucked to the lipstick on the mirror, it’s all here. I learned a bunch of history by reading Legendary Children. Important hist I have watched every season of Drag Race (even the blurry first one). However, I never fully understood the history of drag before reading Legendary Children. This book adds context to Rupaul’s Drag Race that I was completely missing. Each chapter starts with some section of the show and explains how it fits into drag, and sometimes LGBTQ+, culture. From the Pit Crew to Untucked to the lipstick on the mirror, it’s all here. I learned a bunch of history by reading Legendary Children. Important history that needs to be kept alive—especially outside of the LGBTQ+ community. This book is great for fans of Drag Race that want to dig a little deeper. 5 stars! Now it’s off to watch Dragula to see if it has hidden drag meaning too. Thanks to Penguin Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    Queerness asks for, if not demands, a level of presentation higher than that of straight or cisgender folks, who don’t, after all, have to come out about their straightness or cisness. There’s no reveal, so there’s no need to present. Queer folks never stop coming out, which means the desire or need to present as queer always exists in our lives in ways big and small. This book is a thoughtful and extremely well-researched meditation on the queer experience through American history using the fram Queerness asks for, if not demands, a level of presentation higher than that of straight or cisgender folks, who don’t, after all, have to come out about their straightness or cisness. There’s no reveal, so there’s no need to present. Queer folks never stop coming out, which means the desire or need to present as queer always exists in our lives in ways big and small. This book is a thoughtful and extremely well-researched meditation on the queer experience through American history using the framing of Drag Race. It makes underrepresented (and honestly, sometimes kind of depressing) histories accessible to a broader audience, just as the show has. Granted, I’m a huge fan of Drag Race, so take this endorsement with a grain of salt if you will; but this book is really the best kind of media critique, which allows the reader to see the shaping forces on the shows we watch and how those shows (at least the uber-successful ones) have shaped society in return. The structure of the chapters each addressing an aspect of drag performance does make it easy to skim over the aspects that are less interesting to the individual reader — I took EXTENSIVE notes on the chapters on language and family, but left the fashion chapters largely untouched — but I find that a strength in any history that claims to encompass all of a topic. The common threads of history, identity, and culture are woven throughout, making each section well-balanced on its own as well as a coherent part of the whole. LOOK, I LOVED IT. I CAN GUSH SOMETIMES. I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. (You can bet I’m buying myself & every Drag Race fan I know a copy when it comes out in March.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alison Hardtmann

    This is a fun and entertaining book that uses the popular reality tv show, RuPaul's Drag Race, to give an introduction to LGBTQ history. The show is not the focus of this book, but the scaffolding for a fast-paced primer to how queer entertainers have been able to make their mark in a society where what they did and even who they were was grounds for arrest and social opprobrium. This is a hopeful book, with powerful examples of what happens when people come together to support each other and to This is a fun and entertaining book that uses the popular reality tv show, RuPaul's Drag Race, to give an introduction to LGBTQ history. The show is not the focus of this book, but the scaffolding for a fast-paced primer to how queer entertainers have been able to make their mark in a society where what they did and even who they were was grounds for arrest and social opprobrium. This is a hopeful book, with powerful examples of what happens when people come together to support each other and to demand that civil rights apply to every American, with a basic who's who, from Marsha P. Johnson all the way to Pete Buttigeig. If you're looking for more than a survey-level understanding of gay culture, or just want to enjoy a book about a popular tv program, this isn't going to be for you. The authors, Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, run a popular celebrity-focused website and there's more than a hint of that style being used here, with the book set up in short sections. But despite it's format and writing style, there's a fair amount of substance and the authors emphasize trans culture and the importance roles that transgender people have played in LGBTQ history. It's a lot of fun to read, and I spent a lot of time amplifying what is in this book by looking up specific performances on YouTube or learning more about the ground-breaking entertainers and activists mentioned.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Smith

    I learned lots. Easy read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Margery Osborne

    Loved this! Loved the way the authors hit my sweet spot between intelligent, witty commentary and truly empathetic cultural analysis. For me, as a person trying to understand drag and Drag Race from a social and historical dimension (rather than as a fangirl) this book is invaluable. Other reviewers commented on having problems with the structure of the book in which the authors move between the history of drag told through short stories and discussions of what occurs on Drag Race (also often to Loved this! Loved the way the authors hit my sweet spot between intelligent, witty commentary and truly empathetic cultural analysis. For me, as a person trying to understand drag and Drag Race from a social and historical dimension (rather than as a fangirl) this book is invaluable. Other reviewers commented on having problems with the structure of the book in which the authors move between the history of drag told through short stories and discussions of what occurs on Drag Race (also often told through stories). I personally love this sort of way of constructing a narrative but I am not totally unfamiliar with many of the names mentioned in the stories. I do think, for future editions of the book I would have a list of 'characters' at the start kinda like you see in more complicated novels and biographies. That would help the neophyte as much as the one handed reading the authors suggest :-) For me this was a great read and I learned a lot especially (and most importantly I think) about this aspect of the LGBTQ culture and, I think, our larger culture!

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Amory

    How you feel about this book will likely be determined by two things: how much you know about queer historical figures and movements, and how much you picked this up because you wanted to read a book about RuPaul's Drag Race. Because this is not a book about Drag Race. It uses the show as a framework (only sometimes successfully), but it's not about the show. There are no profiles of queens, no backstage gossip, no production secrets. This is a guide to important people throughout queer and share How you feel about this book will likely be determined by two things: how much you know about queer historical figures and movements, and how much you picked this up because you wanted to read a book about RuPaul's Drag Race. Because this is not a book about Drag Race. It uses the show as a framework (only sometimes successfully), but it's not about the show. There are no profiles of queens, no backstage gossip, no production secrets. This is a guide to important people throughout queer and shared history. And that's fine! But for me, this book also somewhat failed in that regard because the figures written of tend to be mostly basic, well-known ones (Divine, Cleve Jones, Sylvester, Lypsinka), like this is a beginner's guide to queer history. I didn't need that, though it could be helpful and new for many, many readers. But to relate this back to the show, as the book always does, this kind of feels like what Drag Race has turned into since it moved to VH1: a pleasant diversion that's inoffensively but proudly queer and mostly for an audience of straight people.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alaina Cyr

    [ARC review] This book is a wonderful read! It serves as an intro to gay (American) history framed through familiar and common aspects of RuPaul's Drag Race. The book is at it's best when using RPDR as a starting point to trace back and contextualize the show within the history of oscillating gay rights (or more often, lack thereof) and the plague, and the role drag and drag performers played in affecting change. The lesser parts are those when the authors uncritically idolize RuPaul. The knocko [ARC review] This book is a wonderful read! It serves as an intro to gay (American) history framed through familiar and common aspects of RuPaul's Drag Race. The book is at it's best when using RPDR as a starting point to trace back and contextualize the show within the history of oscillating gay rights (or more often, lack thereof) and the plague, and the role drag and drag performers played in affecting change. The lesser parts are those when the authors uncritically idolize RuPaul. The knockout chapters - Chapter 6: For Every Tuck There Must Be A Bulge, Chapter 7: The Category Is... Serving Sickening Lewks! and Chapter 9: Untucking the Queer Family - more than make up for the downsides.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Verity W

    This is really great. Really great. Drag race is basically a framing device to take a look into various facets of queer life over the last century and it’s really good. The authors say they want you to be googling as you go along while you’re reading this - and boy was I. I look forward to seeing what google ads serves up to me after this - because I learnt so much. Fascinating, clever and touching - and you’ll watch drag race with new eyes afterwards. And the first episode I watched afterwards This is really great. Really great. Drag race is basically a framing device to take a look into various facets of queer life over the last century and it’s really good. The authors say they want you to be googling as you go along while you’re reading this - and boy was I. I look forward to seeing what google ads serves up to me after this - because I learnt so much. Fascinating, clever and touching - and you’ll watch drag race with new eyes afterwards. And the first episode I watched afterwards had a literal Tom of Finland mention and I felt so in the know you wouldn’t believe it!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    This is a very breezy, chatty tour through 100 years of LGBTQ++ history. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. But I also question it because I do know my RPDR: Ru did not design the lipstick message, Shangela did it in S2 and production decided they liked it. Alyssa and Coco were on season 5, not 4. The 9021-Ho! challenge was season 9, not 7. It included Sasha Velour, who performed her "So Emotional" lipsync at the season 9 finale, not season 10. And, most egregious of all, during the "Natural Woma This is a very breezy, chatty tour through 100 years of LGBTQ++ history. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. But I also question it because I do know my RPDR: Ru did not design the lipstick message, Shangela did it in S2 and production decided they liked it. Alyssa and Coco were on season 5, not 4. The 9021-Ho! challenge was season 9, not 7. It included Sasha Velour, who performed her "So Emotional" lipsync at the season 9 finale, not season 10. And, most egregious of all, during the "Natural Woman" lipsync Latrice did NOT "use the natural shape of her body" to mime pregnancy; it was a maternity challenge and both Latrice and Kenya were wearing fake baby bumps. If the research and editing are so sloppy on the most easily fact-checked sections, how can I trust the rest of it?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I have been reading Tom and Lorenzo's blog for a very long time and I watched all of drag race to prepare for this book coming out. Normally I read a book to watch a show or movie, this was the first time I had to watch a show to read a book, but for TLo I did that. This book was a great mix of drag race a queer history. It is not something I knew much about at all being a straight woman, but it was good to learn about something new, especially now that I am a big drag race fan. This is a must r I have been reading Tom and Lorenzo's blog for a very long time and I watched all of drag race to prepare for this book coming out. Normally I read a book to watch a show or movie, this was the first time I had to watch a show to read a book, but for TLo I did that. This book was a great mix of drag race a queer history. It is not something I knew much about at all being a straight woman, but it was good to learn about something new, especially now that I am a big drag race fan. This is a must read for drag race fans.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anna Alexander

    So much of American history is taught from the cis het white person’s perspective, but as Tom and Lorenzo point out in this beautiful book, there’s so much more to it than that. The men, women and non-binary folks highlighted in this book are the true American pioneers. They were the people who were bulled, beat up, ostracized and ridiculed so we could enjoy so much of our entertainment and culture today. Tom and Lorenzo brilliantly share these stories and the rich, historical culture of queer p So much of American history is taught from the cis het white person’s perspective, but as Tom and Lorenzo point out in this beautiful book, there’s so much more to it than that. The men, women and non-binary folks highlighted in this book are the true American pioneers. They were the people who were bulled, beat up, ostracized and ridiculed so we could enjoy so much of our entertainment and culture today. Tom and Lorenzo brilliantly share these stories and the rich, historical culture of queer peformers through the formula that is Ru Paul’s Drag Race. We owe TLo and the true American pioneers a deep debt of gratitude.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zach Krohn

    This book is so great. A primer on gay history over the last 100 years, it spends a lot of time on drag... though it is by no means a RuPaul’s Drag Race book. It’s kinda a bait and switch to get RPDR fans to read. So enlightening!!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Macke

    Also a giveaway winner, and very happy for it to be the first goodreads giveaway I won! First of all, this was a fun read. With a moderate understanding of queer history and drag race already tucked into my back pocket, it was delightful to see familiar tales re-contextualized around drag race and often learned a new facet of a historical event or figure. It's filled with references and quotes from the show that would keep most readers sufficiently engaged. However, I think the book struggles on Also a giveaway winner, and very happy for it to be the first goodreads giveaway I won! First of all, this was a fun read. With a moderate understanding of queer history and drag race already tucked into my back pocket, it was delightful to see familiar tales re-contextualized around drag race and often learned a new facet of a historical event or figure. It's filled with references and quotes from the show that would keep most readers sufficiently engaged. However, I think the book struggles on what it wants to be. The book promises "a definitive deep dive into queer history" but also informs readers that "this book is meant to be read one-handed"--a deceptively lewd way to suggest readers to do their own research to supplement their reading. This book is far more the latter than it is the former. I found myself frequently referring to relevant Wikipedia articles and other sources while combing through the pages. This wasn't out of a want to learn more but almost as a need. Just as some sections were building educational momentum, I'd be met with a section break and introduced to new queer figure. I was left standing shin deep in a wading pool after being promised "a definitive deep dive." Even the promise of reading the book one handed felt unfulfilled when I started to feel additionally research requiring access to my laptop or desktop computer in order to get a desired depth. This book has a lot of bones with hardly any meat to chew on. The author do a great job breaking up key aspects of the show through its chapters, and then breaking up the chapters to dissect the appropriate influences. I will give the authors credit that they did a remarkable job of touching nearly every corner of American queer life. However, while I found fault with this book for having insufficient amounts of details, there are some details that are downright superfluous. Sections like "Sapphic Sisters of the Dime rack" and "The Village People" felt wedged into their chapter--both came across as if the writers thought, "we want to include this, might as well cram it in here." And the Village People section was small enough to question if it was a necessary inclusion in the first place. I'll want to express that I think more readers should go into a book expecting to follow-up their reading with some additional research but not to such an extent. If viewed and billed as an introduction, then I would be a lot more forgiving with my review. I hesitated to give this book three stars. I don't believe its bad, just insufficient. I work at a library and a good amount of my coworkers like to pick up a less challenging piece of fiction to read to take a break from whatever dense material they were reading prior. I'm happy to have a nonfiction option discussing queer topics. Queer nonfiction can get fairly dense at times, so it's nice to read some nonfiction queer candy for a change. (And not to be *that person* but at the bottom of page 192, the authors refer to Coco Montrese and Alyssa Edwards as season 4 contestants.)

  21. 5 out of 5

    V. Briceland

    When I was a kid, I loved books of amazing fun facts that let me spout random discoveries at the dinner table—did you know a shrimp's heart was in its head?! Did you know that a hippo's milk is pink?! Well Tom and Lorenzo, famous for their Project Runway critiques and fashion-focused website, have produced Legendary Children, a book of amazing fun facts for grown-up LGBT kids that uses RuPaul's Drag Race as its organizing guide. Legendary Children isn't strictly about RuPaul's immensely popular l When I was a kid, I loved books of amazing fun facts that let me spout random discoveries at the dinner table—did you know a shrimp's heart was in its head?! Did you know that a hippo's milk is pink?! Well Tom and Lorenzo, famous for their Project Runway critiques and fashion-focused website, have produced Legendary Children, a book of amazing fun facts for grown-up LGBT kids that uses RuPaul's Drag Race as its organizing guide. Legendary Children isn't strictly about RuPaul's immensely popular labor of love, but instead uses the elements of the competitive reality television show to riff on gay history and struggles in an effort to illuminate how the program celebrates elements of past gay culture, while popularizing it for the future. RuPaul's popular library challenge, for example, in which contestants are encouraged to read each other to filth, allows the authors to discuss the history of Crystal LaBeija, whose fiery tirade at the end of the 1968 drag documentary The Queen led in a more or less direct path to the New York ballroom culture documented in 1990's Paris Is Burning—as well as the art of voguing, and the Compton Cafeteria Riot of 1966. Similarly, a chapter examining the silly dramatic sketches in which RuPaul makes her queens participate allows Tom and Lorenzo an opportunity to discuss the San Francisco troupe The Cockettes, Charles Ludlam and his Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and the multi-faceted Divine. The author's approach is rarely chronological, and the juxtapositions of their topics often seems absurd. A section on the Pansy Craze of the 1930s, which climaxes with its headliners being rounded up and killed in Nazi concentration camps, is abruptly and immediately followed by a cut to...1970s disco. Later chapters also feel rather empty, as if the pair have used up their best anecdotes earlier in the book—their historical improvisation on lip-syncing, for example, consist only of a few pages on Lypsinka. I love Lypsinka, but in Tom and Lorenzo's hands, the performer doesn't a chapter make. I am happy that the authors are having such fun with their topic, and the appendix of resources for further exploration—movies, YouTube videos, books, online resources, articles—is truly a thoughtful and thorough touch. Not much within the book's pages was new to me, however; what's there often feels more like a quick drive-by than any in-depth look. The book's random and almost slapdash approach to its cultural survey can be confusing, and more than anything else the haphazard approach to history is what makes Legendary Children seem like a collection of random, unrelated facts for LGBT kids to share amongst themselves at the next drag show. The book's an obvious labor of love, though, and for any LGBT person who's not lived more than a decade or three, there might be something new in here to delight and educate.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Melvin Rodríguez-Rodríguez

    A fun dissection on the components, traditions and important figures that inform the behemoth that is RuPaul's Drag Race. Legendary Children rests on the premise that RPDR has become a museum of queer life, with a special emphasis on queer pop culture. With all its flaws and shortcomings (the refusal to cast trans contestants and the ever growing overproduced reality tv drama), the show has always had the intention of educating its audience on what is drag and in paying reverence to queer icons, A fun dissection on the components, traditions and important figures that inform the behemoth that is RuPaul's Drag Race. Legendary Children rests on the premise that RPDR has become a museum of queer life, with a special emphasis on queer pop culture. With all its flaws and shortcomings (the refusal to cast trans contestants and the ever growing overproduced reality tv drama), the show has always had the intention of educating its audience on what is drag and in paying reverence to queer icons, allies, scenes and slang. The series very first episode asked the queens to create looks from dime store materials, emulating many queens' beginnings; it has defined on the screen gay slang terms, it has payed homage to icons like Divine and Cher, and keeps Paris is Burning like a sacred text to be ritualized and venerated episode after episode, season after season. But potential readers beware, this book is not a fun retelling of RPDR's seasons, nor is it a deep dive into its evolution and most certainly not a cash grab riding on the show's popularity. Taking every bit of what Drag Race is and explaining it to the unconverted reader, the authors then jump into explaining the origin and genealogy of each piece that informs the show. From the werk room shade to the comedy skits and sewing shenanigans and the pathos of drag as a political statement, the book goes through a surprising amount of Drag Race's facets and moods. Some of these are clearly intentional, like the Snatch Game challenge inserting itself into the tradition of female celebrity impersonation, and some are more based on tradition, like the Werk Room's intimacy and support between the queens emulating the community building that Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson championed. All this while commenting and emulating the show's own contradictions, its campy reality show realness and when it transitions to just being real and heartfelt. And while the book covers an ambitious amount of queer ground, it keeps everything quick, lighthearted and low-pressure. The more knowledgeable reader will revel in the gorgeous, reverential writing retelling familiar content in a fresh way, and the new reader will leave knowing just enough to have a clear picture and curious enough to look further into the many rabbit holes it offers (Hibiscus was a particular rabbit hole of mine). From the Drag Race fans, to the unconverted trying to understand the show's popularity, and stopping for queer history buffs, this book is sure to please, surprise and remind everyone of how much queer culture has influenced the mainstream world, and the legendary dna of the rhinestoned Frankenstein that is RuPaul's Drag Race.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Fitzgerald and Marquez (who blog, podcast and write as "Tom & Lorenzo") have come up with a clever way to teach a new generation about a century's worth of LGBTQ pop culture and history. They examine the enormously popular TV series RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE and reveal how each element of the show is a tribute to a historical figure or event in queer history. "RuPaul and company devised a show that serves as an actual museum of queer culture and social history," write Tom & Lorenzo. The mechanics of cre Fitzgerald and Marquez (who blog, podcast and write as "Tom & Lorenzo") have come up with a clever way to teach a new generation about a century's worth of LGBTQ pop culture and history. They examine the enormously popular TV series RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE and reveal how each element of the show is a tribute to a historical figure or event in queer history. "RuPaul and company devised a show that serves as an actual museum of queer culture and social history," write Tom & Lorenzo. The mechanics of creating a drag persona and look in the Werk Room leads to profiles of non-gender-conforming activists Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Stormé DeLarverie and the use of Polari (a British slang used in gay subculture). The Library mini-challenge on RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE, where contestants demonstrate their quick tongues and thick skin by stinging each other with shady insults, leads to a discussion on how marginalized and disenfranchised people decades ago often had only their sharp tongues to defend themselves. The scantily clad Pit Crew ("one of the more subversive aspects of DRAG RACE," write the authors, "putting unapologetic gay male sexual archetypes in front of the so-called mainstream") sparks discussion of old physique magazines and artists who glorified the male body, like Bob Mizer and Robert Mapplethorpe. LEGENDARY CHILDREN, a lively, fascinating, comprehensive and essential LGBTQ history lesson, will reach and educate a new generation. By showing how every aspect of RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE can be traced to longstanding queer traditions and pioneers, Tom & Lorenzo have revitalized history. A century's worth of LGBTQ pop culture and life comes alive and reveals how every aspect of RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE pays tribute to that past.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Geetha

    I wanted really, really badly to like this book. I love everything about the premise: I'll read pretty much anything about RuPaul's Drag Race, and I love the concept of using the show as context to learn more about drag and queer history. I also am a fan of Tom and Lorenzo since back in the Project Rungay days. However... I just couldn't finish. I got about 2/3 of the way through when my library loan expired. Maybe it's the state of mind I'm in during quarantine where I'm having trouble reading I wanted really, really badly to like this book. I love everything about the premise: I'll read pretty much anything about RuPaul's Drag Race, and I love the concept of using the show as context to learn more about drag and queer history. I also am a fan of Tom and Lorenzo since back in the Project Rungay days. However... I just couldn't finish. I got about 2/3 of the way through when my library loan expired. Maybe it's the state of mind I'm in during quarantine where I'm having trouble reading any book with much substance? Maybe it's because I was reading on my phone's Kindle app, so it was harder to focus? (Although I did like being able to pull up photos, videos, etc. like they suggested.) Every time I picked it up, it felt like a chore, and I found myself skimming. Maybe I struggled because it's such a broad historical survey? There was SO MUCH to take in that I was often overwhelmed and had a hard time at many points keeping track of everything. Some sections or mentions felt too short, while others felt too long. Some of the connections to the show felt insightful (connecting the Pit Crew to the origins of contemporary ideals of the male body), while others were more of a stretch. I appreciate that the authors wanted to be so thorough in sharing all this history; for me I think it might have stuck better if it was more pared down. I have lots of things to go research now, so maybe the book served its purpose?

  25. 4 out of 5

    Derek Lynch

    This book masquerades as a book about RuPaul’s Drag Race, but in actuality it uses RPDR as a vehicle to spotlight decades of queer history in a way that is funny, moving, and memorable. Pros: So many! Each chapter identifies a segment of Drag Race & then connects it to the larger narrative of LGBTQ+ history. The authors give an appendix full of YouTube videos, documentaries, and books to read to learn more about the gay icons mentioned throughout. I feel like I have so much more reading to do aft This book masquerades as a book about RuPaul’s Drag Race, but in actuality it uses RPDR as a vehicle to spotlight decades of queer history in a way that is funny, moving, and memorable. Pros: So many! Each chapter identifies a segment of Drag Race & then connects it to the larger narrative of LGBTQ+ history. The authors give an appendix full of YouTube videos, documentaries, and books to read to learn more about the gay icons mentioned throughout. I feel like I have so much more reading to do after this book! Cons: If anything I could’ve used just a *little* more discussion on Drag Race - I know the point is that Drag Race represents so much of queer culture, but there are some very fierce, very iconic queens from RPDR history that weren’t really mentioned here. Overall: 4/5 stars! Like I said, this book taught me so much, & I feel like it’s going to guide me into much more reading about LGBTQ+ history.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This is a look at both Drag Race and the entire history of queer culture that lead up to it. On both counts, it's pretty good. I did find I wanted more of the queer history and less of the Drag Race: Drag Race is fun, but there's so much queer history to go through, even with the book being strictly about the USA only and with a fairly heavy focus on gay men, that anyone with an interest in said queer history is likely to go "but I wanted more about [x, y, z]!" This is also definitely not an acad This is a look at both Drag Race and the entire history of queer culture that lead up to it. On both counts, it's pretty good. I did find I wanted more of the queer history and less of the Drag Race: Drag Race is fun, but there's so much queer history to go through, even with the book being strictly about the USA only and with a fairly heavy focus on gay men, that anyone with an interest in said queer history is likely to go "but I wanted more about [x, y, z]!" This is also definitely not an academic look at the subject. But I did find that Drag Race makes an excellent lens to view at least some queer history through, and the whole point of the book seems to be about 1. letting people know there IS a queer history out there, and 2. inspiring people to go and check it out for themselves. As a starting point, I think this is fun and has its heart in the right place. (And if you like Drag Race, it might well open your eyes to a LOT of stuff you didn't realise was going on.)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I've been a longtime fan of Tom and Lorenzo's website. Not for the red carpet or fashion features, but for their coverage of television shows such as "Mad Men," "Downton Abbey," and "RuPaul's Drag Race." Having watched "RuPaul's Drag Race" since season 1, I appreciate Tom and Lorenzo's commentary and perspectives, particularly when they demonstrate the brilliant subversiveness of the show and how it has helped influence the culture and promote acceptance. "Legendary Children: The First Decade of I've been a longtime fan of Tom and Lorenzo's website. Not for the red carpet or fashion features, but for their coverage of television shows such as "Mad Men," "Downton Abbey," and "RuPaul's Drag Race." Having watched "RuPaul's Drag Race" since season 1, I appreciate Tom and Lorenzo's commentary and perspectives, particularly when they demonstrate the brilliant subversiveness of the show and how it has helped influence the culture and promote acceptance. "Legendary Children: The First Decade of RuPaul's Drag Race and the Last Century of Queer Life" is a fantastic concept. It was insightful of them to use RPDR as a gateway to a broader history, history that is not well-known or taught. Even as a student of history, "Legendary Children" is chock full of stories of people and events I had never heard of before. The descriptions of these historical people and events are generally well-written, humorous, and sometimes poignant. A very entertaining read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Etain

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Using Drag Race as a reference to learn about the history of drag...yes please!! Like other reviews I found myself going to Google and YouTube to look at some of these fab queens performing. I am a drag race fan but have to admit my herstory knowledge could use some work. This was the perfect start to find some trailblazers to read up on. Also was delighted to see THE queen of Ireland mentioned - Ms. Panti Bliss. Panti's story and contribution to the Irish lgbt+ community is immense. I recommend Using Drag Race as a reference to learn about the history of drag...yes please!! Like other reviews I found myself going to Google and YouTube to look at some of these fab queens performing. I am a drag race fan but have to admit my herstory knowledge could use some work. This was the perfect start to find some trailblazers to read up on. Also was delighted to see THE queen of Ireland mentioned - Ms. Panti Bliss. Panti's story and contribution to the Irish lgbt+ community is immense. I recommend watching her emotional "noble call" speech from the time of the marriage equality referendum in Ireland (goosebumps is all I'll say). Some of the stories you will be familiar with and some will be new. For me, Ruth Coker Burks and "her boys" stood out. I hadn't heard that story and intend to read more about it. Learning about our queer past is so important and not forgetting those who got us to this point.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nosipho

    I received an ARC copy of this book via Goodreads giveaway. I really enjoyed this book. As a longtime reader of Tom and Lorenzo’s blog, they have an insightful and engaging style that makes this book hard to put down. It was a fascinating view into the history of drag and how RuPaul’s Drag Race draws upon and highlights that history. That said, I withheld a star because there is one very noticeable blind spot. Although there is a lot of emphasis on the multicultural history of drag and the influen I received an ARC copy of this book via Goodreads giveaway. I really enjoyed this book. As a longtime reader of Tom and Lorenzo’s blog, they have an insightful and engaging style that makes this book hard to put down. It was a fascinating view into the history of drag and how RuPaul’s Drag Race draws upon and highlights that history. That said, I withheld a star because there is one very noticeable blind spot. Although there is a lot of emphasis on the multicultural history of drag and the influence of black LGBT people, there is some missing nuance regarding the influence of black culture on drag. The Sylvester chapter is particularly glaring in this regard. I think that if the guiding light in your book is RuPaul, you have to take a closer look at the black culture influenced take on queer culture as well. In every other regard, I loved this book and I highly recommend it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Just now sitting down to google all the names from the final chapter, The Ministry of Drag, and HOLY SHIT I'm in a RuPaul fantasy league with one of the queens mentioned where I have only recently been voicing my opinions because quarantine has made me brave and I am a SUPER FAN of all things drag, an obsession that has confounded and delighted me for years now. This gave me a friendly, judgement-free herstory lesson on all things queer, cross-dressing, trans and then some and gave me reason to Just now sitting down to google all the names from the final chapter, The Ministry of Drag, and HOLY SHIT I'm in a RuPaul fantasy league with one of the queens mentioned where I have only recently been voicing my opinions because quarantine has made me brave and I am a SUPER FAN of all things drag, an obsession that has confounded and delighted me for years now. This gave me a friendly, judgement-free herstory lesson on all things queer, cross-dressing, trans and then some and gave me reason to rewatch Paris is Burning and The Queen. I love that this book exists and I love that I live in a time when RuPaul is a cultural mainstay, but reading about drag is a little like dancing about architecture, which kept this from being 5 stars for me. An excellent book for cisgender lady biseuxal drag superfans with encyclopedic knowledge of RPDR.

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