Holding court: Drag queen reading fairy tales to kids in Fort Greene

A story in prints: Ona Louise will read from the feminist fairy tale collection “Tatterhood” at the Drag Queen Story Hour at Greenlight Bookstore on Aug. 6.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

It’s a princess story told by a queen!

Kids at Greenlight Bookstore this weekend will hear about kick-ass princesses who defy gender norms from a glitter-bedecked storyteller who does the same. At the store’s Drag Queen Story Hour on Aug. 6, Bedford-Stuyvesant drag performer Ona Louise will hold court, reading from the book “Tatterhood: Feminist Folktales from Around the World.” The book’s publisher hopes the event will teach kids that being a girl — or a boy — does not limit what they can wear.

“As a parent, I’m always looking for ways to see beyond gender stereotypes — like pink is for girls and blue is for boys can be really depressing,” said Rachel Aimee from Feminist Press. “Drag Queen Story Hour teaches kids they can wear whatever they want regardless of gender. It embraces the idea that dressing up and being pretty is something that can be fun and available to boys and girls.”

The story hour will be a first for Ona Louise, although her male alter-ego, Jonathan Hamilt, has spent plenty of time with kids, and he hopes that Ona’s performance will open their eyes to new possibilities.

“I have lots of friends who have kids, I babysit them — not in drag,” said Hamilt. “This will be my first debut working with children while in drag. It will be interesting to see their reaction and how they deal with that. I hope they have questions, I think it’s really important. They should be exposed to different gender presentations — not everything is black and white. Just be you.”

The title story of “Tatterhood” involves a rough-and-tumble princess who beats up trolls with a giant spoon, and Hamilt says that the feminist stories offer better lessons than most traditional fairy tales.

“They are not detrimental like the Cinderellas and the Sleeping Beauties — all of these misogynistic stories. It doesn’t teach kids anything that’s going to be helpful in the future,” he said. “These are such strong female characters that don’t rely on men.”

The event, inspired by a popular series in San Francisco, is new for Greenlight, but it fits with the bookstore’s mission of promoting equality and understanding, said the store’s co-owner.

“It’s always important for us to highlight queer voices, and people of color, and other marginalized voice — and create great programming for kids, so this felt like a nice combination of the two,” said Jessica Stockton Bagnulo. “I think it’ll have a great response. I feel like our audiences are really going to enjoy it.”

Hamilt, a Georgia native, thinks the story hour will go over better with the liberal parents of Brownstone Brooklyn than it would in his home state.

“I definitely could not do this in Georgia, that’s for sure,” he said.

Drag Queen Story Hour at Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene (718) 246–0200, www.greenlightbookstore.com]. Aug. 6 at 11 am. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
If the shoe fits: Ona Louise will read “Tatterhood: Feminist Folktales from Around the World” during Drag Queen Story Hour at Greenlight Bookstore.
Photo by Louise Wateridge

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