For Pride Month this year, we’re highlighting one of the most entertaining programs that we offer—Drag Queen Storytime!
I interviewed Ian Morrison (a.k.a. Brittany Lynn) and Amy Ignatow, a local author and parent. Together, they discuss the importance of these storytimes and what makes them so fabulous.
Kamilah: Thank you both for taking the time to chat with me! Tell us a bit about yourselves.
Ian: My name is Ian Morrison, also known as Philly's Drag Queen Brittany Lynn. I have been performing all over the Tri-State area for 25 years, and I am the founder of the Drag Queen Storytime program here in Philadelphia.
Amy: My name is Amy Ignatow and I've lived in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia for the past 12 years. I'm a children's book author and illustrator, and my husband works for an international peace and justice nonprofit. We have a nine-year-old and a six-year-old.
How long have you been a patron of the library?
Amy: I've been a member of the library for so long that I don't remember when I became a member. And I'm a little worried that I may have some overdue books? Can we take care of that? I'll pay my fines.
No worries, Amy! The Free Library is fine-free now! Ian, do you know the origin of Drag Queen Storytime? How did they come about?
Ian: I saw them being produced in Chicago, and was hired to do one here in South Philly for Lume Studios. Shortly after, I was asked to do one at the Fumo Family Library, then the Please Touch Museum (biggest sold-out event in the museum's history!), then at all the Philadelphia libraries, and then at Philadelphia parks through the City's Parks and Recreation department.
What were your initial thoughts upon hearing that the Free Library was hosting Drag Queen Storytime?
Amy: Great! I missed Martha Graham Cracker when she had a storytime in Center City, so I was pleased to have a drag queen coming to our local library. I'm very lazy and I hate looking for parking.
What was your experience as a parent? How did your children react?
Amy: We were put in a smaller room in the back of the library so that the kids and the Queen wouldn't be distracted by the handful of protestors who were acting foolishly across the street (and the scores of well-meaning Mt. Airy residents driving by honking their horns and using colorful language to make their disgust for the protesters known). This was a real shame because we were packed in and it was very warm, and our Drag Queen was dressed like a superhero in what looked like a lot of synthetic materials. We felt for her. But she read a bunch of cute books and the kids made their own superhero masks. My kids seemed to react as they would to any adult who is taking the time to read them a book—they enjoyed themselves.
There always seems to be some parental / moral outrage and controversy over these storytimes whenever they pop up around the country. Why do you feel it's important to bring a kid to a Drag Queen Storytime?
Ian: These storytimes, at least the ones that I perform, introduce children to all lifestyles and cultures. It's a literacy program that engages the audience and encourages reading and learning about the world around them.
Amy: We took our kids to Drag Queen Storytime in part because it's important to us that they are exposed to different cultures and ways of being. We have queer friends and trans friends and non-binary friends and we want our kids to understand that they, too, can be whatever they want and love whomever they want. But mostly we took our kids to Drag Queen Storytime because it's fun.
What do you love most about Drag Queen Storytime?
Amy: Seeing the other members of my community at the event. A few years ago we considered moving out of Mt. Airy to the 'burbs, and when I see all my friends and neighbors and my kid's schoolmates ignoring the gross protesters to proudly walk into Lovett Library so they can plop down in front of a six-foot-tall superhero lady with enormous hair, I know we made the right decision to stay in our ridiculously crunchy little activist enclave. I feel like we're home.
Ian: I love that I get to teach a new generation about love, diversity, and acceptance—and this generation and its parents are here for it. I see it in their faces and from the response from the crowds. :-)
For more Pride Month content from the Free Library, stay tuned to our blog and follow us on social media at @FreeLibrary on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.