Reading the Rainbow: The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish by Lil Miss Hot Mess

In this blog series, Reading the Rainbow, we’re highlighting some of our favorite LGBTQ+ family books from our Book Nook, in addition to featuring exclusive author Q&As. This month’s book feature is: The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, written by Lil Miss Hot Mess and illustrated by Olga de Dios.

About The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish:

Playing off “The Wheels on the Bus,” this nursery rhyme book from a founder of Drag Queen Story Hour is a fun, freewheeling celebration of being your most fabulous self.

The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish encourages readers to boldly be exactly who they are. Written by a founding member of the nationally recognized Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH), this playful picture book offers a quirky twist on a classic nursery rhyme by illustrating all of the ways to “work it”. The story plays off “The Wheels on the Bus” as it follows a drag queen who performs her routine in front of an awestruck audience. A fun frenzy of fierceness, this book will appeal to readers of all ages.

An Interview with the Author, Lil Miss Hot Mess

Known for throwing extravaganzas like her “Bat Mitzvah x2” and roller skating parties, Lil Miss Hot Mess has appeared on world-class stages like SFMOMA, Stanford University, and Saturday Night Live, as well as legendary clubs like The Stud, Hard French, Bushwig, Queen Kong, and many more.  She loves packing her performances full of political satire and technology to help illuminate what a hot mess the world can be.

Lil Miss Hot Mess was among the first Drag Queen Story Hour queens, and serves on its global leadership team.  She has hosted readings at the ICA LA, RuPaul’s Drag Con, Vice Media, and numerous libraries and schools coast-to-coast.  Her children’s book The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish is coming in May 2020!

Hot Mess was also a founding organizer of the #MyNameIs campaign that challenged Facebook’s “real names” policy. Her writing has been published in The Guardian, Wired, Salon, and them., and her work has been in media around the world.

When not twirling, Lil Miss Hot Mess is a visual artist, and is finishing a PhD in media studies at New York University.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: After a few years of working with Drag Queen Story Hour, I wanted kids and families to be able to experience some of that joy and magic at home.  The book is based on a song I’d been singing with kids at story hours, and I love that it doesn’t just teach kids the basics about drag, but it really gets them to try it out a bit by feeling that creativity, self-expression, and fabulousness in their bodies!

Q: Why is representation of LGBTQ+ people & families important?

A: I always say that drag performers (and LGBTQ+ people more broadly) are part of every community: we’re already in libraries, schools, and community spaces whether we’re sparkling in our sequins or leading quieter lives.  And, all kids deserve to learn about the diversity of the world around them, including the contributions of queer/trans people and social movements.  Explaining gender and sexuality to kids can feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be, and drag is one way to begin to explore our cultures in ways that are both age-appropriate and fun!

Q: What conversations do you hope this book might spark between parents and their children?

A:  Drag is all about asking big and tough questions:  Why such rigid boundaries between masculinity and femininity (and what other options are out there)?  Why do we make such a fuss about gender at all?  How do I stand up for what I believe in?  Why shouldn’t we be our boldest and brightest selves?  Why take no for an answer?  While my book only scratches the surface, I do hope that kids and parents can think about drag as a traditional art form that not only plays with gender, but rejects a wide range of social norms — and uses dress-up and performance to reimagine a more just and beautiful world.

Q: What books featuring LGBTQ+ people & families are you reading right now? 

A: I’m still catching up on the newest LGBTQ-themed picture books, but I’m looking forward to checking out Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope (by Jodie Patterson, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow), Grandad’s Camper (by Harry Woodgate), and My Rainbow (by Deshanna Neal and Trinity Neal, illustrated by Art Twink).  And some of my recent favorites are Julián at the Wedding (by Jessica Love) and Our Little Kitchen (by Jillian Tamaki).  For young adult readers, I recently loved PET (by Akwaeke Emezi); and for adults, Gay Bar (by Jeremy Atherton Lin) and Let’s Get Back to the Party (by Zak Salih).

About This Series

Family Equality is devoted to bringing you and your family opportunities to learn, grow, and have fun through the power of LGBTQ+ inclusive books for all ages! Tag us on social and tell us: What book should we highlight next?