Baby Drag Queen
Baby Drag Queen
Ichiro finds a rack labeled costumes and picks up a hot-pink jumpsuit. Would this work for drag? He looks around and then heads toward the mirror. He holds it up against his chest and looks at his reflection. Not bad. A couple of older women start to giggle. He ignores them. He moves the sleeves up and down and tries to imagine himself wearing this on stage. It needs something more. He grabs a curly blue wig from a nearby stand and loosely places it on his head. Hmmm. He could get used to this. He doesn’t look half-bad. He looks at the price tag. It’s just $15 for the jumpsuit, but the wig is $35. Plus he’d still need to buy makeup and do something about his shoes. He looks again at his reflection and knows he will figure out a way. He twirls around and sees Jia and Lexie watching him. They look puzzled.
“What are you doing, Ichiro?” asks Jia. “Is that something for Halloween? Because I don’t think your mom would wear that.” Lexie just giggles
Ichiro’s face goes red, and he throws the jumpsuit and wig on the floor. “I thought it was funny. Just playing around, waiting for you two.”
Baby Drag Queen is a brief glance into the life of Ichiro, a trans teen in his final year of high school in Vancouver. Ichiro works as a dishwasher to help pay the bills while his mother struggles in an untenable and abusive work environment. Ichiro just wants to make enough money to help his mother leave her job while also having enough time to succeed in school and hang out with his friends. Ichiro decides that the best way to help his mom is to save up money to buy a camper van to park on his aunt’s property on Vancouver Island, giving them cheaper rent and getting his mom out of her current job. To make it happen, he gets a second job and finds out about another potential avenue to make money – a youth drag competition with a cash prize. Ichiro is worried what his friends will think if they find out he’s doing drag. While finding his drag identity, he struggles to balance his jobs, school, and a potential budding romance with Lexie, a new student.
While it’s in the title, Ichiro’s becoming a baby drag queen doesn’t come up until close to the end of the book. This isn’t a strike against the book, but it’s important to know when recommending this title – it’s not focused on being a drag queen, but instead it’s a story showing how queer, trans, and immigrant identities intersect, and how they can impact the lives of youth. Ichiro’s friend group is full of BIPOC youth who are members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and are shown to just be existing, living “typical” teen lives. This type or representation, normalizing queer identities, especially for youth, is incredibly important in the current political climate. Books like Baby Drag Queen, about queer, trans, and racialized experiences written by authors from within those communities are so important for youth to be able to access in collections.
The limited length of an “Orca Soundings” book also means that there wasn’t a lot of space to examine all of the subplots driving the book – the threads were merely present throughout the book and were tied up neatly at the end via a final chapter that jumped a few months ahead. While I would have loved this book to focus more on Ichiro’s discovery of drag (based solely on my expectations based on the title), Baby Drag Queen is still a good read centering the experiences of trans, racialized, and queer youth.
Susie Wilson is the Data Services Librarian at the University of Northern British Columbia, where she supports all aspects of data use in the academic setting. She currently resides in Prince George, British Columbia.