‘You don’t have to be in this one little box’: Austin Drag queen reads picture books for children, students

Graysen Golter

Drag queen Tatiana Cholula visited the Perry-Castañeda Library on Tuesday for an atypical performance: reading picture books to children and their parents.

To celebrate National Picture Book Month, Drag Queen Story Time was started over a year ago nationwide in bookstores and public libraries. The goal is to give children positive role models in queerness and gender fluidity.

Some of the books that were read include Kelly DiPucchio’s “Grace for President,” a story about a younger school girl running for U.S. president, and Jill Twiss’s “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” a book parodying the fictional same sex romance of Vice President Mike Pence’s real-life pet rabbit.

“When you’re a kid, sometimes it’s hard to understand what your feelings are, and you’re still trying to find yourself,” Cholula said. “Seeing role models that they can connect with is very meaningful. It’s important to expose younger audiences to queer and non gender conformative people. We’re human beings just like everybody else.”

The kids were encouraged to interact with Cholula while she read and inserted her own humorous commentary in between sentences. Children were curious and went up to look closer at her colorful makeup and pictures in the books.

Librarians from the PCL reached out to daycares and preschools to gather children for the event and to expand on the subject matters they work with, particularly LGBTQ and gender studies.

“There has been a number of studies that show that LGBTQ youth are at high risk for being bullied and committing suicide,” said Gina Bastone, the PCL’s humanities librarian for English and women’s and gender studies. “(The event) is a way to show that it is okay to be who you are and to be different and to express yourself in whatever form that takes. It’s a way to say, ‘You don’t have to be in this one little box.’”

The event was also open to and was attended by UT students as an opportunity to de-stress before final exams.

“When you grow up, you can be anything that you want to be with such positive role models,” psychology sophomore Camila Rodriguez Falcon said. “There are no restrictions. It’s really important because if you’re confused, then you can think back, ‘Oh, I remember going to story time and (having) this great experience with all these different kinds of people.’”