Who Is RuPaul? by Nico Medina. Penguin Workshop, 2021. 9780593222690
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
What did you like about the book? This unauthorized biography chronicles the life of popular drag queen and show business entrepreneur RuPaul Andre Charles. Born and raised in the 1960s in San Diego, California, Ru believed he was destined for stardom from a very young age; he loved to dance and sing, stayed current on celebrity trends, and was aware of his identity early on. Academics were not a priority, but when Ru moved from San Diego to Atlanta as a teen he began attending a performing arts high school and soon began to find his niche among other artists, attending his first drag show in 1978 and moving to New York in 1984 to pursue his dreams. His star continued to rise throughout the 80s and 90s, with a hit single, a talk show, and an autobiography, and became an inspiration in the LGBTQIA+ community. His success continues to this day, as the host and producer of the popular Drag Race competition show, among other ventures.
Interesting highlights of RuPaul’s story include the development of his drag persona from the punky red mohawk of his late teens to the more glamorous blond he is know for today; the struggles of a fast-paced party lifestyle that led him to make changes and settle down with his now-husband; and the solid foundation and support he received from his family. The book takes care to weave Ru’s story with the gay rights movement as it existed and grew throughout his life to the present (including in the historical events listed in the “Timeline of the World” in the back). Standard Who Was… fact boxes have titles such as “When Drag Was a Crime” and “Drag Slang.”
Anything you did not like about the book? Not really, but as with any Who Is… book about a modern subject, some photos would definitely be more welcome than the black and white illustrations. The writing style of this book at times comes across more as an article from a fan magazine, and is occasionally distracting, particularly if a student is reading it for a project rather than just for fun.
To whom would you recommend this book? It is a welcome addition for any stodgy school library collection where more inclusive titles are needed; young fans of RuPaul will enjoy learning his back story.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Biography
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: October 1, 2021