MLA 2024 / Drag Story Hour: Children’s Literature, Right-Wing Hate, and Queer Celebration (DEADLINE MARCH 1, 2023)

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Gabrielle (Brie) Owen / MLA Children's and Young Adult Literature Forum
contact email: 

Drag Story Hour: Children’s Literature, Right-Wing Hate, and Queer Celebration

This is a non-guaranteed panel co-sponsored by the GS Children’s and Young Adult Literature Forum and TC Sexuality Studies Forum for the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention, January 4-7, 2024 in Philadelphia, PA. In keeping with the 2024 presidential theme, “Celebration: Joy and Sorrow,” this panel considers recent right-wing attacks on the celebration of LGBTQ families and children in the practice of Drag Story Hour. Drag Story Hour was created in 2015 by queer writer Michelle Tea in response to the heteronormativity of children’s library programming. The events feature drag performers, many of whom are QTPOC, reading children’s classics as well as books featuring LGBTQ characters and stories. There are now over 50 chapters of Drag Story Hour in the U.S. and around the world ( These events place childhood and children’s literature at the center of political discourses surrounding gay marriage, transgender rights, and the definition of family.

Frequently the focus of right-wing hate, Drag Story Hour events around the country have been disrupted by armed aggressors and their unsubstantiated claims that such events are designed for “grooming” children. One recent attack occurred at a December 17, 2022 program at the Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood that was advertised as “storytime with local drag performers adapted to be more accessible to kids with autism and other disabilities,” illustrating how the attacks target multiply marginalized groups. An event like Drag Story Hour asserts the dignity of LGBTQ people, families, children, and stories through the joy of drag. In reaction, recent right-wing attacks draw on a range of old and new strategies, racialized and homophobic, to undermine this practice and further dehumanize not only drag performers themselves but the LGBTQ children and families that they serve.

How can queer theory, childhood studies, and children’s literature studies help us understand the significance of Drag Story Hour events and the right-wing backlash against them? This CFP seeks papers that consider the historical and contemporary cultural contexts in and around Drag Story Hour to think about:

  • How historical constructions of childhood innocence have worked as an exclusionary mechanism against minoritized populations
  • How the imaginary figure of the child has been deployed in arguments against LGBTQ folks
  • How Drag Story Hour challenges problematic notions of childhood innocence
  • How Drag Story Hour practices and advocates ethical relationalities toward children
  • How attacks on Drag Story Hour fit into a larger history of homophobic logics
  • How attacks on Drag Story Hour are fundamentally about whiteness and power as well as sexual normativity
  • How Drag Story Hour challenges the heteronormativity of ideas about family and parenting
  • How attacks on Drag Story Hour participate in a larger history of anxieties around LGBTQ children’s and young adult literature
  • How attacks on Drag Story Hour participate in a larger history of anxieties around childhood sexuality and gender normativity

Please send 300-500 word abstracts and 100 word bios to Gabrielle (Brie) Owen at by March 1, 2023. Accepted panelists must be current member of MLA by April 2023.