Brandon Eisman said a family event with a drag queen reading stories about diversity and acceptance is “the complete opposite” of his experience growing up.
Eisman was raised in what he called the “ruby red” part of Kansas, and said he didn’t have opportunities to talk about LGBT people or families until he was an adult. Eisman said that’s why he — as the drag queen persona Deja Brooks — is trying to get out there and open minds.
“All kids are not the same and all families are not the same, which is exciting,” Eisman said. “It’s fun to be able to express that through children’s stories and see the faces of the kids light up.”
The Lawrence Public Library will host Deja’s Reading Rainbow on Sunday. The library’s youth services coordinator, Karen Allen, said the library hosted a similar event in June as part of LGBT Pride Month, and it was so well attended that the library has decided to make Deja’s Reading Rainbow a regular event.
“Lawrence is a pretty progressive community, and I think people were behind the idea,” Allen said. “It was a great turnout, with lots of families there.”
Allen said the idea came from story hours held by libraries in cities such as New York and San Francisco, where drag queens read stories about “being you and loving everyone."
“We thought that was a really great message, and so we wanted to bring it here,” she said.
Photos from the first event show Deja Brooks in a bright blue dress with matching eye shadow, expressively reading stories under an arc of multicolored balloons. Books included “A Peacock Among Pigeons” by Tyler Curry and "My Princess Boy" by Cheryl Kilodavis.
Allen said that as far as she knows, the Lawrence Public Library is the first in the area to host such an event. She also said the library tries to show different perspectives in all its story times, and she emphasized that the story hour is open to everyone.
“It’s a feel-good story time,” Allen said. “In light of all the bad news that we have going on these days, it’s really a story time that will probably lift your spirits.”
Eisman said he is excited that the story hour will be a regular feature at the library and that Lawrence is able to "step up" with major cities.
“That’s big, I think,” Eisman said. “And I think that the turnout that we had the last time, and hopefully the turnout that we have this time, just goes to show and prove that Lawrence is open, Lawrence is diverse, and we just continue to put our best heel forward.”
Eisman said Sunday's story hour will include books such as “The Bravest Adventure” by Lawrence author Elizabeth Coons, “The Invisible Boy” by Trudy Ludwig and “Love the World” by Todd Parr.
Like the library’s other story hours, the event will include a craft. Allen said kids will be able to make rainbows out of paper plates and tissue paper. Deja’s Reading Rainbow will take place at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St.