Manhattan-based drag queen Bella Noche made her way around a room as children crafted masks with pom-poms and pipe cleaners. Every so often, some would walk over and tug on her glittery teal dress to reveal their creation.
East Meadow Public Library hosted its second Drag Queen Story Hour on Jan. 18 at the Samanea New York Market, the former Source Mall, in Westbury. Dozens of guests braved the day’s snowstorm to make it to the event, where Bella Noche read stories about acceptance and inclusivity.
Bella Noche is Isaiah Cruz, a 27-year-old Manhattan native who studied creative writing and journalism at Hunter College before working at the Queens-based youth LGBT center Generation Q. Noche performs at nightclubs in the West Village, but began appearing with Drag Queen Story Hour last year.
Founded in 2015 in San Francisco, the organization enlists drag queens to read stories to children that have themes of diversity, tolerance and inclusivity — specifically as they pertain to gender roles. Since 2016, story hours have been held at libraries around New York City, including Supermoon Art Space in Brooklyn, where Noche gave her first reading a year ago. Recent readings have taken place across the country, as well as in Canada, Sweden and Japan.
Children’s librarian Donnamarie Hock brought the idea to East Meadow after seeing a demonstration reading at a Public Librarians Association Conference in Philadelphia in November.
Drag Queen Story Hour made its debut on Long Island in September, at the Port Jefferson Public Library.
“It’s been growing at a steady rate,” Cruz said. “There are still people who don’t understand what we do and what it’s all about. But its branching out and people are becoming more aware of it.”
Shana Assa, of East Meadow, a teacher in the New York City school system, said she has seen many programs like Drag Queen Story Hour in her district.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “It’s great to see it coming to Long Island.”
She was at the event with her daughters Beatrice, 8, and Zoe, 6, and their friend Aubrey Becker, 4, who was with her mother Monica. All were experiencing their first Drag Queen Story Hour.
Bella Noche will appear at a second EMPL reading on Feb. 8, with a new reader Annie Manildoo, and will be reading again at Bridgehampton’s Children’s Museum of the East End on Feb. 15.