Be Amazing by Desmond Is Amazing, illustrated by Dylan Glynn
Be Amazing : A History of Pride
written by Desmond is Amazing
illustrated by Dylan Glynn
Review copy from Macmillan Children's Publishing
Desmond Napoles, 2015 NYC Pride Parade, age 8
Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond is Amazing, "Teen Drag Superstar, LGBTQ+ Advocate, Editorial and Runway Model, Author and Designer." As a 32 page picture book, it's more of an introduction to the history of Pride and the author's part in it. This is all wrapped in a colorful, generous, loving thanks, in words and in pictures, to "the very brave people who fought to make it okay" for us to "be whoever we want to be," as well as a recognition that there is still work to be done to create a gender-inclusive world where human rights like equality and acceptance are universal.
Desmond begins his book (in this interview, Desmond specified his preferred pronouns, in or out of drag, as he/him/his, he also prefers the term Drag Kid over Drag Queen, which he believes to be an "adult term") with an introduction and a thank you to his parents, who always let him be who he wanted to be. The history of Pride begins on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, with Desmond introducing it to readers with these words, "Throughout history, LGBTQ people have been punished, humiliated, attacked, and discriminated against." A page turn after the uprising that came to be known as the Stonewall Riots takes readers to 2009 when President Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. Celebrating the heroes who took a stand at the Stonewall Riots, Desmond goes on to celebrate them for "giving LGBTQ people, like me, the freedoms we enjoy today." Starting with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, brief paragraphs share their beginnings, goals, and legacies, the history moves on to June 28, 1970 and the Christopher Street Liberation Day March in New York City, held to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Originated by L. Craig Schoonmaker, the official slogan for this, the first LGBTQ event in to be held in the United States, became "Pride."
In June of 2015, Desmond attended New York City's Pride March, dancing the entire march route and becoming a "viral drag sensation." The photograph at the start of this review is from that day, a day that is referenced by Glynn in his illustrations. Desmond is Amazing shares his path to drag, going on to feature Ru Paul / Andre Charles with a two-page biography before wrapping up with these important words, partnered with Glynn's illustrations of people from the LGBTQ community like Laverne Cox, James Baldwin, Miss Major, Willi Ninja and Stormé DeLaverie:
"I can freely be the character Desmond is Amazing because of the hard work of generations of people in the LGBTQ community. But there is still work to be done. The next generation of LGBTQ advocates, like me, are ready to continue to fight for our rights, strive for equality, and promote acceptance."
Naively, I thought that Desmond is Amazing's stunning creative energy, joyful expression, message of love and acceptance, and the fact that you can buy Pride-themed clothes for your furry loved one at Petco might preclude the strongest abhorrence. Sadly, while researching to write this review, I read articles and interviews and watched videos to educate myself. I was thrilled to find a piece on Desmond is Amazing by Great Big Story, my favorite creator of global, educational content that "shines a light on ordinary people hiding in plain sight." As part of their series titled The Brave, I learned that, in addition to harassment and hate filled comments on social media (Desmond's mother manages all of his content) Desmond and his mother receive death threats and require security at times. I also learned that over 200 complaints have been made to Child Protective Services, each requiring a 60 day investigation, none of which have found wrongdoing. For me, this makes me admire and value Desmond is Amazing and his parents even more.