A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Inspired by Queen Harish, a Rajasthani drag performer, this biography is set in the Thar Desert of India. Illustrations include landscapes, cityscapes, traditional clothing, gods, and instruments of the region with many accompanying words in Hindi such as "Khamaicha", "Thumris", and "Ragas." Gender fluidity is presented in an age-appropriate and affirming manner.
Be you. Trust yourself. Boys can enjoy dancing, dressing up, wearing makeup and beautiful jewelry. People and communities can change their minds with time. Doing activities that bring you joy makes you strong.
Positive Role Models
The boy shows deep self-reflection while discovering his identity and is brave in sharing who he is with the world around him. He perseveres through discrimination and finds belonging with a community that grows accepting over time.
The main character is a boy from India who defies gender stereotypes. Traditional Rajasthani music, dance, and dress are depicted throughout. The character's exposure to the god Lord Krishna is an important part of his character development. Author Jyoti Rajan Gopal was inspired to write this book after seeing Queen Harish perform during a family visit to India. Svabhu Kohli identifies as queer and loved illustrating a book about a person he so closely related to.
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Violence & Scariness
Some readers may be scared to read that the main character's parents die when he is young or that he experiences rejection from his community briefly.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Main character wears form fitting clothing that highlights feminine features including breasts, bare torso and hips.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Desert Queen by Jyoti Rajan Gopal (American Desi) is a sparkling celebration of the life of Rajasthani drag performer Queen Harish. Through dance, he comes to discover his gender fluidity and persists in being true to himself despite gender stereotypes. Themes of the book include dancing to your own beat, perseverance, joy and belonging. Illustrator Svabhu Kohli brings the melodic text to life with jewel toned and layered art representative of the cultural heritage of Jaisalmer, India.
Is It Any Good?
This lyrical telling of Harish Kumar's gender exploration is joyous without missing the complexity of community and place. In Desert Queen, the boy finds a passion for Rajasthani folk dance and its traditional female clothing by following what makes him feel "free". This story emphasizes that perhaps one of the greatest lessons queer communities can teach us is how to nurture what delights us and enriches life for everyone. It will resonate with those in search of themselves and particularly with gender non-conforming folks. The jewel-toned art emotes a freedom and flow to match the fluidity of the boy in dance and expression. The pictures are as delightful for the eyes, as the story is delightful for the heart.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Growing Up Queer: Thoughtful Books About LGBTQ+ Youth
Picture Books with Truly Amazing Illustrations
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