Poison Waters will read stories about inclusion and tolerance to kiddos and their caregivers

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY LIBRARY - Poison Waters cracks up Juliet Morefield, childrens librarian, at Belmont Library. Waters will be reading to kiddos and their caregivers at the Fairview-Columbia Library at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24.Multnomah County Library is joining other libraries across the country in hosting a series of "Drag Queen Storytimes," including one featuring performer Poison Waters at the Fairview-Columbia branch.

"We're not the first library doing this," said Shawn Cunningham, director of communications and strategic initiatives for Multnomah County Library.

The drag queen storytimes in other parts of the country, featuring performers — usually male — dressed in often outrageously campy feminine fashions, have prompted controversy. Some people have tried to ban the events, while others welcome them as a way to honor diversity and tolerance.

"The library is a place for people to engage with all different kinds of ideas," Cunningham said.

The series kicked off with a story hour by Waters, one of Portland's best-known drag queens, at the Belmont Library on Saturday, Sept. 1.

"The program at the Belmont Library was very popular, very well received. We had to turn people away," said Cunningham. "Everyone had a lot of fun."

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY LIBRARY - Poison Waters reads to children at the Belmont Library at Drag Queen Storytime. Cunningham reported that Waters read books that were supportive of inclusion and diversity and then "they did the Hokey Pokey."

Waters, whose given name is Kevin Cook, has been performing around the Portland area since 1988. Waters has appeared from New York City to Honolulu and often performs at the well-known Portland nightclub Darcelle XV Showplace.

Multnomah County Library offers a wide range of storytimes including black storytimes, bike storytimes, Vietnamese storytime and sensory storytime designed for children with sensory issues including autism.

The free Drag Queen Storytime at the Fairview-Columbia library, 1520 N.E. Village St., is from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24. The storytime is targeted at children 2-6 years old, with an adult companion.

A big crowd is expected, so the library is handing out free tickets starting at 6 p.m.

Cunningham said the library posted about the Drag Queen Storytime on social media and the vast majority of comments were positive.

"There were some people who don't think this fits in with their values, and we certainly respect that," he said. "Drag Queen Storytime is a great way for children and their caregivers to explore the diverse experiences of gender identity that surround us every day in our lives."

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