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Girlfriend:: Men, Women, and Drag Hardcover – April 20, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (April 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679414436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679414438
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 6.9 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,223,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Looking at a drag queen," Holly Brubach remarks, "we instantly grasp the distinction between male (a biological category) and masculine (a cultural category), between female and feminine; they are obviously not one and the same." Brubach, the former style editor of the New York Times Magazine, has traveled to the drag capitals of the world--New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Rio--to observe people who deconstruct traditional notions of gender every time they get dressed. Whereas a less sensitive author might present this material as a revue of freaks, her combination of fashion savvy and sympathetic objectivity makes Girlfriend a captivating travelogue filled with interesting people we want to know better, including J. Alexander, an six-foot-three African American expatriate in Paris who gives femininity lessons to runway models; and Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who recounts fleeing from the Nazi police in wartime Berlin. Some of her subjects choose to live as women; others merely want to perform the feminine on special occasions. Brubach is to be especially commended for getting the pronouns right, i.e., referring to each of her subjects with the gender that he or she has selected. The text is accompanied by 79 photographs by Michael James O'Brien--one only wishes that there were some pictures from Brubach's own excursion into transvestitism, a "drag king" seminar where she became "a self-styled downtown kind of guy, in an Armani suit on loan from a friend and a dark silk shirt buttoned at the collar; no tie." --Ron Hogan

From Publishers Weekly

DragAone gender dressing as the otherAcrops up everywhere from English pantomime to Japanese kabuki, to New York's now-famous Wigstock Festival. In this illustrated study, Brubach, the style editor for the New York Times, and noted photo-journalist O'Brien troll Bangkok, Tokyo, Berlin, Rio, New York, Paris and London for cultural insights into the drag phenomenon. Writing with nuance and verve, Brubach synthesizes cultural perspectives on sex and gender from the likes of Colette, Lou Reed, Quentin Crisp and Hubert Selby, and casually displays a comprehensive knowledge of such related matters as Marlene Dietrich's career and gender in Buddhist philosophy. Brubach is interested in the "why" as well as the "how" of drag, and draws upon postmodern and queer theory to discuss how gender is socially constructed. Ultimately, she pulls back from the broader, radical implications of this line of thought and views the politics of male-to-female drag as similar to those involved when whites wear blackface. Although she discusses the phenomenon of women dressing as men ("drag-kings") and examines the role of drag in gay male culture, in the end Brubach is more concerned with looking in a fairly traditional way at the roles and position of women in a culture in which concepts of "femininity" and "masculinity" are in constant flux. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By morocco@tiac.net on June 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Masterfully done by a man (photographer Michael James O'Brien) & a woman (Holly Brubach), who share a real appreciation of the fine art of cross- dressing & its trials & triumphs, this is the best, most caring analysis of drag & its artists I've ever read & the empathy & depth of perception caught by the photos (some color, some b/w) is alone more than worth the full price of admission (which I was glad to pay in the bookstore!)
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 1999
Format: Hardcover
As the proprietor of a drag performance club in New York, I eagerly awaited the release of this book, which had been rumoured about for almost a decade on the scene. Well, this book was worth the wait!
Brubach does a workmanlike treatment of the material, including some outstanding documentation of Parisian icon J. Alexander, but it's O'Brien's photos that make this book a must for anyone interested in transvestism, drag or late 20th century glamour. This former student of Walker Evans certainly carries on the documentary tradition brilliantly here, with this non-cliched, deeply sensitive portraiture.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James Loewen on September 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Initially I picked this book up on the strength of the wonderful photographs by Michael James O'Brien. However it was the broad scope of Holly Brubach's look at the phenomenon of drag in different cultures and the depth of her observations about gender, which ultimately delighted me.

Ms. Brubach writes with a keen eye and ear for ironic details. Her expertise in the field of fashion and the arts gives her a unique perspective from which to write about drag, but if you think this subject superficial prepare to be surprised. Her humor, necessary to exploring such a subject, often had me laughing out loud. Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. L. Rea on May 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the most comprehensive study of cross dressing I've seen.

The text covers the subject very well - not just here in the United States, but a large portion of it covers the scene in London and Paris as well.

The illustrations are great, and show what can be done.

This is not a "how to" book as much as a "here it is" book. Everyone who is at all interested in cross dressing will, I'm sure, find it very worthwhile. Just looking at the photos is worth the price.

There probably won't be another croosdressing book for a long time that covers the field as thoroughly, and the cover photo alone makes it a worthwhile addition to anyone's coffee rable!

Eve

Eve
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Format: Hardcover
This book approaches drag very broadly, and that's its biggest flaw. The author seems to group everyone in the same category, from performing drag queens to transgender prostitutes. There's not sufficient explanation of the dramatic differences between these groups. It's not all just drag.

When you look past that one flaw, the author does spend a lot of time analyzing gender, masculinity and femininity as cultural constructs versus birthrights, and where everyone who defies gender fits within their particular culture. In terms of culture, this book is very ambitious. The author travels the world, devoting a chapter to each city's drag scene (and I use drag scene loosely, as does the author). This approach means the book is fast paced, and it does allow for interesting comparisons. Ultimately, it's one of the more thoughtful books, not just on drag, but on individuals who move away from gender norms in general.

The photos are fantastic, but they seem somewhat removed from the text. You have to go to the back of the book to see the subject of each and figure out how it relates to what you've been reading.
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