Drag queen Nina West calls her new children's book 'very, very relevant' in a time when she and her peers 'are being attacked for doing story times at libraries'

In her new book, The You Kind of Kind, drag queen Nina West leads kids on a hunt for kindness. (Photo: Max Fleury)
In her new book, The You Kind of Kind, drag queen Nina West leads kids on a hunt for kindness. (Photo: Max Fleury)

When bedtime rolls around, many kids wait eagerly on the edge of their bed for a bedtime story. For some that's classics like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown or If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Numeroff. But there's a new children's book in town — The You Kind of Kind by drag queen Nina West — that's spreading messages of joy and kindness to children all across the country.

West appeared on Season 11 of RuPaul's Drag Race, taking home the title of "Miss Congeniality." Since West's brand is laid upon the foundation of promoting positivity and spreading kindness, the award was no surprise to her fans.

It's with those core values in mind that West entered the world of books, releasing The You Kind of Kind on Oct. 25.

"I'm excited for people to embrace the story and the character of little Nina as she goes into the world, gives kindness to the world and teaches the reader and audience how to experience kindness in the world," says West.

The You Kind of Kind is available now. (Photo: PA PRESS)
The You Kind of Kind is available now. (Photo: PA PRESS)

Country music legend Dolly Parton, who provides free books to children through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, provided a statement to Variety when the book was announced, praising its message. "Well, to quote some lines in a song I wrote, I always say, 'Whatever you are, be that. Whatever you do, do that. Anything else is just an act,'" Parton said. "Nina West's The You Kind of Kind teaches the same lesson — just be yourself."

Aside from being blessed by Parton, who appears in illustrations within the book's pages, the book release comes only a few months after the news that a Texas lawmaker wanted to introduce legislation to ban minors from attending drag shows in the state and the more recent "Stop the Sexualization of Children Act" proposed by Republicans, which would ban the use of taxpayer money for "sexually-oriented material," like the drag queen story hours held at libraries across the U.S.

While West started work on The You Kind of Kind nearly three years ago, she believes this month's release comes at an appropriate time, when conversations regarding inclusivity and diversity are more important than ever.

"I think the time period is very very relevant to [the book's] release in this specific era — the specific day and age where drag queens are being attacked for doing story times at libraries and where really any sense or expression of identity is under attack by the far-right," West tells Yahoo Life. "It's really important, I think, that the story is told about how we can exert kindness in the world, engage others with kindness and allow that to be the narrative that hopefully is picked up and passed on to the next generation."

Prior to her time on Drag Race, West, who was created by Andrew Levitt, participated in numerous drag queen story hour events in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio and beyond. During the pandemic, West recalls reading nearly 175 children's books about identity, acceptance, joy and kindness to children. She says it's a great outlet for kids to be exposed to different people and learn more about the world around them, and plans to hold a few story time events to promote her book.

"I was really impacted by kids and their families' willingness to learn and be engaged on levels I hadn't seen before," says West. "I think that that's part of what makes drag so wonderful, fun and truly accessible to everyone is that we, as queens, stand out in the crowd."

West is also touring in the musical Hairspray, playing Edna Turnblad. (Photo: Max Fleury)
West is also touring in the musical Hairspray, playing Edna Turnblad. (Photo: Max Fleury)

"Although it makes us an easy target," she adds, "I think we're harbingers of hope and joy, and vessels of love and have the ability to share messages both within our community and with others."

To get the most out of the book, West says it's meant to be read aloud: It's not just a book, but an interactive experience between the reader and the audience. "I'm asking them to engage with the reader, ask questions, create words, be creative and engage in the context of the story and in the context of the world at large," says West.

And the best part? The book isn't just for kids. West worked closely with artist and illustrator Hayden Evans to create images for the book that were not only eye-catching for children, but could be appreciated by adults (especially Drag Race fans) with tiny Easter eggs throughout that relate to the show and her personal life.

"There are some illustrated cameos in the book and if you look, all the denizens of this world that I've created," says West, "some of them might be some familiar faces, my own dogs, my parents, my best friend and some just some really wonderful people who've changed my life."

The book even pays homage to one of her latest ventures — playing Edna Turnblad in the national tour of Hairspray. As the story begins, it opens the exact same way the musical does, with little Nina in her bed and the viewer looking down on her — the same way they do at Tracy Turnblad in the stage production.

Similar to the book, West strives to practice kindness in her daily life, especially while out on the road touring. "I try to feed myself in different ways, like when I go to a new city," she says. "Oftentimes, one of my favorite things to do is to go to a local bookstore and to ask booksellers not only what's a great book I should pick up right now, but where should I go? What should I experience?"

"That's one of the ways I practice kindness to myself," she says, "is to give myself some time to just have some downtime and be away from Edna for a moment and reconnect to Andrew."

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.