Book review: Paris Is Burning: A Queer Film Classic, by Lucas Hilderbrand

Paris is BurningHilderbrand, Lucas. Paris Is Burning: A Queer Film Classic. Arsenal Pulp Press. 2013. $14.95. 162p. PB. 978-1-55152-519-8.

A groundbreaking documentary from 1991, Paris Is Burning showcases the underground world of drag culture through drag balls and in-depth interviews with the participants. The film raises critical questions concerning race, class, sexuality, and gender identity in 1980s New York City.

Lucas Hilderbrand’s book is both an excellent introduction to the film for those who may have not seen it and a great beginner’s guide to New York City’s gay life three decades ago. In the book’s three parts, Hilderbrand provides a summary and closer look of the imagery of the film, the release and initial reactions of the film, and the ongoing academic and lasting effects of the film as well as information about the lives and effects of Paris on its participants.

The author’s deep rooted love of the film is quite obvious, and he is upfront with the reader about his bias at the beginning of the book. The third section of the book, however, does include criticisms of the film and calls on the readers to make their own interpretations.

The content and language of the film and book make Paris suitable for patrons ages 16 and older. In suggesting the book, librarians might want to pair it with the documentary, an excellent companion piece to the film. I strongly recommend including this book in GLBT and film collections in academic and public libraries.

Reviewer: Talia Earle


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