And the Category Is… Inside New York’s Vogue, House, and Ballroom Community Book
RELEASE DATE - 7 DECEMBER 2021
A love letter to the legendary Black and Latinx LGBTQ underground subculture, uncovering its abundant legacy and influence in popular culture.
What is Ballroom? Not a song, a documentary, a catchphrase, a TV show, or an individual pop star. It is an underground subculture founded over a century ago by LGBTQ African American and Latino men and women of Harlem. Arts-based and intersectional, it transcends identity, acting as a fearless response to the systemic marginalisation of minority populations.
Ricky Tucker pulls from his years as a close friend of the community to reveal the complex cultural makeup and ongoing relevance of house and Ballroom, a space where trans lives are respected and applauded, and queer youth are able to find family and acceptance. With each chapter framed as a "category" (Vogue, Realness, Body, et al.), And the Category Is . . . offers an impressionistic point of entry into this subculture, its deeply integrated history, and how it's been appropriated for mainstream audiences. Each category features an exclusive interview with fierce LGBTQ/POC Ballroom members--Lee Soulja, Benjamin Ninja, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, and more--whose life, work, and activism drive home that very category.
At the height of public intrigue and awareness about Ballroom, thanks to TV shows like FX's Pose, Tucker's compelling narratives help us understand its relevance in pop culture, dance, public policy with regard to queer communities, and so much more. Welcome to the norm-defying realness of Ballroom.
"With mainstream interest in Ballroom culture at an all-time high, Ricky Tucker's And the Category Is . . . is a treasure trove of insider perspective--deeply respectful, full of critique and celebration, oral history and personal narrative. A little bit academic, a lot of wisdom, and glamour, yes, of course, and context. This work is, like Ballroom itself, a crucial piece of queer history and contemporary queer culture."
Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir and Black Wave
"This book honours the legacy of Ballroom culture and its members without deifying either; yet the reader gets remarkable insight into the real-life struggles of Black and brown queer folk who undergird the fierce and extravagant beauty that is Ballroom--where a Ballroom member can symbolically and literally snatch their freedom. Through prose that pops, dips, and kicks off the page and with an analysis that reads the children for filth who commodify queerness and Blackness, Ricky Tucker's And the Category Is . . . is snatched for the gods! Tens across the board!"
E. Patrick Johnson, author of Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women
"A powerful debut that captures the soul of New York's vogue, house, and Ballroom community while serving as a historical archive of the Black queer and trans narrative in the United States. An instant classic that deftly champions and solidifies vogue, house, and ball culture as radical activism, art, freedom, and refuge for Black trans women and others. Tucker enlightens with sharp critical analysis and a vulnerability that is compelling and full of love. This is a must-read of the utmost urgency."
Keisha Bush, author of No Heaven for Good Boys
"And the Category Is . . . is an electrifying book about ball culture. Through interviews, archival research, personal narration, and cultural criticism, Tucker offers another glimpse into a well-known but often misunderstood community. Readers will come away with a sense of the amazing lives, which are led even under considerable constraint, as the ball reveals itself to be a space to make relationships, politics, and freedom in performance. In And the Category Is . . ., Tucker shows us how the ball can teach us how to live more fabulous Black, brown, queer, and trans lives!"
C. Riley Snorton, author of Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity
"And the Category Is . . . is a deep dive into the beauty of Ballroom culture and a chronicle of Ricky Tucker's life as a queer North Carolina native. It's that last part that makes this book so wonderful. Tucker's observations are reverent and always careful. He shows us the many ways in which ball culture is a space of care and healing, of mutual aid and familial bonds. He's dazzled by the glamor of Ballroom but willing to explore the politics and difficulties that come with creating art in a highly gendered and racialized space. Tucker helps us understand the work that goes into producing balls and protecting ball culture, as well as the performances of race, class, gender, and sexuality that hold the scene together. This is a beautiful celebration of embodiment and an original, timely contribution to the study of one of NYC's most vibrant queer scenes."
Diana Cage, author of the Lambda Award-winning Lesbian Sex Bible