TV Review: The Book of Queer (Discovery+) ★★★★

As queer folk it’s important to know our history, but we all know it can be a bit dry at times. Well, siblings, that’s all over as Discovery+ has a new series to quench your cerebral thirst (and yes, it’s pretty damn thirsty).

The Book of Queer is a five-part deep dive into history through a queer lens, created by historians and academics (they’re bringing the receipts, or should I say, citations), narrated by the likes of Dominique Jackson (Pose), Leslie Jordan (American Horror Story, Will & Grace), Ross Mathews (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Alex Newell (Glee) and Margaret Cho (The Flight Attendant, Fire Island). 

The Book of Queer courtesy of Discovery+.

Each episode pulls the wig off some of history’s straight-washed stories, from Ancient Egypt and Greece, to the bedmates of Abraham Lincoln, and highlights the history-tilting work of Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson and more.

The pre-show ‘warning’ from The Book of Queer. Courtesy of Discovery+.

This is history put through a Drag Race filter, campy and compellingly assembled. A Horrible Histories for the queer community. The pace is fast, the quips are furious; it’s like a TikTok of history-making queers past and present. For all the silliness though, the show is careful to let you know when it’s reporting hard facts, mixing up speculation, or just going for the punchline, which range from simple sassy one-liners to fisting gags.

The show features breakout explanations about gender and sexuality from hot-history-homo and executive producer Dr Eric Cervini, author of the Pulitzer-nominated book The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. The United States of America, which is soon to be adapted into a miniseries by The Inheritance writer Matthew López. The whole show feels like a natural extension of Cervini’s fun and Instagram posts.

Dr Eric Cervini in The Book of Queer. Courtesy of Discovery+.

To top off this glitter and rainbow-filled exploration of the past, each episode ends with a full-blown musical number from a range of breakout LGBTQ+ artists like Betty Who, VINCINT, Shawnee Kish, Mila Jam, and Kaleena Zanders.

The Book of Queer is frankly brilliant; bright, fun, and silly! While these comedic sketches barely scratch the surface of our collective history, this is an endlessly amiable and approachable primer on all the stories to explore in more depth.

We’ve always been here. We’ve always been queer. And we’re not going anywhere!

By Chad Armstrong

The Book of Queer streams on Discovery+ with new episodes released each Thursday until June 30th.

Episode 1 “Kings & Queens,” features stories about Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Akhenaten, and Bayard Rustin.

Episode 2 “Sashay It Forward,” features stories about Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Ma Rainey, Alan Turing, Sally Ride, and Lynn Conway.

Episode 3 “Queens’ Work Makes the Team Work,” features stories about The Sacred Band of Thebes, Alexander the Great, Glenn Burke, the Rainbow Flag, Gilbert Baker, Harvey Milk, and José Sarria.

Episode 4 “Gay to Z,” features stories about King James, Sappho, We’Wha, and Harry Allen.

Episode 5 “Pride or Die,” features stories about Josephine Baker, Joan of Arc, Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, and Marsha P. Johnson.

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