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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Words to Live By: Nina West

Words to Live By features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.

Nina West

December 1, 2022




Nina West, the drag persona of Andrew Levitt, is an author, activist, actor, and singer-songwriter based in Columbus, Ohio. Nina rose to national prominence with her appearance on the eleventh season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and currently plays Edna Turnblad in the musical Hairspray for the 2021-2022 national tour. Recently, she authored The You Kind of Kind, a children’s book about unique kindness.

Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?

As a kid, I loved reading John Bellairs mystery books like The Curse Of The Blue Figurine. I read all of them multiple times. I also loved the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I was an avid reader. I always had a book in my hand from an early age. It was a great escape for me.

What are three children’s books you think should be on every child’s bookshelf?

  1. I Am Enough by Grace Byers

  2. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

  3. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Book Harvest is proud to practice Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s theory of “Mirrors, Windows, Sliding Glass Doors,” which states that in order to become avid readers and reap the full benefits of lifelong literacy, children have to see both themselves and worlds beyond their own in the stories they read. Is there a book that you saw yourself reflected in as a child? Or one that opened new worlds for you?

I don’t know if I saw myself in books as a child but they fostered my imagination to see myself as things I wouldn’t normally consider. A book like The Wizard Of Oz taught me that I could go to far off places with every page turn and I wasn’t necessarily trapped as who or where I was.

What kind of books are on your bookshelf?

Memoirs and Queer YA as well as children’s books.

What are you reading currently?

I am currently reading memoirs of people I admire like Jennifer Lewis, Simu Liu and Harvey Feinstein. I just started Lauren Graham’s new book, Have I told You This Already.

What is your favorite place to read?

I’ve grown really accustomed to reading on tour buses. The motion and lull on the bus allow for great reading.

If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?

Roald Dahl, James Baldwin and Michelle Obama.

What are the children in your life currently reading?

The You Kind of You by Nina West

Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” ― Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

We are grateful to Nina for answering our questions! You can learn more about Nina and her book at ninawest.com.

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