[NB: Scroll down for a list of this year's winners, and links to purchase those books from an indie bookstore!]
A while ago, I threw my hat into the ring for a grant that I didn’t get, but one of the judges for that grant had kind things to say, notably that there were so many strong applications, so not being chosen did not necessarily mean my work was without merit. I always paused in the cynicism of my heart when hearing this condolence. Could it be true?
Last night I attended the 26th annual Lambda Literary Awards, and had the pleasure this year of serving as a judge. This experience has taught me that it is true — it is so true. There is more talent in the queer literary world than there are awards. Serving as a judge introduced me to scores of poets and writers I hadn’t heard of before, and am so grateful to have read.
I always float home from the Lammys, as they’re affectionately known, on a pink cloud of euphoria and determination. It’s so validating to see so many hard working, fantastic writers receive recognition for their books. Last night, Alison Bechdel accepted the Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Literature, and talked about winning her first Lammy in 1991, and how it felt just as validating all these years later. Kate Bornstein won the Pioneer award, and gave an incredibly moving speech, imploring us to not judge one another. “Please pioneer a queer community that does not eat its own,” she said. Debut novelist Nik Nicholson thanked all of the people who encouraged her as she wrote “Descendents of Hagar” (now on the top of my TBR pile). Luis Negron dedicated his award to booksellers, for selling our books and keeping bookstores open. (I unabashedly shouted, “Yes!!” when he spoke those words.) A. Naomi Jackson won the inaugural E. Lynn Harris Award for Excellence in Black LGBT Short Fiction, and presented the Lammy for best LGBT YA to David Levithan and Sara Farizan, who tied for the award. I clapped so hard–David was the editor who generously published my first story in an anthology years ago, and Sara is someone I met in my MFA program who deserves every shred of praise for her novel “If You Could Be MIne.” I remember sitting in a roundtable discussion with Sara, and her saying she was writing a YA novel about two girls in Iran who are in love. Some people in the room blinked, some people cocked their heads, but I remember thinking, That is a book that the world needs! It’s such a joy to see her book make its way into the world, and be so welcomed and recognized.
I know I’ve said this before, but writing takes such a tremendous amount of audacious faith. Writing itself is solitary, and that’s why I always relish the Lammys–the bright community and enthusiasm for writers and stories. So many times in this past year I’ve sat at my little desk and thought, I don’t know what I’m doing. Or, this must be a mistake. But sitting in that audience last night, watching so many writers be honored and loved, I thought, I have to write this book because that’s the thing I want most in the world. I skipped the after party, mostly because my routine of late has been to wake up an hour before my alarm goes off and write before going to my day job. I’ve had to accept that the time and money to write are something I could chase forever, or I could take what I have and use it. Above my desk I’ve tacked the Doris Lessing quote: “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” So this morning I fed the cats and stumbled to my desk and opened my laptop and wrote. Brooklyn was quiet. The conditions weren’t perfect, but they were my conditions. And buoyed by the Lammys, they did not feel so impossible.
You can buy all of the winners’ books from an indie bookstore, or direct from the small press. Here are links to winners’ books from my personal fave indie bookstore, WORD, which ships anywhere, and often at media mail rates. Or you can find your local, awesome indie bookstore here. It’s worth the few extra bucks, to support queer writers and indie bookstores at the same time!
GAY GENERAL FICTION
- Mundo Cruel: Stories, Luis Negron; translated by Suzanne Jill Levine, Seven Stories Press
LESBIAN GENERAL FICTION
- Happiness, Like Water, Chinelo Okparanta, Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Descendants of Hagar, Nik Nicholson, AuthorHouse
- My Education, Susan Choi, Penguin Group/Viking
- Wanting in Arabic, Trish Salah, TSAR Publications
- White Girls, Hilton Als, McSweeney’s Publishing
- The End of San Francisco, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, City Lights Publishers
- The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television, Maria San Filippo, Indiana University Press
- Unpeopled Eden, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Four Way Books
- Rise in the Fall, Ana Bozicevic, Birds, LLC
LGBT GRAPHIC NOVEL
- Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir, Nicole J. Georges, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
LGBT CHILDREN’S/YA – TIE
- If You Could Be Mine, Sara Farizan, Algonquin Books
- Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
- A Heaven of Words: Last Journals, by Glenway Wescott, Ed. Jerry Rosco, University of Wisconsin Press
- Body Geographic, Barrie Jean Borich, University of Nebraska Press
- The Prisoner of the Riviera: A Francis Bacon Mystery, Janice Law, MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Media
- High Desert, Katherine V. Forrest, Spinsters Ink
- Into This River I Drown, TJ Klune, Dreamspinner Press
- Clean Slate, Andrea Bramhall, Bold Strokes Books
- The Padisah’s Son and the Fox: an erotic novella, Alex Jeffers, Lethe Press
- Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories, Ed. Sacchi Green, Cleis Press
- FICTION Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction, Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba, MaThoko’s Books
- NON-FICTION Who’s Yer Daddy?: Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners, Eds. Jim Elledge and David Groff, The University of Wisconsin Press
- Tom at the Farm, Michel Marc Bouchard, Talonbooks
- Death by Silver, Melissa Scott & Amy Griswold, Lethe Press
- Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence, Christina B. Hanhardt, Duke University Press
BOARD OF TRUSTEES AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN LITERATURE
DR. BETTY BERZON EMERGING WRITER AWARD
E. LYNN HARRIS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN BLACK LGBT SHORT FICTION
DR. JAMES DUGGINS OUTSTANDING MID-CAREER NOVELIST PRIZE