The winners of the 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced yesterday evening at the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York.
Notably, this year is the first that the winner in a trans* fiction category is trans*, according to Imogen Binnie, a contributor for The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, which won in the transgender fiction category.
The Lambda Awards began in 1988 and aim to celebrate LGBT literature and unite the queer literary community. Nominated work must have “significant” LGBT-related content and literary merit. In the past, the awards have been criticized for transphobia, biphobia, representing only a fraction of queer creative output, and not representing queer creative output at all.
2011 was the first year there were both fiction and non-fiction categories for trans* works, and 2010 was the first year there were both categories for bisexual works. As recently as 2004, a transphobic book made the list of finalists in the transgender category until protests got it removed.
This year, there were transgender fiction and non-fiction categories. However, bisexual fiction and non-fiction were grouped together under “bisexual literature.” According to the submission guidelines, “transgender literature” and “bisexual literature” are only split into fiction and non-fiction when there are over 10 submissions of each. Despite the combined categories, there were two winners in bisexual literature: My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B by Cheryl Burke and In One Person by John Irving tied.
In 2009, the award guidelines were changed to specify that awards should go to LGBT-identified writers. In 2011, they changed again — people of any sexual orientation or gender can win in most of the award categories. Three categories that focus on writers’ careers are the exceptions, namely the Betty Berzon Debut Fiction Award (to one lesbian and one gay man), the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize (to one female-identified and one male-identified author), and the Pioneer Award (to one female-identified and one male-identified individual or group). Judges must still self-identify as queer.
Under any configuration the awards have had their issues, some of which continue into the present — in the career categories, for instance, specifying only female- and male-identified award winners seems problematic at best.
The place of queerness and author identity, and their importance to writing, are so contested that last year authors began to debate them in their acceptance speeches. But while any awards can only represent a fraction of the available material and the Lambda Literary Awards can only represent a sliver of queer culture, they do recognize it, and the broader literary community recognizes them, and that’s something to get behind, no matter how imperfect they may be.
A partial list of the winners of the 2013 Lambda Literary Awards is as follows:
Transgender Fiction: The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, edited by Tom Léger and Riley MacLeod
Transgender Non-fiction: Transfeminist Perspectives In and Beyond Transgender and Gender Studies, edited by Anne Enke
Lesbian General Fiction: The World We Found: A Novel, by Thrity Umrigar
Lesbian Memoir/Biography: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson
Lesbian Mystery: Ill Will, by J.M. Redmann
Lesbian Poetry: Sea and Fog, by Etel Adnan
Lesbian Romance: Month of Sundays, by Yolanda Wallace
Lesbian Erotica: The Harder She Comes: Butch/Femme Erotica, edited by D.L. King
LGBT Anthology: No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, edited by Justin Hall
LGBT Debut Fiction: The Summer We Got Free, by Mia McKenzie
LGBT Studies: Performing Queer Latinidad: Dance, Sexuality, Politics, by Ramón H. Rivera-Servera
Dr. James Duggins Mid-Career Novelist Prize: Nicola Griffith and Trebor Healey
Dr. Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Awards: Sassafras Lowrey and Carter Sickels
The Pioneer Award: Cherrie Moraga
The Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Literature: Augusten Burroughs
Want to talk about books with girls and drinks? Lambda Literary Award finalist Jeanne Thornton and OR Books will be celebrating the winners and nominees of this year’s Lambda Literary Awards with a lovely get-together at our favorite New York lady bar, The Dalloway, tonight at 7:00 p.m. For more information and to RSVP, visit the Facebook event page.