The winners of the 26th annual Lambda Literary Awards, including Alison Bechdel, Susan Choi, Nicole J. Georges, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Katherine V. Forrest, Imogen Binnie and others, were announced last night at the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York.
This year is the first that comics have had a category to themselves, though they’ve won in other categories previously. Calling Dr. Laura, a memoir by Nicole J. Georges, won, and finalists included Artifice by Alex Woolfson and Winona Nelson, Duck! Second Chances by Tana Ford and The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson, Kyle Baker and Steve Dutro.
The Lambda Literary Awards started in 1988 to recognize the best queer literature annually as judged on literary merit and content relevant to queer lives, and are run by the Lambda Literary Foundation. As I wrote last year:
“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.”
There remains ongoing debate around the awards. For instance, authors of any sexual orientation can win any prize that doesn’t specify otherwise (not those that celebrate a queer author’s career, for instance), which some have criticized. The career categories recognize only binary genders.
The Lambdas also face the same criticism that all literary awards do — how do you determine whether or not a book is “literary” or has value? What makes a work fall in one category rather than another? If everything is subjective what is even the point? (The Millions suggests “promotion, encouragement, and pleasure.”) And some unique ones — are there better ways to celebrate queer literary culture?
Whatever you think about the answers to these questions, the Lambda Literary Awards play a vital role in queer literature: plumping up reading lists everywhere.
A partial list of the winners of the 2014 Lambda Literary Awards is as follows:
Transgender Fiction: Wanting in Arabic by Trish Salah
Transgender Non-fiction: The End of San Francisco by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Bisexual Fiction: My Education: A Novel by Susan Choi
Bisexual Non-fiction: The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television by Maria San Filippo
Lesbian General Fiction: Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta
Lesbian Memoir: Body Geographic by Barrie Jean Borich
Lesbian Mystery: High Desert by Katherine V. Forrest
Lesbian Romance: Clean Slate by Andrea Bramhall
Lesbian Erotica: Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories edited by Sacchi Green
Lesbian Poetry: Rise in the Fall by Ana Bozicevic
LGBT Debut Fiction: Descendants of Hagar by Nik Nicholson
LGBT Non-fiction: White Girls by Hilton Als
LGBT Graphic Novel: Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir by Nicole J. Georges
LGBT Anthology, fiction: Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction edited by Karen Martin and Makhosazana Xaba
LGBT Studies: Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence by Christina B. Hanhardt
Dr. Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award: Imogen Binnie and Charles Rice-Gonzalez
Dr. James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize: Michael Thomas Ford and Radclyffe
The Pioneer Award: Kate Bornstein
The Board of Trustees Award for Excellence in Literature: Alison Bechdel