Lambda Literary Awards 2010: 12 Queer Books You’ll Love

Oh hi there! Hello! Do you like books? If you don’t, then you should. In related news did you know the Lamba Literary Award nominees were announced recently? The Lambda Awards (“Lammys” if you’re nasty) were first instituted in 1988, and their mission is “to celebrate LGBT literature and provide resources for writers, readers, booksellers, publishers, and librarians – the whole literary community.” Nominated books either deal with queer subject matter, are written by queers, or both! This year the ceremony to announce the winners will take place on May 27th, 2010, at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

The Lambda Literary Awards aren’t perfect – they still represent only a fraction of the creative output of queer writers, and the problems of bi invisibility and transphobia that pervade our community are present here too. However the Awards have attempted to respond to and rectify their problems over the years.

As recently as 1992, the pioneering bisexuality anthology Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu was forced to compete in the Lesbian Anthology category because there was no bisexual one, and this is the first year there’s been both a Fiction and Nonfiction category for bisexuality.

Speaking of which, the Transgender category doesn’t even have that – there’s just the one. Transgender. That’s it. Awesome. Also, flawed judging processes in the past have led to nominations of books that upon closer examination were actually transphobic?

But even if the awards aren’t perfect, we believe it’s important to have as much recognition of queer artists as possible, and we hope that the support and input of the community the Lammys can work towards a more perfect process/brighter future. We’ve picked out the books on this year’s list of nominees that we’re most excited about checking out, with special attention for lesbian and bisexual women authors. It’s not a top ten list, it’s in no particular order, and we make no claim to have actually read these books (yet!)

But we’re pretty into them, and we hope you will be too! What are you looking forward to reading? What do you have in a pile next to your bed right now? Let us know!  (Especially if it’s one of those books that doesn’t have a proper category!)

Let’s all be each other’s reading rainbows! Here we go!


LGBT Anthologies


portland queerPortland Queer: Tales of the Rose City, edited by Ariel Gore

(Lit Star Press)

Queer anthologies are maybe my favorite kind of book to read, ever, and this one looks exactly perfect. Portland, OR is the setting for stories that explore different experiences of queerness – characters featured here are lesbian, trans, closeted, cute gay waiters – but each story is like its own little love letter to Portland, the slightly more sedate but no less sexy sister to San Francisco. The anthology is edited by Ariel Gore, whose novel The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show I really enjoyed. This looks amazing, and I can’t wait to pick it up!



LGBT Young Adult


Ash, by Malinda Lo

(Little, Brown)
We kind of all freaked out about this when we first heard about it, and our feelings haven’t changed. You guys, it’s a lesbian YA retelling of Cinderella. Yeah, I know. I wish I could be a 13-year-old queer growing up right now, because I would be so fucking pumped to read this book, it would change my life for real. Fuck princes, the protagonist Ash has a “dangerous flirtation” with the fairy Sidhean and courts Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, who I am assuming is hot. Lo’s writing is darkly compelling and completely beautiful, exactly right for a modern fairytale. This is definitely, definitely worth reading no matter your age – Lo is a fantastic writer who won’t disappoint.


LGBT Nonfiction


unfriendly FireUnfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, by Nathaniel Frank

(St. Martin’s Press)
Sometimes we here at Autostraddle get really burned out and depressed about how DADT is really morally reprehensible and completely un-American and how even when you chain yourself to a fucking fence no one seems to care about that. Luckily someone smarter than us wrote an entire book proving that we’re right! Maybe everyone at the Pentagon will read it. Frank has done over a decade of research and over 100 interviews, and comes up with the well-argued and thoroughly documented conclusion that not only does it not serve any purpose, DADT has actually “led to lower morale and cohesion within military ranks.” Read this and then tell everyone you know about it. I’m not kidding.


Bisexual Fiction


arushaArusha, by J.E. Knowles

(Spinsters Ink)
Man, Knowles is not fucking around with the bisexuality in this book. It’s like True Blood or something, everyone is gay. Edith and her husband Joe already know they’re just going through the motions of marriage after 18 years, but then bam! Suddenly both of them are with same-sex partners even though they live in a conservative town in Tennessee! Bisexuality all over the place! This book looks really intense, and I will probably have to talk about my feelings a lot while reading it. But you love feelings, right? Don’t we all?


Bisexual Nonfiction


leaving indiaLeaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents, by Minal Hajratwala

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
You didn’t think this had bisexuality in it when you read the title, did you? It’s like a special sexy secret surprise! Maybe because the Publishers Weekly review doesn’t mention it at all, and the Washington Post calls her a lesbian. WHATEVER, bisexuality is real or else how could they have a “nonfiction’ category? RIGHT? I’m impressed by this book because it seems like it covers every kind of transitional space and “border crossing” imaginable – Hajratwala’s family’s literal journey from India to the US, her personal tension between her parents’ culture and the American one she was immersed in, and the in-between quality that’s always assigned to bisexuality. This is an intense book – Hajratwala interviews over 75 family members and investigates the historical forces that may have shaped their lives – but it’s an amazing thing to have an out bisexual woman of color published by a mainstream commercial house, and I think it looks fascinating.




nearest exitThe Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, by S Bear Bergman

(Arsenal Pulp Press)
This is technically a collection of essays, but Bergman’s strong and compelling voice turns it into more of a personal story about navigating the bizarre annals of gender and queerness and in-between spaces and airports. Bergman is an incredible scholar and educator on issues of gender, and getting to peek into hir own experiences with it is super exciting. Also, mostly unrelated, I think this cover is beautifully designed. Look forward to hearing more on this very soon, as I have a copy of it literally right next to me waiting to be finished.

Lesbian Memoir/Biography, Fiction, Poetry and more

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. This is really exciting and such a great list of books. I have really enjoyed Ariel Schrag’s graphic novels lately. They’re light, quick, hilarious reads. Also looking forward to getting into some of the non-fiction on this list. Thanks for this:)


    i’ll definitely be looking for Mean Little Deaf Queer and Ash — i am all memoir and YA, all the time. DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS / ME.

    • I loved Ash so much. So much so, in fact, that I read it alone in a coffee shop on a snow day instead of sledding with my friends. It was that good!

  3. should i make it a goal in life to be on this list? actually my goal in life is to be featured on autostraddle as the next jk rowling.

    anyways, i’m putting some of these on my summer reading list. can’t wait to have free time!

  4. This was by FAR the sickest Queer list everrrr.

    Reading Rainbow. How very appropriate. Levar ain’t got SHIT on AS.

  5. Kaisa in Ash is totally beyond hot and has like a bow and arrow… I don’t know exactly what I mean by that but it’s awesome right? I loved loved loved this book.

    I’m about 3/4 through Mean Little deaf Queer right now, and loving it (side note, she wasn’t born completely deaf, she lost most of her hearing gradually and got hearing aids when she was maybe 10? someone correct me on that because I don’t have the book beside me right now?)

    planning to get The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You this summer, hell I will probably get all of these at some point, also my gf says Staceyann Chin’s “The other Side of Paradise” is amazing, so that’s next in line…I second what Emily said about having free time this summer, I won’t really but I will pretend I do and read a lot anyway!

    • re: Kaisa being hot/bow and arrow: I KNEW IT. Actually did you ever read Tamora Pierce books and totally have a crush on that one chick? Dairine or something? She could talk to horses. Anyways, she totally had a bow and arrow and it was completely hot so I know exactly what you mean by that.

      • OH MY GOD tamora pierce, read like EVERY book she wrote before 1999, I don’t remember having a crush on girls becoming knights so much as wanting to BE a girl becoming a knight… this one time at (not band) camp I shot an apple off the top of a haystack during archery and i think that’s still in the top five coolest things ive ever accomplished

      • Um, Tamora Pierce might be the only author I read (besides stuff for school) until I was about 13. Her books were definitely one of those things that should’ve tipped me off to my own gayness.

      • Woah, you are so right about Tamora Peirce! I read all of her books when I was about middle school age. Should have tipped me off too.

        • okay looking at her list of titles, “The Woman Who Rides Like a Man” probably should have been a clue right?

          • i want her to pull a j.k. rowling and be like “just fyi, i’m now announcing that all my characters are actually gay, even if it never actually literally came up in the books.”

          • I graduated from Tamora Pierce’s Alanna to Kerowyn, Tarma, and Kethry in Mercedes Lackey’s Valemar series, and Paksennarian in Elizabeth Moon’s trilogy. Here’s to heroic women.

    • Jenn- you know I convinced you to buy “Mean Little Deaf Queer” mostly because I wanted to read it :)

    • Also as the above mentioned GF who recommended “The Other Side of Paradise” all i have to say is READ IT. “But of course you don’t have to take my word for it.”

  6. Creamsickle is such a great book! Rhiannon Argo also read some of it aloud to me and then signed my copy :) And Ariel Schrag narrated some of her comics while playing them on a power point (I think it was from Likewise)… gotta love Sister Spit. Ariel’s books are still in my pile of ‘need to read’ but they are getting closer to the top. I’ve also been meaning to pick up Ash and The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You. And about 1000 other books.

  7. Being a Women’s Studies major I squealed when I saw AUDRE LORDE!!! I am an Audre Lorde fan girl and she changed my life NGL.

    On a completely random note does anyone else share a love of Octavia E. Butler?

  8. I’m going to badger my school library to get these. Because the lesbians that I know exist somewhere in those hallowed halls need books. And my school library buys queer books. Srsly.

    Also, I’m broke.

    • I love that your school buys queer books. I was talking to some of the school media specialists in my local school district (I work in our county’s public library, so it’s not an issue) and they weren’t even allowed to talk to teenagers about being anything like that…even in terms of getting them “fiction” for pleasure reading. Breaks my heart.

      Teens who want to read LGBTQ fiction (or parents of these teens), if the schools won’t get these books, check with your public libraries…we have different mandates and different collection development guidelines.

      Also…libraries great for those of us who have no $. :)

  9. I actually just started reading Potential a few days before this was posted! That can only mean I have a mystic Autostraddle connection. ALSO, Google Chrome, why do you not recognize Autostraddle as a word? Look, now you do.

    • Might I also mention how super excited I am about some of these books? I’m getting knee surgery soon so that gives me the perfect excuse to do some quality reading! :)

  10. My name is Gabrielle Rivera and my short story “Juliet Takes a Breath” is in Portland Queer!
    This article is super awesome and I am so pleased that our book made your list!

    Please check out my little queer latina short film at the link above.

    Let’s all support each other!

  11. i know this was posted way back when but – i follow the books and music lists you reco like a religion. ordering Rhiannon Argo and Ash Right.Now. I have Schrag proudly displayed like its a medal.

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