21st Annual Lambda Literary Awards – A Stellar Evening

Imagine an evening of nervous, hopeful first-time authors mingling among publishing veterans, editors and agents, as well as such literary giants as Judy Grahn, Edmund White, Joan Larkin, Andrew Holleran, Kate Clinton, and Felice Picano. The excitement was
palpable on Thursday,
May 28, when the Lambda Literary Foundation presented its 21st Annual Lambda Literary Awards in association with CLAGS.
The Lambda Literary Awards (aka the “Lammys”) is the country’s largest awards program for LGBT books, recognizing achievements in 22 categories, including LGBT Studies, Fiction, Debut Fiction, Poetry, Memoir, and Childrens/Young Adult. Over 100 finalists,
representing 72 publishers, were competing for the crystal trophy each award brings, and about two thirds of them were present in the crowd of 400 avid book people crowding the Proshansky Auditorium.
The evening began with a welcome from CLAGS Director Sarah Chinn, who gave the first award of the evening, for LGBT Studies. As each of the five finalists were announced, their book cover was projected on a screen covering the stage. Regina Kunzel won for her book, Criminal Intimacy: Prison and the Uneven History of Modern American Sexuality (The University of Chicago Press). Other finalists for LGBT Studies were:
–Tomboys: A Literary & Cultural History,
Michelle Ann Abate (Temple University Press)
–The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington, Amin Ghaziani, (The University of Chicago Press)
–Political Manhood: Red Bloods, Mollycoddles, & the Politics of Progressive Reform, Kevin P. Murphy, (Columbia University Press)
–Screening Sex, Linda Williams,
(Duke University Press)
Highlights of the evening included Judy Grahn accepting the award for Lesbian Poetry for her selected poems, love belongs to those who do the feeling (Red Hen Press). In addition, Leslie Feinberg and the surviving members of the Violet Quill (Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and Edmund White) were recognized for their groundbreaking work with Pioneer Awards. Feinberg was unable to attend due to illness, but she prepared a speech which was given by activist and author Janet Mays. In accepting his award, Felice Picano spoke of trying to visit his own archive at Yale University and being told “we have nobody here by that name.” Eventually, he did gain access to his papers and was flooded by memories of the Violet Quill’s meetings.
One of the most moving parts of the ceremony was an “In Memoriam” video that commemorated the loss during the past year of those who have shaped LGBT literature. LGBT Studies pioneer Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was among those remembered.
To find out more about the Lambda Literary Awards, please visit www.lambdaliterary.org. The next cycle of awards, for books published during 2009, will be begin in the fall. Books may be submitted by the author or the publisher, and complete guidelines will be available by September 1, 2009.
Charles Flowers is the Executive Director of the Lambda Literary Foundation.