Lesbians at the 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

Last night the LGBT literary world took a brief respite from all its writing and editing to acknowledge a select handful of writers and their creations at the 25th annual Lambda Literary Awards, held at the Cooper Union in New York City.

Hosted by Master of Ceremonies Kate Clinton, who was assisted by some delightful presenters, particularly Justin Vivian Bond (who always leaves me in fits-n-giggles), the silver anniversary of the Lambda Literary Awards honored prose, verse, and dramatic works in a variety of generic categories.

Cherrie Moraga

Photos courtesy Lambda Literary Awards

The recently established Topside Press had a phenomenal night with wins in the “Transgender Fiction” category for The Collection: Short Fiction From the Transgender Vanguard, and a tied-win in “Bisexual Literature” for the posthumous publication of Cheryl Burke’s My Awesome Place: The Autobiography of Cheryl B. Burke’s partner, comedian Kelli Dunham, who also wrote the afterword to the book, spoke earnestly and very movingly about how it “took a village” of queers to publish Burke’s book, which was cobbled together by friends and fellow writers, including Sarah Schulman.

Speaking of Schulman, she was nominated twice, for The Gentrification of the Mind and Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, and lost the same amount—rendering her, as she commented on her Facebook page, “the Susan Lucci of the Lammys” with 10 losses (and counting). Granted, Lucci, I believe, lost 18 times and won on her 19th, so Schulman has a little ways to go. Not to mention the fact that Schulman has faced much stiffer competition than Lucci; take her nomination in the “Lesbian Memoir/Biography category,” for instance. She was up against Lisa Cohen, Alison Bechdel, and Jeanette Winterson (the latter won), just to name a few. The “queer art of failure” never looked so good, or so unbelievably challenging.

Janis Ian

The most magnificent moment of the night, aside from Janis Ian’s wonderful strumming of her acoustic guitar (how lesbian!), was Cherríe Moraga’s acceptance speech for the Pioneer Award. The fact that the award was presented to her by Amber Hollibaugh, the totally badass founding member and Executive Director of Queers for Economic Justice, set the stage for Moraga to burn it down (or, at least, move the discourse away from incessant talk about marriage/marriage equality/DOMA). Scholar, writer, activist: Moraga graciously accepted the Pioneer Award because, she explained, she “need[ed] to represent” for both the Xicana and people of color community. And, while humbled, she expressed discomfort with the award’s name: “‘Pioneer’ feels…inappropriate.” This blatant exposure shed much needed light on the hegemony of publishing in the LGBT community; it shed light on macroaggressions of white LGBT communities upon POC LGBT communities. She was happy to represent, but, she lamented, she did not feel represented there, in the space of the Cooper Union during the ceremony. To hearty applause, she concluded that she wants us to “remain queer,” to remain uncomfortable and non-complacent, so that we are always questioning and always problematizing borders and boundaries that we encounter throughout our lives.

Her acceptance speech was almost fantastical in its “out-of-jointedness” with the remainder of the ceremony. And, more than anything, it was a sign that there is still “queer discontent” within the LGBT community.

Nicola Griffith

Other awards winners included J.M. Redmann’s Ill Will for Lesbian Mystery, Yolanda Wallace’s Month of Sundays for Lesbian Romance, and Mia McKenzie’s The Summer We Got Free for LGBT Debut Fiction.

See a complete list of winners at Lamba’s website.

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