Eileen Myles, Patti Smith, Lucy Jane Bledsoe among Lambda nominees

Queer literati are abuzz today about the shortlist for the 23rd annual Lambda Literary Awards, which was announced this morning. The premier national award to honor LGBT writers, this year’s shortlist features a bunch of new talent along with well known queer authors. These finalists come from over five hundred nominated titles, the most nominations the organization has ever seen.

It’s no surprise to see Eileen Myles nominated in the category of Lesbian Fiction for her latest book Inferno. Hailed as a poet’s novel, the book follows a New York poet named Eileen Myles (meta, anyone?) through her formative years as a young dyke.

Myles’ fellow nominees included Lucy Jane Bledsoe for her fifth book of adult fiction, Big Bang Symphony, and Canadian author Zoe Whittall’s Holding Still for As Long As Possible, which is up both categories of Lesbian Fiction and Transgender Fiction. Whittall’s novel makes both lists because of its remarkable character Josh, a trans guy EMT who narrates a large portion of the interconnected stories.

Another dual nominee is Catherine Ryan Hyde, who’s YA novel Jumpstart the World is up in both the Transgender Fiction category and the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category. (She is one of two females nominated out of five authors in that genre). Her novel tells the love story of Elle, a teenage outcast living on her own, and her neighbor Frank, who turns out to be transgender. (Sounds like the mirror novel of Brian Katcher’s Almost Perfect, which won the ALA’s Stonewall Children’s/YA award this year for the story of a boy who falls in love with a transgender girl.)

The Lambdas have only recently begun honoring both Bisexual Fiction and Nonfiction in two separate categories, as well as Transgender Fiction and Nonfiction, instead of one category for each identity. National Book Award winner Patti Smith is nominated for Just Kids in the Bisexual Nonfiction category, along with the popular anthology Dear John, I Love Jane.

In the categories of LGBT Anthology and Transgender Nonfiction, trans lady extraordinaire Kate Bornstein is up for the reissue of her classic book Gender Outlaws, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. And out photographer Rebecca Swan’s book of queer portraits, Assume Nothing, is nominated in the same Transgender category.

Ever aware of emerging queer talent, the Lammys feature an award for Lesbian Debut Fiction, given to a first time novelist. This year’s nominees include Michael Sledge, who fictionalized assumed-to-be-queer-but-who-can-really-say poet Elizabeth Bishop’s life in her novel The More I Owe You. Also among the five nominees are Amber Dawn, known for her appearances with the Sex Workers Art Show, and Lois Walden’s coming of age novel One More Stop. There’s a slew of more queer women writers up in other categories, including Lesbian Memoir, Poetry, Erotica, Romance and Mystery.

The Lambdas were the subject of some controversy in recent years, as they revised their policy in 2009 to honor only books by LGBT writers, as opposed to all books of LGBT content. Several authors, including many from the YA community where straight authors like Maureen Johnson and Ellen Wittlinger have written beloved novels with queer characters, cried foul and wondered if the Lambdas were making themselves irrelevant. With the largest pool of out writers’ books being nominated this year, though, the need for an organization which values queer writers for their work seems to be as pertinent as ever.

Winners will be announced at the annual award ceremony in New York on May 26. Who are your picks to win a Lammy this year?

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