The 27th Annual Lambda Literary Awards are the biggest and best yet.
Monday, June 1, at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in New York brought together literary celebrities of the queer community for the 27th Annual Lambda Literary Awards, or the “Lammys,” as they are more commonly called.
The Lammys are kind of like the Oscars, or the Golden Globes of the queer literary world, complete with glitz and a red carpet.
At the beginning of the evening, Tony Valenzuela, the executive director of the Lambda Literary Foundation, addressed the audience about the importance of the awards, and more specifically, the importance of queer literature: “The more we are incorporated into the mainstream, the more important it is we share our unique stories and preserve our queer culture.”
As a queer author and avid reader of LGBTQ books, Valenzuela wonderfully summarized the importance of the Lammys. These awards truly are the one-time-a-year where queer books—specifically, those books that may not reach a mainstream, or predominantly straight, audience, but instead are written by and for the LGBTQ community—are put front and center to be celebrated.
Truly nowhere but the Lammys can you sit in an auditorium amongst hundreds of other queers who are loudly cheering, as if at a football game, when their favorite books of the year are announced as award finalists, and who are brought to standing ovations when writers take the stage!
This year’s awards featured a stunning array of feminist and lesbian celebrities. The awards were hosted by lesbian comic Kate Clinton, and awards presenters and audience members included famous authors like Gloria Steinem, Alison Bechdel, Tristan Taormino, Sarah Schulman, Susie Bright, and Susan Stinson (to name a few).
This year the Pioneer Award went to Rita Mae Brown, the celebrated author of the lesbian classic Rubyfruit Jungle. Brown was introduced by Gloria Steinem, who spoke lovingly of their long friendship, and the important role Brown had played in the development of feminist lesbian culture and community. Steinem called Brown our “North Star,” going on to say, “if you can find her, you’ll never be lost.”
I love Rubyfruit Jungle, and have a deep appreciation for what the book and Brown’s work in general has given to the lesbian literary community. In Brown’s acceptance speech, I connected most to when she described the role that books play in our lives: “There are books you read to remember, and there are books you read to forget. Those are your roadmap.
The entertainment intermissions within the awards show were particularly exciting for lesbians in the audience. First, we were treated to a passionate performance by the celebrated musician Toshi Reagon. Then, there was a special guest performance by “Fun Home”, which is the Broadway musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s award-winning graphic novel (with the same title), and has been nominated for 12 Tony awards!
Without a doubt, the most significant part of the night was the unveiling of the much-anticipated book awards! Check out highlights of winners in the various lesbian literary categories below:
· Yabo, Alexis De Veaux, RedBone Press
· Mysterious Acts by My People, Valerie Wetlaufer, Sibling Rivalry Press
· The Old Deep and Dark, Ellen Hart, Minotaur Books
· Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty YeLMars of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, with Barbara Smith, SUNY Press
· The Farmer’s Daughter, Robbi McCoy, Bella Books
· Lesbian Sex Bible, Diana Cage, Quiver Books