Is it that time of year again already? The 2015 Lambda Literary Award finalists were announced today! As I’ve written before, I have mixed feelings about the lammies, their policies (mostly past), and their decisions. However, this year’s finalists include some pretty awesome Canadian offerings, and a lot of writers I had never heard of before reading the full finalist list here. Here are the Canadian women nominated, as well as a few special non-lady Canadian writers.
She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya is up for the award for bi fiction and I am so pumped because I loved this novel. When was the last time you read a book about a brown bisexual man from Alberta that was part love story and part re-telling of Hindu mythology? Never, that’s when. Did I mention this book also has really cool illustrations? Have a look at the beginning:
In the beginning, there is no he. There is no she.
Two cells make up one cell. This is the mathematics behind creation. One plus one makes one. Life begets life. We are the period to a sentence, the effect to a cause, always belonging to someone. We are never our own.
This is why we are so lonely.
This is the future of bisexual writing and I am so excited for it.
As was expected, Adult Onset by Torontonian Ann Marie MacDonald is included in the category of lesbian fiction. Zoe Whittall published a fascinating piece in the Walrus about this book, and how she has “often thought that if any author could change Canadian publishing’s reticence to promote present-day queer stories, it would be Ann-Marie MacDonald.” This book, about “a late-forties lesbian writer who lives in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood with her theatre-director wife and two young children, struggling to write her third book while dealing with the stresses of parenting,” just might be the one to break the lavender ceiling Whittall talks about. It’s also quite interesting to note that the description of the main character could be MacDonald herself, giving this book a kind of tongue in cheek, semi-autobiographical feel.
Private investigator Jil Kidd is sent to St. Marguerite’s Catholic School to investigate teachers breaking their contracts of Catholic conduct, her investigation takes a dramatic turn after a student winds up dead on campus. To further complicate matters, circumstances keep throwing her together with the hot blond principal, Jessica Blake, at the center of her investigation.
Cease: A Memoir of Loss, Love, and Desire by Lynette Loeppky, another author I had never encountered before, is up for lesbian memoir. Check out a CBC interview with her here. This one really sounds fascinating, according to a review in the Globe and Mail:
Lyn and Cec tacitly understood that if anyone were to exit the relationship, it would be Lyn, and after 8 1/2 years with the dedicated but domineering Cec, Lyn is quietly but seriously considering exactly that. Then Cec falls seriously ill and suddenly Lyn becomes caregiver to the woman she was soon to leave. Many threads of interest run through this thoughtful and carefully woven memoir: Lyn and Cec’s discovery of their desire – Cec’s in midlife and Lyn’s in the midst of a Mennonite upbringing; their somewhat closeted relationship in “family-values” Alberta.
Janey’s Arcadia by Rachel Zolf, up for the lesbian poetry award, looks very experimental and strange, yet it is about an extremely important topic in contemporary Canada: the legacy of colonialism and its present day continuation. I’m not sure what to think. Here’s the blurb from the publisher:
Janey’s Arcadia restages Canada’s colonial appropriations in a carnivalesque cacophony of accented speech, weather, violence, foliage and carnality. Rachel Zolf assembles a pirate score of glitch-ridden settler narratives, primarily from Manitoba. Clashing voices squall across time, flashing pornographic signs that the colonial catastrophe continues with each brutal scrubbing of Indigenous knowledges and settler responsibility.
I haven’t read anything by poet Sina Queryas yet, and I’m not sure why, since I hear about her work all the time. Her latest book MxT (short for memory x time, Queryas’s method of measuring grief) is in the lesbian poetry category. It’s gotten a lot of praise, like “[t]his year’s most devastating and enlightening Canadian poetry collection” from Telegraph-Journal and “The energy is eclectic, even in its moments of stillness, of silence, there’s a tension of vitality. A strong, and confident collection, it has at its core a generosity of spirit” from the QWF judges Sue Elmslie, Sue Goyette and Daniel Zomparelli.
So, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Katheen Jacques, a Vancouver-based comic artist, before today! Band Vs. Band Comix Volume 1 is nominated in the the LGBT graphic novel category, and it looks like it’s a self-published collection of comics that she’s been drawing for years. There are a ton of comics on her website, too, check it out. The colours are all red, blue, and black, and have kind of a retro feel to them. Look!
It’s pretty great that the lammies have a LGBT graphic novel category at all, and there’s another Canadian nominee, 100 Crushes by Elisha Lim, a Montreal-based artist who use the pronoun ‘they.’ Check out their website for a taste of the awesome visual art they make. 100 Crushes is a compilation of five years’ worth of comics, including bios of all sorts of crush-worthy people. As the Lambda review says, “One chapter, ‘The Illustrated Gentleman,’ is a butch fashion zine, featuring suave trendsetters, butch clothes, anecdotes and tips about creating your own butch wardrobe.” I really need to get my hands on this book soon. Check out this excerpt:
Child of a Hidden Sea by Toronto writer A.M. Dellamonica is in the running for for LGBT SF/F/Horror (it looks decidedly like F, meaning fantasy). I loved her bisexual magic novel Indigo Springs and I didn’t even know she had a new book! The premise of this book sounds awesome:
One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.
The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.
Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.
Of course, A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett is in the line-up for transgender fiction, and it’s a shoo-in in my humble opinion. It was my favourite read of last year. If it doesn’t win, I will be super pissed: especially if they choose one of the three out of five cisgender people who are nominated for the award. It’s such a smart, funny, cynical, authentic collection of short stories about trans women. The stories take place all over North America, including Winnipeg, New York, and Oregon, the writing is gorgeous, and the characters are so real. One story features a talking cat. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?
Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by cisgender queer artist Shani Mootoo is also up for transgender fiction. I also really loved this elegiac beautifully written book, which is kind of a love letter to a trans parent from a long-lost child. It’s a complex look at some complex issues, including gender transitions, racism and immigration in Canada, being an artist of colour, and the idea of home. I was taken by this book right from the first gorgeous line:
Surely it is a failure of our human design that it takes not an hour, not a day, but much, much longer to relay what flashes through the mind with the speed of a hummingbird’s wing.
Bonus! Vancouver writer Jane Eaton Hamilton is featured in a collection edited by Mark McNease and Stephen Dolainski, Out Voices, Inner Lives, that is up for the LGBT anthology prize. This is a pretty unique anthology, in that it includes only LGBTQ writers over 50. Hamilton’s story is called “Just Be Glad You Have High Heels.”