Can you believe I’m only writing about the announcement of Lambda Literary Award finalists now? It happened like 2 weeks ago! Well, better later than never. Here are some highlights, of personal favourites and also Canadian finalists:
In Lesbian Fiction, I’m particularly excited about three of the nominees, Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu, Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Machado, and Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods. I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of Marriage of a Thousand Lies and of getting to talk to the author for a piece for Autostraddle, where she talked about queer South Asian identity and literature, new adult coming out stories, and more. This was my favourite quotation from the book:
“Let me tell you something about being brown like me: your story is already written for you. Your free will, your love, your failure, all of it scratched into the cosmos before you’re even born. My mother calls it fate, the story written on your head by the stars, by the gods, never by you.”
I’ve also written something related to Her Body and Other Parties for Autostraddle: a list of 8 similar books for the many people who loved Machado’s short story collection that embodies this uncanny kind of creepy, “bodies as horror,” fabulist, dark fairy tale feel. This was one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and I’m thrilled to see it as a finalist! (Although, also kind of perturbed to see it in the lesbian category, since the author identifies as bi and most of the women in the stories are bi behaving. Queer/bi writer Roxane Gay’s book Difficult Women is also nominated in Lesbian Fiction…)
Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods was one of my favourite reads last year, and I described it in detail in this list The Best (Mostly Queer) Books I Read in 2017. This stunning collection of short stories was mind-blowing: beautifully written with honesty, generosity, insight, inventiveness, and a strong sense of voice. . Here’s a taste of what these stories are about: Baptists over 60 talking sex. Tweens make friends with a homeless woman living in a cemetery mausoleum. A queer writer returning to her Midwest home to crime and strange floating green orbs. A lesbian takes ecstasy with her schizophrenic girlfriend at a Mensa gathering of people with super high IQs.
Another book I featured in The Best (Mostly Queer) Books I Read in 2017 is also nominated, in the Bisexual Fiction category, and it’s a Canadian author: Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson. I LOVED that book; you can read my full review here. If you like character-driven novels, Next Year For Sure is perfect: full of authentic, nuanced, flawed characters, richly drawn with compassion and generosity. The novel is a really luminous, complex look into an intimate, romantic relationship of a long-term guy-girl couple and how their journey leads them to exploring polyamory and other kinds of relationships to deal with their shared loneliness. I also read the guy Chris as exploring being on the asexual spectrum, which is another layer to the journey. I have no idea what is bisexual about this book, though! Maybe the author is bi? Oh lammies, the categorization hardly ever makes any sense.
In the LGBTQ Anthology category, the epic book Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers edited by Casey Plett and Cat Fitzpatrick is a finalist. I think it’s an absolutely phenomenal book, and would be super bummed if it did not win, although I know a few of the other nominees are supposed to be really great. From tear-inducing sci fi stories about an epidemic and a wonder drug that brings people back from the dead to futuristic BDSM erotica to zombie revenge stories, there is a little bit of something for everyone who likes speculative fiction in this book. Other stories include: an alien spawns from an egg and is an exact replica of the non-binary person who found it; body switching takes on new significance for a queer trans woman and her disabled cis partner; a salty trans woman is the first recipient of a uterus transplant and finds herself mysteriously pregnant. You can read my full review here.
Non Fiction Finalists
What the Mouth Wants by Monica Menghetti, a Canadian bisexual writer, is up for Bisexual Nonfiction. I have read this book and … it was okay? It wasn’t really my thing. Stay tuned for a review soon! In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the blurb:
“This mouthwatering, intimate, and sensual memoir traces Monica Meneghetti’s unique life journey through her relationship with food, family and love. As the youngest child of a traditional Italian-Catholic immigrant family, Monica learns the intimacy of the dinner table and the ritual of meals, along with the requirements of conformity both at the table and in life. Monica is thirteen when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes a mastectomy. When her mother dies three years later, Monica considers the existence of her own breasts and her emerging sexuality in the context of grief and the disintegration of her sense of family.”
Abandon Me: Memoirs by Melissa Febos is another non-fiction nominee, in Lesbian Memoir/Biography, that I’m excited about. I was lucky to get a review copy of it, and I wrote a Book Riot post 20 Beautiful, Insightful Quotations about Love and Stories from Abandon Me by Melissa Febos. Here are a few of the quotations I chose:
“Every story begins with an unraveling. This story starts with a kiss. Her mouth the soft nail on which my life snagged, and tore open.”
“I already knew…that every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.”
“Maybe that’s all bravery is: when your hunger is greater than your fear.”
“I have fallen in momentary love with strangers. Maybe it is a simple curiosity. Maybe it is a symptom of disappointment or fear of disappointment. A hope that somewhere else might be the truer life or love you have hoped for.”
It really is an endlessly beautiful and insightful book. Ha, and guess what? Another bisexual woman author in a lesbian category! Gee, I wonder why that keeps happening??
I must have really picked good books to do full pieces for Autostraddle last year, because the only other book I did in addition to Marriage of a Thousand Lies, Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, is also a Lambda finalist, in the category of LGBT Graphic Novels. (It’s actually a memoir, but whatever, lammies!). It’s quite a unique queer coming of age memoir, in that it tells the story through Georges’s relationship with her “bad” dog Beija. I really love how it disrupts the “I-always-knew” gay narrative too. To quote myself from my Autostraddle article on Fetch:
“Fetch is a beautiful love letter to a pet, a coming of age story, and an exploration of all the complexities of what it really means to take care of another living being.”
Canadian poet Sina Queyras’s colllection My Ariel is a finalist for Lesbian Poetry. I have never read any of her work and I don’t know why! Sometimes people ask how I can possibly focus on something so narrow as LGBTQ2IA Canadian books for my blog and I tell them there’s no way in my life I will ever read all the books that could potentially qualify for inclusion on my site. Anyway, Sina Queyras has been on my radar for a while but alas I am totally unfamiliar thus far with her poetry. The Globe and Mail review said this about My Ariel, which is riffing off Sylvia Plath’s 1965 collection Ariel:
“Few poets are better equipped than Queyras to plunge into the examination of the figure of Plath as a prototype for female genius. With honesty, humour and passionate attention, she lays bare the gendered conventions that circumscribed Plath’s life and how they are still, in new guises, determining her own life as well as that of her female students… Queyras’s masterful collection does not stay in the shadow of Plath’s work. Its mix of scholarship, dramatic monologue, persona-adopting and elegy could give rise to a multipronged new genre: the auto-poetic-bio-epic.”
OF COURSE Canadian Kai Cheng Thom’s debut poetry book a place called No Homeland is a nominee for transgender poetry. I am in love with this collection. I will be super pissed if it does not win! I will probably still be talking about how awesome this book is in 50 years. It is just a fucking phenomenal collection of poetry. Poems with strong roots in oral traditions and spoken word thats you can really hear in your mind and heart. They’re tough and tender meditations on family, race, being trans, femininity, trauma, relationships, community, sex, books, and love. Some favourite parts:
“All i want is to turn my lungs into a glass instrument and let them sing glory to my sisters”
“there is a poem
scratched onto the walls of my throat
no one has heard it
but it is there”
“dear white gay men:
you are neither the face
of my oppression
nor the hands
of my salvation”
Which Lammy nominations are you excited about? And when do you think the Lambda folks and publishers/authors will work together to ensure books by bisexual authors and/or with bisexual characters are actually in bisexual categories?