[1. LAMBDA LITERARY FESTIVAL, LOS ANGELES, MARCH 6 - 12]
Lambda Literary, the Los Angeles-based LGBTQ literary organization, held its inaugural Lambda Literary Fair -- #LambdaLitFest -- throughout LA, March 6-12. The week-long festival began with community curated events including discussions, pop-up readings, and performances at venues “from Pasadena to Long Beach,” culminating in a Lambda Lit sponsored conference and closing party over the weekend.
“Especially now, this is an important event for the community, for queer readers and writers to come together and be heard,” writer and LitFest committee member, Dan Lopez told the LA Times. “We want to create more and more places for LGBTQ voices in the literary world.”
Highlighting the diversity of queer voices is one of Lambda Literary’s missions.
One of those voices belongs to Meliza Bañales, aka Missy Fuego, a slam poet, writer, filmmaker and 2016 Lambda Literary Award finalist. Bañales was nominated for her 2015 debut novel “Life Is Wonderful, People Are Terrific.”
Bañales moderated the community-curated We are Chicanx: A Brown-Queer Revolution. Chicanx, described as “a new, radical, decolonized, inclusive identity” (more specific than Latino/Latina, and replacing gendered forms of the word) “forged on the streets of L.A. for LGBTQ and non-binary familia.”
In a 2015 interview with Lady Clever magazine, Banales spoke about being an outcast among out groups as a woman of color, and finding her identity as a Chicanx/Xicana feminist:
I was always told, “You’re never gonna be happy being queer and you’re never gonna be safe or accepted.” This was enforced by American culture, but really enforced by Xicano culture. Then there’s the added baggage, “You’re already a woman, you’re already a Xicana Latina — and now you wanna be a gay? Do you have any idea how hard that’s gonna be?” So when I first heard there was such thing as Xicana Feminism, I felt like I had been cracked over the head!
We Are Chicanx featured readings, performances, and a Q&A with Bañales and others who helped define the culture including web-zine creator Alma Rosa Rivera, Stephanie M. Hernandez, Esperanza Cisneros, and Josefina Valadez. Admission was pay what you can, and the event was hosted by Avenue 50 Studio in LA, Thursday March 9.
Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience, Friday March 10, the Chinese American Museum hosted an evening of readings and performances as well as a panel discussion and book signing with poets, writers and actors. The community curated event included queer artist and filmmaker Celeste Chan, bisexual writer and author of “Not Your Sidekick,” CB Lee, actor Jared Goldstein, historian and activist Eric Wat, writer and editor Karen Yin, actress Jenapher Jun-Yi Zheng, and musician Marcus Tran.
Lee’s young adult novel “Not Your Sidekick” is the story of high school student Jessica Tran, the only ‘normal’ one in a family of superheros. Juggling school and an internship with the town’s supervillain’s Jessica also has to deal with her crush on one of the popular girls, while navigating between hero and villain territory. Lee explained her choice to clearly depict Jessica through her Asian American heritage and her queer identity in an interview with Talk Nerdy to Me:
Jess has always been who she is from the very start of this project. It’s very deliberate, from the title to her heritage; a bit of a play on realizing that many of the Asian American characters that you see in media are very often supporting characters or “sidekicks,” there to prop up the straight white protagonist.
Being bisexual and Chinese-Vietnamese seemed like the height of invisibility for me; I wanted readers to see Jess and that specific intersection of sexuality and race, and for her to be the main character and have her own story.
Actively having a character define themselves, firmly without vagueness or question, is helpful, especially in mainstream media, because it helps show people that they aren’t alone, that this concept exists, that it’s a possibility for them.
Another voice heard over the weekend belonged to singer/songwriter, classical pianist and “Transparent” writer/producer, Our Lady J, who was one of five panelists for Queer Characters in Novels, Screenplays and Everything in Between, a “master class” in developing LGBTQ characters across genres, on Saturday March 11.
In an interview with the LA Times, Our Lady J described her experience working with “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway:
Jill has a mission to topple the patriarchy. Really, the way to do that is to educate people and employ people. She acknowledged that there was a lack in the number of trans people who were writing and working in Hollywood. And so she wanted to teach us all the tools so we can write our own shows or be staffed on other shows. It’s just a way of giving the tools to trans people to actually make a living in this town.
The panel also included author Lucy Bledsoe, author/illustrator MariNaomi, crime novelist Michael Nava, and former Queer As Folk actor, turned co-creator and executive producer of “the Fosters” Peter Paige. Author and HIV activist Noel Alumit, served as moderator.
Photo by John Arsenault
The discussion was one in a packed schedule for Lambda’s LitFest Saturday, the culmination of the week’s events, held at Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Hollywood, March 11. After the morning plenary, the day’s panels covered “Quintessentially Queer LA” and “Queer Truth: Nonfiction & Journalism in a Post-Truth World,” before ending with the evening’s entertainment, “UnCabaret” a lineup of queer comics.
The LitFest Closing Party wound down the weekend with dancing, cocktails -- and crafting -- at Akbar in Silver Lake, Sunday March 12. Events were free and open to the public.
[2. 2017 LAMBDA LITERARY AWARDS, NEW YORK, JUNE 12 ]
Lambda Literary began with the Lambda Rising bookstore, in Washington DC and owner L. Page Maccubbin.The first Lambda Book Review, a comprehensive look back at the year in LGBT writing, was published in 1987. And the first Lambda Literary Awards were organized by 1989, to coincide with Book Expo America, then known as the American Booksellers Association, the national book convention.
Now, Lambda Lit will present their 2017 ‘Lammys,’ across 25 categories to authors of LGBT fiction and nonfiction. The winners were announced March 14.
28th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners
“Under the Udala Trees”
“God in Pink”
“The Life and Death of Sophie Stark”
“Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham”
“Tiny Pieces of Skull, or a Lesson in Manners”
LGBT Debut Fiction
“A Love Like Blood”
“No One Helped: Kitty Genovese, New York City, and the Myth of Urban Apathy”
Marcia M. Gallo
“Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency”
“Life in a Box is a Pretty Life”
Dawn Lundy Martin
Gay Poetry (TIE)
“succubus in my pocket”
Lesbian Mystery (TIE)
“Boystown 7: Bloodlines”
“Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear”
Kate Carroll de Gutes
“James Merrill: Life and Art”
Making A Comeback, Julie Blair, Bold Strokes Books
“When Skies Have Fallen”
LGBT Anthology – Fiction
“Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology”
Sfé R. Monster (Editor) & Taneka Stotts (Assistant Editor)
LGBT Anthology – Nonfiction
“Glitter and Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy”
Edited by Damien Luxe, Heather M. Ács, Sabina Ibarrola
LGBT Children’s/Young Adult
“Bright Half Life”
LGBT Graphic Novels
“The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal”
“A Taste for Brown Bodies: Gay Modernity and Cosmopolitan Desire”
Two special awards will honor an Emerging LGBTQ Writer and a Mid-Career Novelist. The ceremony takes place Monday, June 12 at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York. Tickets to the event are on sale now at http://nyuskirball.org/calendar/lambda2017
Look for 2017’s special honorees, award presenters, and entertainment to be announced in April.
[3. LAMBDA PROGRAMS]
Beyond the events and awards, Lambda Literary also supports emerging LGBT writers through programs including the annual Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, started in 2007, and the LGBTQ Writers in Schools program, launched just last year.
LGBTQ Writers in School connects authors with classrooms via free Skype or in-class visits to encourage diversity in reading and writing. The program was designed for teachers of grades K-12, student organizations, and organizations serving LGBTQ youth.
Last spring Lambda partnered with the New York City Department of Education to make LGBT Writers in Schools available to K-12 students throughout the nation’s largest school district.
New York City LGBT Community Liaison, Jared Fox, recruited educators throughout the city to assign LGBTQ books to their students and prepare for an in-person author visit.
Twenty authors, including Adam Silvera, Bil Wright, Naomi Jackson, Alex Gino, Peter Cameron, Cris Beam and Ariel Schrag visited New York schools to talk to students about their work and LGBT issues. Books were donated to classrooms from publishers including HarperCollins, Picador, Scholastic, NoBrow Press, and Simon and Schuster.
This spring, Lambda has scheduled 39 visits to schools throughout the five boroughs, with help from a city grant. Authors Chinelo Okparanta, Naomi Jackson, Laurent Linn, Garrard Conley, Cris Beam, Ariel Schrag have all signed on to speak with New York City’s students to engage them in discussions of LGBT issues and storytelling.
The annual Writer’s Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, will be held Aug. 5 - 12 at the Otis College of Art and Design, in Los Angeles. The 2017 retreat includes:
a fiction workshop led by Garth Greenwell, author of “What Belongs to You;”
a young adult workshop led by Malinda Lo, author of the young adult novels “Ash,” “Huntress,” “Adaptation,” and “Inheritance;”
a poetry workshop with TC Tolbert,
a gender queer feminist, performer and dancer; a nonfiction workshop with Diana Cage, author of “The Lesbian Sex Bible;”
and a playwriting workshop with Phillip Howze, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, and a Resident Writer at Lincoln Center Theater.
Guest panelists will be announced at a later date.
The Lambda Lit Writer’s Retreat accepts 12 students per workshop. Applicants submit prose, poetry, or a manuscript and are judged on “craft, creativity and originality.” Tuition for the program is $850, room and board are $800, and the application fee is $25. Scholarships are available.