On the Lambda Awards’ Tough Choices

Posted on March 5, 2015
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The Lambda Literary Award Finalists were announced yesterday and this year they had some tough choices to make.  In a particularly strong year for fiction, there were bound to be some worthy books left out.  But let’s start first with what they got right.

Michael Caroll's Little Reef is superb.Michael Carroll’s Little Reef is a superb short story collection.  In the last story in the book, “Unsticking”, the narrator sees his own mortality in the mirror of contemporary youth culture.  It is a haunting story which improves with a second and a third reading.   But this is by no means the only excellent story in this book.  The highly autobiographical, “Admissions” tells the story of the narrator’s fiance’s climb back from a stroke.  It is a beautiful, honest and true story.  In “First Responder”,  a gay man becomes close to his straight brother after he assumes the role of his brother’s helpmate.  It is an unapologetically queer story and it is also flawless.  All of the stories in this collection are very good.

Sadly, the Lambdas somehow missed several superb books:

First, James Magruder’s Let Me See It, which is the most unlikely of books:  a short story collection that is also a genuine page-turner.  It is a journey through two decades of queer history.  And a must read.

It is also hard to understand how the Lambdas passed on Armistead Maupin’s The Days of Anna Madrigal:  the final volume in his Tales of the City Series.  This book is, in this Queer Reader’s opinion, the best of the series.

Not every critic appreciated Michael Cunningham’s The Snow Queen, but this queer reader found it to be surprisingly wise.  And Mr. Cunningham’s most New York novel to date.

And now we come to the best novel of 2014:  Bernardine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman. It is the story of Barrington:  a septuagenarian West Indian man who has finally reached the decision to come out as gay.  Told from the perspectives of both Barrington and his wife, this book is at once lyrical and surprisingly entertaining.  The result left this queer reader completely satisfied.  It should be noted that Mr. Loverman was published in the United Kingdom in 2013, so there may have been some confusion about its publication date.   For what ever reason–this great queer novel was largely overlooked in the United States.

In such a strong year for queer fiction it is a shame that the Lambda Awards don’t separate short story collections from novels, but that’s the way it is.  More troubling is the Lambda’s–and the Publishing Triangle’s–tendency to pass on the more commercial titles.

The Lambda Literary Awards will be announced on June 1, 2015 at The Cooper Union Hall in New York.

UPDATE 6/2/15:  Last night the winners of the Lambda Literary Awards were announced.   Click here for the results.

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