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Mission & History

Who We Are

For over 30 years, Lambda Literary has championed LGBTQ books and authors. No other organization in the world serves LGBTQ writers and readers more comprehensively than Lambda Literary. We believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer literature is fundamental to the preservation of our culture, and that LGBTQ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published, and read.

Our Mission

Lambda Literary nurtures and advocates for LGBTQ writers, elevating the impact of their words to create community, preserve our legacies, and affirm the value of our stories and our lives.

Our History

Key Events

Lambda Literary traces its beginnings back to 1987 when L. Page (Deacon) Maccubbin, owner of Lambda Rising Bookstore in Washington, DC, published the first Lambda Book Report, which brought critical attention to LGBTQ books. 

The Lambda Literary Awards were born in 1989. At that first gala event, honors went to such distinguished writers as National Book Award Finalist Paul Monette (Borrowed Time), Dorothy Allison (Trash), Allan Hollinghurst (The Swimming Pool Library), and Edmund White (The Beautiful Room is Empty).  The purpose of the Awards in the early years was to identify and celebrate the best lesbian and gay books in the year of their publication. The Awards gave national visibility to a literature that had established a firm if nascent beachhead through a network of dynamic lesbian and gay publishers and bookstores springing up across America. Since their inception, the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony has consistently drawn an audience representing every facet of publishing. The Awards have ranged over many categories, reflecting the wide spectrum of LGBTQ books, and from the very first year they have made the statement that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans stories are part of the literature of the nation. In 2021, the awards were livestreamed around the world for the first time.

Lambda Book Report, meanwhile, grew into a comprehensive review periodical, and together with the Lambda Literary Awards, these programs cemented the reality that a distinct, definable LGBT literature existed. Lambda Literary was created in 1997 as a 501(3)(c) corporation; its first Executive Director was Jim Marks.

In 2007, led by Board President, Katherine V. Forrest and Executive Director Charles Flowers, Lambda Literary founded its Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices: a residency designed to offer intensive and sophisticated instruction to selected writers over a carefully designed one week period. Faculty have included well-known and highly regarded writer-teachers such as Dorothy Allison, John Rechy, Saeed Jones, Katherine V. Forrest, Claire McNab, Danez Smith, Nicola Griffith, torrin a. greathouse, Ryka Aoki, Rigoberto Gonzalez, D. A. Powell, Ellery Washington and Eloise Klein Healy. The Retreat provides open access to industry professionals and the opportunity for fellows to create for themselves an ongoing community of practice as they advance in their craft and careers. It is one of Lambda’s most important initiatives: it represents the future of LGBTQ literature. The Retreat was offered virtually for the first time in 2021.

In early 2010, in an effort led by board member Nicola Griffith, Lambda Literary funded, staffed, and launched an online presence at which celebrates, supports, serves, informs, entertains, and connects the whole of the brilliantly diverse community that creates and supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literature. Our website offers content of interest to readers, writers, agents, booksellers, editors, educators, distributors, librarians, and more.

In 2012 Lambda Literary launched the LGBTQ Writers in School program, where LGBTQ writers visit K-12 classrooms to discuss LGBTQ literature with young people. The program expanded to reach 10,000 students in 2021.

In 2017, Lambda Literary hosted the first annual Lambda LitFest, a week-long, community-curated literary festival demonstrating all that queer literary LA has to offer.

When the global COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, Lambda survived thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support for our community. Under the leadership of executive director Sue Landers, Lambda pivoted all programming from in-person to virtual, built a financial safety net, and embarked on a new strategic roadmap that takes the organization where our community needs and wants us to go.

Today, Lambda Literary is at a powerful inflection point. As we move forward, with a renewed focus on justice and equity, and strengthened capacity, we will be carried forward by the momentum of our rich 30+ year history and thriving LGBTQ+ community.

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