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2021 Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced

New York, NY, June 1, 2021 – Lambda Literary, the nation’s premier LGBTQ literary organization, announced the winners of the 33rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards (a.k.a. the “Lammys”) this evening at a live Zoom ceremony hosted by Rakesh Satyal, who won a Lambda Literary Award for his debut novel, Blue Boy.

As they have done for over three decades, this year’s Lammys again celebrate powerful, necessary writing that centers the LGBTQ experience. With last year’s award ceremony cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s virtual celebration was a welcome return for an organization dedicated to honoring the very best in LGBTQ literature. Throughout the evening, presenters and winners highlighted the impact the Lammys have had in uplifting queer voices. Novelist Torrey Peters, author of Detransition, Baby, kicked off the festivities speaking of her joy to be presenting for “an organization for which trans writing and trans authors aren’t an afterthought.” Alex Gino, who won a Lammy in 2016 for their middle grade debut, George, highlighted the importance of the explosion of books featuring queer characters for young people while noting that across the country just one in five queer students experience course work that includes positive representations of LGBTQ people and history. John Paul Brammer, author of Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, began his presentation by noting, “As a gay person from rural America, books were some of the only community I had growing up,” while Ryan O’Connell, creator and star of Special, joked, “I love books and I love gay, and I love it when books and gay go together.”

Representing the diversity of the LGBTQ experience, this year’s Lammy winners once again highlight Lambda Literary’s reputation for recognizing queer literature in all of its many forms, and many winners acknowledged that diversity in their speeches. In accepting the Lammy for Transgender Nonfiction for The Black Trans Prayer Book, J Mase III & Dane Figueroa Edidi said, “We hope that this work is a tool that helps to celebrate and heal our community.” Mohsin Zaidi, whose A Dutiful Boy: A Memoir of a Gay Muslim’s Journey to Acceptance won the Lammy for Gay Memoir/Biography, noted that he had been told there wouldn’t be much interest for his book in the U.S., but continued, “Stories don’t have a nationality and I think that’s even more true of our stories, of stories from the queer community.” Joshua Whitehead, winner of the LGBTQ Anthology Lammy for Love after the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, ended his speech with a joyous, “welcome to the Two-Spirit Indigiqueer, fem glittery, fantastic, trans, Indigenous future we deserve,” while Mike Curato, winner of the LGBTQ Young Adult Lammy for Flamer claimed his award for “all the sissies, all the queers, all the Pinoy boys who feel unseen, I see you. And for anyone who has dwelt in darkness, there is light inside you even if you can’t see it.”

The evening’s celebration, which has always doubled as a fundraiser to help support Lambda Literary’s programs, concluded with a performance by Grammy Award nominated artist and lesbian icon, Meshell Ndegeocello. “This year’s ceremony was a true celebration for us after what has been an unimaginably difficult year for so many,” said Sue Landers, executive director of Lambda Literary. “While we couldn’t be together in person again this year, we are so excited to be back honoring LGBTQ literature and all of the wonderful writers who make up our community.  Congratulations to all of this year’s winners.”The Lammys are the most prestigious award in LGBTQ publishing. Please join us in celebrating the following authors and their literary accomplishments.

 Lesbian Fiction

Gay Fiction

Bisexual Fiction

Transgender Fiction 

Bisexual Nonfiction

Transgender Nonfiction

LGBTQ Nonfiction

 Lesbian Poetry

Gay Poetry 

Bisexual Poetry

Transgender Poetry

 Lesbian Memoir/Biography

 Gay Memoir/Biography

Lesbian Romance

Gay Romance

 LGBTQ Anthology

LGBTQ Children’s/Middle Grade 

LGBTQ Young Adult 

  • Flamer, Mike Curato, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

LGBTQ Comics

 LGBTQ Drama

LGBTQ Erotica

LGBTQ Mystery

LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

LGBTQ Studies 

During this year’s ceremony, Lambda Literary announced a new honorary award, the Randall Kenan Prize for Black LGBTQ Fiction. Kenan, who won a Lambda Literary Award in 1992 for his novel Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, passed away in August of 2020 and the prize bearing his name honors writers whose work explores themes of Black LGBTQ life, culture, and history, with its winner receiving a $3,000 cash prize. Ana-Maurine Lara is the inaugural recipient of the prize. Other special prizes announced throughout the evening included Brontez Purnell and Sarah Gerard winning the Jim Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize, a $5,000 prize given annually to two LGBTQ-identified authors who have published multiple novels and show promise to continue publishing high quality work for years to come. Nancy Agabian won the $2,500 Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction, granted to a writer committed to nonfiction work that captures the depth and complexity of lesbian and queer life, culture, and history. The Judith Markowitz Award recognizes two writers whose work demonstrates exceptional potential, and T Kira Madden and Taylor Johnson were awarded this year’s $1,000 prizes. More information on these winners and their prizes is available here.

Lambda Literary thanks the following sponsors for their support of the Lammys.

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Welcome to the month of March. Whether you’re still processing the events of March 2020 or not, a new moment is here and we’re living in it.

This time last year was very different, to say the least. We were just learning to social distance and adjusting to stay-at-home orders. We thought, or hoped, the pandemic would be over in a few weeks. But here we are, a full year later.

Looking back at the past year, it’s hard to go into March with high spirits. But I think we can still cultivate some small moments of self-reflection, joy, and adventure. With this month comes so much promise. We’re entering Spring; warmer weather, a later sunset, and budding plants await us. It’s a time for Pisces and Aries to shine. And, as always, there’s new LGBTQ literature. 

Investigate your own concept of “home” in the new anthology Home Is Where You Queer Your Heart edited by Arisa White, Miah Jeffra, and Monique Mero-William. The collection explores the question, how can “queer writers negotiate their feelings of home when their nation has further precluded them from a place of comfort?”

Read Hari Ziyad’s memoir, Black Boy Out of Time; the author lyrically reflects on their past and unpacks their complicated childhood history. This memoir investigates what it means to live beyond the limited narratives Black children are given.

Explore Sarahland by Sam Cohen. This comedic collection of short stories all center around a “Sarah,” whether she be a wayward college student or a fan-fiction loving, romantic obsessive. The collection provides a search for self within every story, showing there is more to life than our own personal narratives. 

Dive into a hidden history with Elon Green’s Last Call. This is the true story of the Last Call Killer who preyed upon the gay community in New York City. The book entails the decades-long chase to find him while celebrating the resilience and vibrancy of the LGBTQ community.

Critique the historical representation of queer figures with Kevin Kantor in Please Come Off-Book. These poems imagine a braver future that gives queer voices agency over their own stories, and reshape theatrical canon through a queer lens. 

Be thrilled by a thriller with She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard. Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, the novel features two young girls whose summer of love is threatened by crimes overtaking their town. Set in a rebel art scene, this psychological drama is laced with themes of love and power. 

Navigate ideas of lust and desire with Michael Lowenthal’s Sex With Strangers. This collection of short stories features a cast of queer and straight characters whose libidinous adventures often lead them into perilous entanglements.

As always, if our list is missing an author or a book, or if you have a book coming out next month, please email us.

March LGBTQ Books


March LGBTQ Books


March LGBTQ Books


March LGBTQ Books

LGBTQ Studies

March LGBTQ Books




Young Adult and Children’s Literature


Editor’s Note: Recently, author John Weir shared the following post on his Facebook page. We found the post to be a moment of clarity despite the cultural uncertainty. He kindly let us share it.

Social distancing? Went for a midnight run in Prospect Park, met nary a soul–which was actually kind of pleasant–forgive me, Jesus–found myself thinking about the disasters I’d lived through in NYC, or witnessed elsewhere–“Disasters I’ve Known,” not about my romantic life!–rather: In 1983-84, I ran a Writers Group for People With AIDS, Thanksgiving to Easter, and they all died, all the members, 12 guys; and so did the two “buddies” to whom I was assigned by Gay Men’s Health Crisis; and that was what being 24 was like!

And then my friend David Feinberg died, spectacularly, theatrically, for months; and that was being 34! And then 9/11, and the city shut down for months afterwards: the National Guard in tanks patrolling Lower Manhattan, empty stores, empty streets–who knew I’d miss tourists!

And because of magazine pieces I was assigned to write, I was in Oklahoma City the day the government knocked down the gutted shell of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building; and a week after Hurricane Katrina, I was in Houston, where thousands of displaced people, who’d spent days living in terror in the New Orleans’ Superdome, were now living in fear and uncertainty in the Houston Astrodome, sleeping on fold–out cots across the outfield.

Disaster changes people, rearranges their cells, wrecks their lives and sometimes weirdly saves them; and the government always behaves badly. The slow response. The negligent response. Sometimes criminally negligent. The inept response, the self–serving response, the refusal altogether to respond. I know why people hate the government, but voting for Trump was running with a lit torch into a matchstick house: now you’re on fire too, whether or not you know it.

Where’s the redemption? What’s the lesson learned? Just that–I guess–we got through it–if we did! Not everybody survives traumatic loss. Pardon my keen grasp of the obvious. You will surprise yourself, though, at what you can endure; and while people who cannot or will not help may fall away and out of your life, still, people who seem amazingly caring and able, and whom you would not have known otherwise, will show up, abruptly, miraculously. And while suffering is a big price to pay for connection, that’s something disaster also brings, in addition to loss: connection.

“For such loss, abundant recompense?” Wordsworth says! But he never met Trump. I wouldn’t say “recompense,” anyway, and who wants abundance? Abundance would crush me. Deprivation I can handle! I’m right for disaster, I guess. Something it gives: the chance to fight together with relative strangers against loss or the threat of loss. A kind of communion. To discover people who care, not because they know you, but because they don’t–because they take for granted that you matter as much as they do, just because you’re on the planet, and we’re in this together.

Justin Torres’ We the Animals  (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is all the best one hopes to encounter in a young author’s debut novel: all the raw emotion just past processing the wounds accumulated during adolescence, all the nostalgia for life as it was then mixed with the realizations of the convoluted beauty life reveals itself to be, and the no-holds-barred energy that comes from a young author dying (or living) to express themselves. The novel shows such mastery of crafting vibrant, visual, concise prose that it’s hard not to fall in love with and want to reread the novel as you find yourself reaching the last sentences. (more…)

Rejoice bibliophiles! November has arrived and so has a cavalcade of fall books.  This month you can pick up new releases from Dennis Cooper, Mari SanGiovanni, Sheila Ortiz Taylor, Chantal Regnault, and Samuel Delany. (more…)

What causes us to call each other ‘family’?  Do genetic links hold meanings in the absence of actually meeting one who shares them?  Is blood thicker than water when water is all you’ve ever known?  Each of these questions is considered in Blood Strangers (Heyday Books), a memoir of one woman’s search for her father’s biological family.  Briccetti documents, in vivid detail and often elegant prose, her obsession with her own genealogy.   (more…)

The end of a hot and extremely dry summer brought a number of enjoyable distractions. Richard Stevenson’s latest Don Strachey case shows author and P.I. back in top form, thirty years after their debut. There were second novels from Joseph R.G. DeMarco and Scott Sherman. Jordan Castillo Price and Andrea Speed continued their alternate universe mystery series, joined by newcomer Stephen Osborne. I am happy to report that I was part of Cheyenne Publishing’s decision to bring Ruth Sims’s pioneering YA Pride Pack mysteries back into print. Two authors — Michael Gouda and Marshall Thornton — brought off that rarity: single-author short story collections. And two anthologies of all new crime writing appeared, one edited by DeMarco and the other by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann. Plus, the excellent film adaptation of Ken Bruen’s comic thriller Blitz became available onDVD. (more…)

“I’m all for a good dose of literary misery, but I can’t help wonder if there aren’t additional meaningful, and dramatically potent, channels into the heart of the human experience…” (more…)

The chronicle of the displaced, teenage sex worker is such a staple of gay film and literature that he’s almost his own genre. From Richie McMullen’s Enchanted Youth to Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, the young, inflammable rebel’s trials, tribulations, and “liberation” loom large in the creative mind with harsh lessons and dark, sexual adventures on urban mean streets. (more…)

Set in the declining town of Leominster, Massachusetts in the 1980s, Michael Graves’ blistering debut collection Dirty One (Chelsea Station Editions) depicts the harrowing lives of working-class adolescents on the verge. (more…)

“When fiction is made according to its nature, it should reinforce our sense of the supernatural by grounding it in concrete, observable reality.” -Flannery O’Connor

The Caregiver, the latest by the prolific Rick R. Reed, due out this month from Dreamspinner Press (cover art by Paul Richmond), is a straightforward traditional romance that may surprise his large horror romance fan base. But as Reed points out, “I am not one to stay within the lines when it comes to genre.” Readers who are fans of his horror romances know that they can trust Reed to deliver solid stories and strong characters and that trust is rewarded in this powerfully, satisfying romance set in the midst of the AIDS crises in the mid-90s. (more…)

“I’m always interested in the idea of the sacred and profane. I’m a very spiritual and sexual person. Liberating my spirituality, by being irreligious, and my sexuality, by coming out, empowered me more.”

Azwan Ismail is an engineer, poet and editor in Kuala Lumpur. He came to my attention last year when his It Gets Better video appeared on YouTube. Immediately after uploading it, Azwan found himself in the center of a media firestorm that resulted in death threats. Because of his tremendous courage, named him a Gay Rights Hero of 2010. He edited Orang Macam Kita (People Like Us), the first-ever Malay-language LGBT anthology (Matahari Books, 2010). (more…)

Sapphire’s first novel, Push, is a regular selection for my Introduction to Women’s Studies classes. Students enjoy reading the novel and watching, on their own, the film, Precious directed by Lee Daniels, with its major stars. Often we discuss the movie’s fidelity to the novel and where it diverges, thinking about how the two forms of artistic expression work differently. More importantly, however, we discuss the important questions Push raises about literacy, poverty, and AIDS. (more…)

One of the problems with comics anthologies is that they aren’t always good. You’re forced to plod through a lot of not-so-talented and amateur creations, in hopes of discovering one or two slivers of greatness. Famous artists contribute to the call for work, but instead of crafting new, exciting stuff, they dig through their closet and pawn off B-grade comics that no one else would publish, because they know a small publisher will slobber over their big name. It’s rare to find compilations that are as carefully constructed, drawn and written as artist’s individual monograms. (more…)

Imagine you wrote a book and it was shortlisted for the National Book Award.  Imagine the excitement you would feel getting the phone call telling you that your words are being recognized for their literary excellence.  Now imagine finding out you were nominated by accident because your book’s title sounds similar to the one that was actually supposed to be nominated.  That’s what happened to Lauren Myracle last week.  Myracle, a New York Times bestselling author of middle grade and young adult novels, was named as a Young People’s Literature finalist for her latest novel, Shine, about a girl who struggles to find the truth in small town North Carolina after her best guy friend falls victim to a brutal hate crime. (more…)

Happy Accidents (Voice), Jane Lynch’s breezy memoir about her life and work as a post-Stonewall American actor, has something for everyone. It is an interesting mix of Americana as well as a cross-section of the history of stage and TV sketch comedy. Both narrative and nostalgia, Happy Accidents is fun with flair, a chronicle of happenstance and the absurdities of life as she gleefully connects the dots between her personal and professional life. Lynch explains humor, and her always present desire for laughter (more…)

The Brown Boi Project in Oakland, CA just finished up it’s third annual leadership retreat. A “community of masculine of center womyn, men, two-spirit people, transmen, and our allies committed to transforming our privilege of masculinity, gender, and race into tools for achieving Racial and Gender Justice,” the Brown Boi Project holds annual leadership retreats for masculine of center people of color aged 35 and under who wish to “work across issues and communities, talk about race, class, culture, gender and sexuality, and explore what a commitment to social justice looks like.

In addition to its leadership retreats, the BBP also has released a ground breaking health book, Freeing Ourselves: A Guide to Health and Self Love for Brown Bois. (more…)

It’s a shame that summer is over, for Terrance Dean has written a textbook example of the fast-paced “summer novel” with Mogul (Atria Books). Drawing on his experience in the music business, already discussed in his 2008 non-fiction book Hiding In Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry from Music to Hollywood, Dean here lays out the life and hidden loves of a top producer “on the DL.” (more…)

“Writing these pieces was almost like putting together an album. I wanted fifty-dollar words and I wanted to create literary pop. Colorful, fizzy, glitterized fiction.”

Reviewer Richard Labonte recently branded Michael Graves “a next-generation master of prose” based on the strength of his startling original collection of short stories, Dirty One (Chelsea Station Editions). Tom Cardamone chats with the refreshingly enthusiastic author about Halloween, Mitt Romney, suburban drug use and more. (more…)

The opening chapter of The Girls Club (Bywater Books) by Sally Bellerose lays it all out on the table. But this just a taste of what the reader will find throughout the rest of the novel—body, sisterhood, illness, family, confused sexuality. In this unabashed prose, Bellerose captures a specific time, place, and circumstance while managing to remain timeless in her story. The narrator, Cora Rose, and her two sisters, Marie and Renee, dominate this book—they make it readable, believable, engrossing. (more…)

For me, and for many fans of literary fiction, particularly the gay ones, a new Alan Hollinghurst novel is an event. From 1988, when his first book The Swimming Pool Library was published to great acclaim, to 2004 when he won the Booker Prize for The Line of Beauty, Hollinghurst became known as one of Britain’s great novelists and arguably the greatest gay novelist writing in English today. (more…)

Today, two new poems by Monica McClure. (more…)

On a beautiful fall evening at New York’s Dixon Place on Tuesday October 5, writer Dinick Martinez took the stage, reading from a black and white composition notebook; “It’s hard to forget the harrowing moments when I was blind in love with the wrong man.”

The audience murmured an understanding response to the experience and the specificity of the language, perhaps remembering moments when they were also blind in love with the wrong person. (more…)

Post-Modern Meta Alert! Writer Stephen Beachy has not only injected himself as a character into his latest work of fiction, Boneyard (Verse Chorus), he has also cleverly placed himself in the book’s press materials/book trailer. (more…)

During my senior year of college, as I was researching for my thesis on the poetic response to AIDS, I ran across Tim Dlugos’s “Retrovir” in Michael Klein’s anthology Poets for Life: 76 Poets Respond to AIDS. Immediately gut-checked and seduced by those few poems, I went searching for more Dlugos, which wasn’t exactly easy, even in the age of instant access to, well, almost anything. Through several used and rare book dealers, I found copies of Dlugos’ Strong Place (with introduction by David Trinidad), Powerless (again, Trinidad introduction), and a rare chapbook, For Years. When news circulated that Trinidad was in the process of editing a Collected Poems, I waited intently. The wait was well worth it (more…)

Something I often find annoying about biographies is their blatant attempts to shape our responses. Either the writer crafts an homage, believing the subject is beyond reproach, or barely concealed antipathy creates a portrait that is diminishing. Such is not the case with Robert A. Schanke’s current treatise: Queer Theatre and the Legacy of Cal Yeomans. Schanke scrupulously details his tumultuous life and career, never hesitating to elaborate for the sake of balance and fairness. (more…)

“I absolutely believe that writing and publishing erotica, especially for minorities, is a political act. We must write our own stories, our own truths, otherwise our detractors and enemies will do it for us”

I picked up Best Lesbian Erotica 1998 when I worked at an indie bookstore, and it changed my trajectory. Suddenly I was asking myself, why do I love this lesbian erotica so much? (more…)

“It’s a blessing and a curse, this business of writing about everything that challenges, confounds, or embarrasses me.  Contrary to how it must seem, it actually springs from an aversion to self-reflection. If I didn’t write about my life, I would never understand what the hell was happening.”

“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.

This month’s  “Banal and Profane” column comes to us from Melissa Febos. (more…)

February is the shortest month, but it’s packed full of new books. Two of my favorite established writers, Camonghne Felix and Carl Phillips, have new books out, and there are also some amazing debuts by Lambda Literary Fellows Lamya H and Katie Jean Shinkle. Take some time out to focus on yourself and read some amazing new writing to center yourself.




LGBTQ Studies



Speculative Fiction

Young Adult Literature

Children’s/Middle Grade Literature


Comics/Graphic Novels

It’s always hard to sum up a lifetime of memories and accomplishments when paying tribute to those that contributed to our community. Call their names. #NeverForget

Lebanese-American poet, essayist, and visual artist Etel Adnan.

Author Brenda Adcock.

Author, playwright, poet and painter Red Jordan Arobateau.

Academic Leo Bersani, known for his contributions to French literary criticism and queer theory.

Singer-songwriter and community activist Blackberri.

Canadian writer, novelist, poet, and playwright Marie-Claire Blais.

Chuck Colbert was freelance journalist reporting for gay and mainstream audiences.

Publisher and editor of Haworth Press Bill Cohen.

Leslie Cohen author, activist and along with her wife Beth were models for the Gay Liberation Statue in NYC

Writer and educator Randy P Conner.

Kim Corsaro was the writer, editor and publisher for 30 years of the San Francisco Bay Times. 

Poet Steve Dalachinsky.

Lesbian activist, author, editor, and teacher Elana Dykewomon.

Terrance Dean was an author, academic, and a former MTV. executive.

Author Kathleen DeBold also had worked for Lambda Literary.

Author, performer, editor and publisher Kernwood Elmslie.

Author and memoirist Lars Eighner.

Author, activist, and media strategist Jeffrey Escoffier.

Arden Eversmeyer founded both Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF) and the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project  (OLOHP)

Critic, translator, lyricist, playwright and dramaturg Michael Feingold.

Educator, theologian activist and author Sally Miller Gearheart

Novelist, memoirist, biographer, literary critic, and essayist Doris Grumbach.

Writer and writing coach Ellen Greenblatt.

Painter, youth advocate and professor Madeline “Maddy” Gold. 

Feminist film director, producer, writer, and cinematographer Barbara Hammer. 

Photographer and author Sue Hardesty.

Author and activist Crispin Hollings.

Poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator Richard Howard.

Leslie Jordan was an actor, writer, comedian and singer. 

Author Steve Neil Johnson.

LGBT activist, author  and college professor Arnie Kantrowitz.

Poet and educator, anthologist and curator Dean Kostos.

Richard LaBonte was a writer, editor and co-founder of A Different Light Bookstore.é

Author Richard Lipez/Richard Stevenson.

Writer and editor Barbara Love.

Mystery writer Claire McNab.

Crime and mystery writer Marijane Meaker. (Vin Parker /M.E. Kerr)

Poet David Melnick.

Bookseller Ben McFall.

Actress, author, playwright, and disability rights activist Susan Nussbaum.

Professor, historian, encyclopedist, and gay activist William A. Percy III.

Editor Jim O’Quinn. 

Cuban lesbian feminist, writer, and a professor Mirta Quintinales.

Writer and staunch advocate for LGBTQ+ rights Colin Robinson.

Susan Silverman feminist, and civil rights activist. 

Poet, musician and activist Jackie Sheeler

Composer, lyricist and author Stephen Sondheim.

Writer and editor Andre Leon Talley.é_Leon_Talley

Archivist and activist Jean Tretter.

LGBTQ rights activist, lawyer, and writer Urvashi Vaid.

Novelist, poet, editor and journalist Patrica Nell Warren.

Playwright Jeff Weiss .

Artist , musician and instrument masker Sue Parker “Rainbow” Williams

Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 34 years of successful marketing campaigns. For more information:

What do you get when you mix a poetic writer with the mystery genre? More metaphors than you can shake a stick at. Laugh out loud metaphors. Stunningly beautiful metaphors. All interlaced within an exciting mystery that is as different as it is classic in feel. 

The main character of Margot Douaihy’s debut mystery novel Scorched Grace isn’t your normal bookshop-owning or cat-loving amateur sleuth. Holiday Walsh is a queer, heavily tattooed, smoking, swearing, thoroughly punk nun with a gold tooth. She is a member of the Sisters of the Sublime Blood in New Orleans, an order with only four nuns, Sister Holiday being the youngest by decades. She is required to wear gloves and a scarf to cover her tattoos, which she willingly does in exchange for refuge from a chaotic and tragic previous life. 

But here’s the thing. Her devotion to God is not a front; she is a genuine believer. “The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. I was broken, crushed, and it brought the Lord closer to me,” she says. After previously believing that religion was punitive nonsense, life events turn her in another direction. “I needed a way to make all the contradictions of my life fit. God helped it fit.” But lest you think Sister Holiday left all the punk behind, there’s also this prayer: Holy Mary, Mother of God. Let the afterlife have central air and hot women.”

But lest you think Sister Holiday left all the punk behind, there’s also this prayer: Holy Mary, Mother of God. Let the afterlife have central air and hot women.”

Speaking of air conditioning, the cast of characters seem to enjoy little of it. The New Orleans summer is a main character in the novel. Oppressive is an inadequate word to describe the heat and humidity in the city. I had to turn off my space heater a few times after reading vivid descriptions like “Steam rose from the asphalt of a parking lot, braiding the air into a tessellation.” The amount of sweat pouring down their faces could fill a dozen saltwater fish tanks. “Everything in New Orleans is overdue, overgrown, dripping.”

The Sisters of the Sublime Blood are teachers at the school next to the convent. When someone sets fire to one wing of the school, killing the school janitor, Sister Holiday heroically saves two boys caught in the conflagration. Her instinct is to investigate and find the killer, which she does while navigating around two police detectives and a perfume-making fire investigator. Soon more fires and the death of a nun cause panic in the community. It doesn’t take long for the police to suspect Sister Holiday herself of the murder after evidence is planted against her. There are many twists and turns and the threads of the mystery weave skillfully toward a truly surprising reveal at the end.

It doesn’t take long for the police to suspect Sister Holiday herself of the murder after evidence is planted against her.

Almost as mysterious is Sister Holiday’s history. What was she running from? The answer is carefully doled out in flashbacks that describe a woman at the end of the line. An alcoholic, punk guitarist, her wounds and terrible choices inform the woman now seeking redemption. This is painful stuff and you feel her despair. Then you root for her to keep her act together long enough to truly change. She’s a deeply layered character, one I was behind all the way. 

The twisty plot, gorgeous language, and the renegade nun as a main character bring this novel into its own category. One often thinks of the amateur sleuth as belonging in cozy mysteries. This is not that. Scorched Grace is a novel both exciting and profound. The crisp pacing keeps things moving briskly forward while the writing takes you deep. I can’t ask for more than that.

Scorched Grace

Margot Douaihy

Gillian Flynn Books


Author Sarah Shulman has called Cary Alan Johnson’s debut novel Desire Lines, “a gripping, moving story of a vulnerable young black gay man reaching for some dignity and integrity through the storm of familial homophobia and the dawn of AIDS.”

Cary Alan Johnson is an author, activist and Africanist raised in Brooklyn, currently living in Central Africa. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. A public health and HIV specialist and long-time innovator in national and international queer politics and cultural activism, Johnson was a founder of several groundbreaking organizations, including the Blackheart Collective, Gay Men of African Descent, Other Countries, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. He was interviewed by poet and writer Reginald Harris on August 28, 2022. The interview has been edited for clarity. 

Reginald Harris (RH): Tell me about the genesis of the book: What lead you to write Desire Lines?

Cary Alan Johnson (CAJ): It took me ten years to write it. I’d worked on several essays and shorter pieces over the last fifteen years, some of them about the AIDS crisis and the response of the Black gay community and Black gay men’s survival strategies. I started out writing a series of essays, but that felt too preachy. I worked on a memoir for a while, then said no, I’m not that interesting, there’s nothing linear about my experience. There was not the rise and fall that I think even a memoir has to have.

Then I said, you know what, you need to do this thing that you want to do, you need to write the full-length, fully-articulated story of that experience. Not that there’s one experience; there are many stories. But in the story I wrote, I tried to pull in enough diversity of characters that there’s a little bit for everyone who lived through that period to find themselves. I amalgamated some characters, like Regina for example. She’s an amalgam of a number of women who played critical roles in my life. And I think for many Gay men, we often have these primary relationships with one woman, often a straight woman, and I thought those relationships were so critical and risky and important that they needed to have some exploration. 

And I think for many Gay men, we often have these primary relationships with one woman, often a straight woman, and I thought those relationships were so critical and risky and important that they needed to have some exploration. 

RH: Why did you decide to set the novel in the early 1980’s?

CAJ: I think there’s been a lot of great books written about that time period – And the Band Played On, The Hours, Dancer from the Dance – but I don’t think any book had been written about the experiences of Black gay men. Short stories, plenty of poetry, but no full-length novels. I think we need novels. There’s something about immersing yourself in the experience of a novel I think that provides a certain amount of catharsis and memory and healing. And that’s what I want from this book. It healed me, it brought me a lot of solace. Some of those characters, be they 100% fictional or if they are semi-created, will live forever in this book. It’s my testimony. It’s my remembrance and my thanks to some of those people and that period.

RH: Could you explain a bit more about the differences for Black gay men at that time?

CAJ: I think the experience of Black Gay men was different. The service agencies that developed early to support white gay men? It took us a while to pull those together for our community. And so, we didn’t have those kinds of support services initially. I don’t know if I can say whether our families were more severe than white families — I don’t know if that’s the truth. There was a notion I think at the beginning of the epidemic, and the narrator and his friends Lil’ Pete and Jeff they talk about it at the bar, they have this perception that, “Oh that AIDS thing, that’s a White Boy thing, as long as you’re not sleeping with white boys, you’re gonna be okay.” That is a lie that we told ourselves. One of those good old denial mechanisms that we told ourselves until we could no longer tell ourselves that. I think our experiences were particular, and they needed to be documented. I think fiction was a good way to do it.

I think our experiences were particular, and they needed to be documented

RH: Desire Lines also deals very vividly with addiction.

CAJ: I felt there had been some pretty good books about cocaine and crack addiction. Crack to me was an experience – plenty of white people smoked crack – but it was really an experience of the African-American community. It was marketed to us, we accepted it wholeheartedly, and it destroyed lives and families and futures and careers. And almost destroyed mine personally. 

Maybe I needed to unearth it for myself as a person and put it on paper, to expel some of the shame around it and talk about the awfulness of it, the truth and the awfulness of it: for other people that may have gone though it or had friends and family that went through it. 

What I’m realizing is that I wrote Desire Lines to heal. Many of us who were coming of age in the ’80s – we came out of that era damaged as fuck, hurting. And all you could do was stuff it down. You couldn’t go crazy. You couldn’t run out into the streets screaming. You had to just keep showing up for your friends, for your people who were dying – for your Self. I remember before the test for sero-prevalence came out, it was a total question mark. And, for many of us, it was not a question mark, it was pretty much a fait accompli: I’m seeing people dying so what possible hope could I have that I’m gonna survive into my thirties? But still, you have to show up. And some of us didn’t; some of us went off the deep end. But we were the best and the brightest. Many of us were the first generation of Black boys to go off to college, first generation that could kind of be ‘out,’ or at least not hiding their sexuality. That’s why that scene in the novel in the Paradise Garage is so important to me. The narrator and a thousand other men are in this arena and they’re like, “This is our moment. We’re young, gifted and Black – and queer. And what could possibly stop us? What could possibly stop us?

The narrator and a thousand other men are in this arena and they’re like, “This is our moment. We’re young, gifted and Black – and queer. And what could possibly stop us? What could possibly stop us?

RH: What themes do you hope people who weren’t there in the 1980’s get from the book?

CAJ: I wrote Desire Lines for my peers. But I do think there’s lot for younger people, white folks, straight people, to learn from it. One, I want people to know what the experience was. And I want people to know that we didn’t all die. Statistically most of us did not die. But it feels like most of us did die, I think, because somehow it was almost like AIDS chose some of the most beautiful people, the most gifted people. I mean, of course, Essex [Hemphill], of course Joe Beam, Assotto Saint, those people are quite celebrated and that’s a wonderful thing. But then one person I think about a lot is Donald Woods. A poet who was part of Other Countries who wrote the most magnificent poetry, whose voice has been silenced. He should have written this novel – and better. 

RH: You begin Desire Lines with the narrator talking about anal sex. How did you make the decision that the novel would be so erotic or so explicit sexually?

I rewrote that chapter, or I considered rewriting that chapter as I got towards the end of the process, because I said I don’t want to turn people off. But, come on, what else am I gonna do? That was my life and that was the life of many, many, many gay men – not all but many in the ’70s and the ’80s. 

I was very influenced as a writer by John Rechy who wrote City of Night and Numbers and the frankness and the unapologetic manner in which he wrote about sex. Jewelle Gomez described the book as ‘steamy,’ which I like as a description because steamy to me is different than sexy. Steamy to me is contextual. Every sexual act that happens in the book happens to tell you more about the characters or to move the story along. When I go back and read it, I never feel like, “Oh this needs to be toned down.” 

For example, when the narrator meets Devyn, and they go back to Devyn’s apartment for the first time, we need to see it. They’re getting ready to do the thing, and Devyn reaches for the condoms. It’s1985; the fact that he reaches for the condoms tells you everything. 

And then there’s the whole issue of Tops and Bottoms, which young people may not understand in quite the same way. But it was a critical part of our identity. Even if we rejected that notion, that was a critical part of our identity. So, the narrator is wrestling with “Am I a top? Am I a bottom? Who will I let top me – what does that mean? Am I less of a man? What does penetration feel like?” The scene on the beach with Abdul, that’s his first sexual experience, and it has to be detailed. 

RH: Some may consider you a kind of ‘expatriate writer’ like James Baldwin, in that you’ve lived in other countries and Africa for a long time. Is there some benefit in distance from the U. S. that helped you with the book, or helped you to clarify things?

CAJ: That’s an interesting question. I didn’t leave the U. S. like Baldwin or [Langston] Hughes or people like that, saying, “I’m out!” which I think is a very interesting thing. You leave one racist place and go to another, but somehow this new one is better. I think that was a fantasy that many of those expatriate writers needed/had. I work here. But certainly, there are two or three chapters in the book that are set in Mobutu- era Zaire, and I think, I hope, that there’s an authenticity in those chapters. I also think my life is much less hectic here. I live in Burundi. It’s a very small country, there’s no nightlife. Plus, I’m an older gentleman at this point, so I’m not running the way I used to run. And the benefit of that is that I can get up at 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the morning and go to my office and sit at my computer and work for two hours before I go to work. If I were in New York, would I be able to do that? Probably not. There are so many things going on. 

RH: Some people hate this question after they finish a project but I’ll ask it anyway: What’s next? What are you working on?

CAJ: I don’t hate this question at all. I’ve been with this book for a while now, ten years, and then, of course, the last few have been really intense, particularly the last six months trying to get it into the world. I’m ready for something different. I’m ready to move on to the next thing. So yeah, I’ve got an idea. There was this meeting between Alain Locke and Langston Hughes in Paris in what year was it? Oh, I want to say the 1930’s. Locke had this very strong attraction to Hughes, and Hughes was a young rising poet with his whole life in front of him. Locke was the doyenne of the [Harlem] Renaissance but was in those days ‘old.’ He was in his 50’s, probably equivalent to 65 or older now. Here you have these two great minds, one on the rise, one in decline shall I say, one who has sort of hit his mark and now needs to make room for others. But desire…I think that’s part of everyone’s writing, but I think it’s essential in mine. The desire of this older man for this younger man and what did this younger man desire from this older man? Certainly not the same things. It’s something that I’m experiencing in my own life at this point as a single man at this stage. When is my desire for younger men – and I don’t have a particular thing for younger men, but most of the men in the world are younger –when is my desire appropriate? Where’s my beauty? And I imagine Locke asking, where is my beauty? It may not be physical any more but…So, my next project is my sort of imagining of that weekend in Paris. I don’t know how specific to this historical meeting I will be, but I want to use that as the kernel for a novel about desire, power, aging, art, how all those things wrap themselves up together. 

Cecilia Gentili’s new book Faltas: Letters to Everyone In My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist is a memoir that peppers a striking sense of humor into a series of memories, digressions, and insights into the lives of the lives of the people populating her hometown. Faltas avoids the trappings of many trans memoirs that make them sometimes feel like trauma porn for the cis crowd, instead breathing new life into the genre. It’s a fresh take on a stale genre. 

Told through a series of letters to the people Gentili grew up around, Faltas takes readers into 1970’s Argentina when she was young and trying to figure her life out, although it stops short of her actually transitioning and moving to the United States. It wasn’t an easy life in her small village. “I don’t think we had a kitchen,” she writes. “It was everything together. Just a big room where we slept and cooked and dreamed.” Her dad’s rarely in the picture, while her mom views her more as a peer than as her kid. And there’s the adult neighbor who regularly sexually assaults her. 

As a young person only vaguely aware that she was trans, Gentili was taken advantage of by her next door neighbor. He was the father of a friend, and a popular singer. He also sexually abused Gentili throughout her early teens. She writes bluntly of how her abuser saw and exploited her vulnerability:

I remember the first time he laid eyes on me: I saw it, I saw he would give me the thing everyone else was denying me. He saw me as I was, and I didn’t have to explain how I felt inside because for him it was visible.

He saw I was Cecilia. He saved my life and ruined it forever.

Faltas showcases a world that’s bleak but alive. Gentili runs with a couple of local friends, hooks up for sex, and lives on the fringes of society.  She watches as neighboring families come and go, squatting in neighboring houses. One day she befriends a new kid on the block, but soon the friend’s gone without a trace, their family moving on to look for another opportunity. It’s a zero-sum game for these people, who fight and claw for anything they can have. 

Faltas showcases a world that’s bleak but alive.

But the lives of queer people are what’s most striking about this book. Gentili wasn’t the only queer person in her neighborhood: she hit it off with Juan Pablo, another queer teen, quickly becoming friends and moving among the underworld, hooking up with people on the downlow and remaining invisible, lest they be murdered. They could be friends, writes Gentili, but not lovers:

When you met me in the forest it was like a duel of bottoms. You tried to be the man for a bit, but your heart wasn’t in it. You asked me to suck your dick (the gall!) and I tried for a while, but then I glanced up and saw the look of disgust on your face. Clearly this was not right… We were not the ones who sucked. We were more like those baby birds we had seen in National Geographic magazines, mouths open, waiting for their mothers to feed them, except instead of waiting for food we were waiting for dick. 

Indeed, Faltas is brimming with Gentili’s sense of humor, which is what keeps this book moving. What could have easily become a grim book of horrors is instead packed with life and Gentili’s personality. She comes across like a gossipy older sister, as someone who’s seen it all and lived to tell the tale, and as a survivor. Her letters show different aspects of her personality: at times cracking jokes, at others showing a vulnerable side: when she reflects on being taken advantage of, the prejudices of her neighbors, the way her parents don’t quite connect with her. 

What could have easily become a grim book of horrors is instead packed with life and Gentili’s personality.

But taken as a whole, the letters in Faltas don’t just show readers what her childhood was like. They also take us into the experiences that shaped Gentili: the friends, the abuse, the way her father would drift in and out of her life, and the ways she managed to keep a step ahead of her enemies. 

As noted above, the book stops short of how Gentili came to the United States, of her coming out as trans or really any details of her life outside of her hometown. But it doesn’t need those: the act of writing a letter is a good way to let go of the past, of saying goodbye and setting yourself up to move on. And that’s what Faltas does best. 

“No one,” writes Gentili, “is going to write a starring role for me. The only way I will get to be the star of a play… is if I write it myself.” And with this remarkable book, she’s done exactly that.

Faltas: Letters to Everyone In My Hometown Who Isn’t My Rapist

By Cecilia Gentili

Littlepuss Press

Paperback, 208 pages

ISBN: 978-1736716823

Excerpt from the Foreword by Carolyn D’Cruz to A Sturdy Yes of a People: Selected Writing by Joan Nestle

By Carolyn D’Cruz

While Naarm/Melbourne became the most locked down city in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, I went to bed with Joan Nestle several nights a week. If you hook up with her here, she’ll also touch you. Every time I read her erotica (or is porn the better word?), I relive the joy of legs spreading and lips parting, of feeling hot and getting wet, of bodies opening, holding on, and letting go. A lover of words, even as language fails, Joan Nestle finds enough space for flesh to speak. Besides taking us through bars and streets to all that steamy sex, Joan gifts us a political and scholarly heritage. She shares her methods for collecting archives, recording history, and commemorating places, events, and those people we need to listen to if we want to build a more just world. She guides us through the heritage of solidarity building between social movements. Her words beck- on us to pay attention to how narratives of desire, power, and justice are told—or not. Our work is to learn how to tell what’s missing and amplify those voices that have been too readily suppressed. Working from the margins, or “history from below,” Nestle is a shape-shifting storyteller who gracefully reminds us of “what we are in danger of forgetting” (p. 331). 

Joan Nestle’s writing showed me how to exit the kind of feminism that could not see this, without losing my politics. My own eighties’ feminist experience was loaded with a uniformity in dress, style, and politically correct fucking that inadvertently took away my right to sexiness and liberated sex. When I passed from the straight to lesbian and queer world, Joan’s writing helped me find a new kind of freedom, a freedom that allowed me to feel within my own skin when I put on short dresses, V-neck sweaters, and made up my face with heavy eyeliner and lipstick. Like Joan, I’ve got my own black slip that can summon sex like magic. I’m yet to wear it on a panel like Joan did, though; and it will never be, and nor should it, as famous as hers. Joan is the Queen of Fems. She’s given so many of us a lifeline and the simple permission to flaunt it. Her pages are littered with joyful sexual communication through putting one’s self on: not submissively, as stereotype, or dismissively, as parody—but power- fully, as flamboyance. On rereading what Joan gathers in her own and others’ writing, I can better see how erotic taste connects with what is also a politics of style and a style of politics—a politics that underscores our own bent right “to be.” 

Flaunting is one way of telling one another and the rest of the world who we want to attract and what we want to repel. It’s not a simple case of dividing one column for butch and one for fem, or any two markers we may contrast through inadequate understandings of masculinity and femininity. In Joan’s day there was also “butchy fem,” “femmy butch,” or “feeling kiki (going both ways)” (p. 103). The language has expanded today, while the mix-and-match-y style of bending rigid categories of gen- der through sexuality and sexuality through gender continues to be expressed through tattoos, flannel shirts, chunky watches, leather wristbands, and baseball caps. In other spaces there are bow ties, suits, and kooky cuff links (sexier with painted, manicured fingernails). Some of us still have our generic leather and denim jackets, surviving with their unique markings of wear and tear, badges and brooches, and sewn-on patches; it’s not just our hearts but our politics that are worn on our sleeves. I’m pausing so long on the politics of dress, for these are the signifiers that also attract street harassment and police profiling (which heightens when intersecting with markers of race and class). Joan Nestle reminds us that our “erotic heritage” (as she so beautifully puts it) includes police raids in bars, as was the case with the working-class Sea Colony in Greenwich Village that she frequented in the 1950s and 1960s. As she documents, in those days it was legal to arrest a person if they did not have three items of clothing that belonged to the gender they were presumed to be. 

Nestle discusses these raids in “Lesbian Sex and Surveillance,” taking us through the intersection of her own working- class lesbian and queer history against the institutional forces that confined, patrolled, and violated the expression of nonnormative sexuality and gender. Looking at the number of times she has revisited her “fem quest” within a broader history of surveil- lance gives us some idea of the urgency in which she believed feminists needed to sort the telling of this stuff out. “Butch- Fem Relationships” was first published in Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics in 1981 and appeared in the anthology Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, which emerged from the notorious 1982 Scholar and Feminist Conference IX at Barnard College, New York City. That conference marked a significant moment of the “sex wars” within feminism, and we had our own versions of those debates across the ocean, where Joan would later come to live with her partner Di, in so-called Australia. Joan’s endnote accompanying the essay’s republication in A Restricted Country says, “It took me forty years to write this essay” (p. 109). The same issues are raised in “My Fem Quest” in A Fragile Union as well as “The Fem Question” in Persistent Desire. Each of these iterations underscore the recurring problem of how to tell a history that can remain true to those whose experiences are at the center of it. Alarmingly, the fights staged at and surrounding the 1982 Barnard conference remain within feminism and beyond, gathering force in public debates over the years where certain feminists are happy to form alliances with conservative and right-wing bodies intent on squeezing some of our folk out of existence. 

Over twenty years ago, Joan reflected on how her friend Chelsea Elisabeth Goodwin, a transgender woman volunteering at the Lesbian Herstory Archives, opened the space for “an- other layer of lesbian history” (p. 209). Chelsea and her partner Rusty were housing Sylvia Rivera, whose name has now become eminently connected to the Stonewall insurrection of 1969, but at the time was “left behind by the mainstream respectable gay liberation movement” (p. 209). If the gay liberation movement and lesbian-feminist movement had “done things differently,” Joan argues, then “Chelsea and her comrades would not have to be fighting for their most basic rights in the 1990s” (p. 210). The alarm bells ringing through these words should have been loud enough to warn the same kind of feminists and respectable gay and lesbian lobbies how far under the bus trans, nonbinary, and gender-diverse folk would be thrown in the twenty-first century. When Joan rereads Esther’s story for the occasion of speaking to the trans community group Metropolitan Gender Network in 1997, she once again shares lessons in the constraints and possibilities for building solidarity: “If I know the dreams of only my own, then I will never understand where my impulse for freedom impinges on another history, where my interpretation of someone’s life is weakened by my own limits of language, imagination, or desire” (p. 213). 

Somehow, Joan Nestle manages to hold together the contradictory positions that come with the experience of having “fought our way to sense” at the same time as learning to live through “shifting definitions” and “let[ing] go of certainty” (p. 281). How does she do it? How does Joan maintain her love for women while also navigating those situations when “the opposition between women and men stops being pertinent”? How does she maintain a lesbian herstory as she simultaneously navigates an historical terrain when lesbian, passing women, butch, and even our ideas of what is the “same” in a same-sex relation- ship keep shifting? Rereading Esther through her encounters with Chelsea and looking back at a time when the resonance of Esther’s own sense of self, gender, and desire would have been too easily dismissed through the particularity of how Esther, “want[ing] to be a man,” would have been read in a certain lesbian world, Joan manages to claim a lesbian-feminist perspective at the same time in which she “pushe[s] against lesbian-feminist boundaries of acceptable history” (p. 211). As some of us re- read, or read for the first time, texts like Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness or Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, Joan’s rereading of Esther is like a guiding star for navigating what we can and cannot see and say about the intersections of gender, sexual- ity, class, and race in a particular time, place, or genre of ex- pression. Without using fancy academic jargon (not that there is anything inherently wrong with that), Joan’s own grappling with the history of desire shows how we are caught within struggles where identity categories are ineluctably politicized. Her first-rate scholarship on “[fighting] our way to sense” gives us clues for working on what is to be done and how we go about doing it (p. 281). 

Having been constantly called to explain herself to strangers, Carolyn D’Cruz has become an expert on entanglements between personal, professional and political life. She is author of Identity Politics in Deconstruction: Calculating with the Incalculable and Democracy in Difference: Debating key terms in gender, sexuality, race and identity. She is also co-editor of After homosexual: Legacies of Gay Liberation. D’Cruz is a Senior lecturer in Gender Sexuality and Diversity Studies at La Trobe University. 

The new year is upon us, whether we are ready or not. With the new year comes reflection, and of course, resolutions. Be gentle with yourself, friend. You are already doing the best you can, and while you challenge yourself to meet new goals, don’t forget room for joy, for love, for grief, and for pain.

This month’s list includes emerging and established authors, including Lammy winner and finalist Daniel Black and Selby Wynn Schwartz. Spend a little time for yourself among a hectic time with these exciting new works.




LGBTQ Studies



Speculative Fiction

Young Adult Literature

Children’s/Middle Grade Literature


Comics/Graphic Novels

Trickster Academy is a collection of poems that explore being Native in Academia—from land acknowledgement statements, to mascots, to the histories of using Native American remains in anthropology. Jenny L. Davis’ collection brings humor and uncomfortable realities together in order to challenge the academy and discuss the experience of being Indigenous in university classrooms and campuses. Organized around the premise of the Trickster Academy— a university space run by, and meant for training, Tricksters— this collection moves between the personal dynamics of a Two-Spirit/queer Indigenous woman in spaces where there are few, if any, others and a Trickster’s critique of those same spaces.”– University of Arizona Press

We Leave Home

We leave home because somehow it seems
easier for the punches, slurs, and spit to be
coming from strangers instead of the people we’ve
known for our whole lives.

We leave home because there are only three other
queer people in this town and two of them
are dating each other.

We leave home because the three other queer
people in this town are tall or loud or masculine
or feminine of center, and we crave short or shy
or butch or femme in a hundred shades not found here—
or they are our cousins.

We leave home because, as a wise friend once
told me, “If you walk into a bar and have dated
more than three of the people there, it’s time to move
to a new city.”

We leave home because everyone says the city
is full of sin and danger and people who break all
the rules, and it is already dangerous for us here and, well, the
rest sounds wonderfully enticing.

We leave home because even though the Sunday
school teacher has been cheating on his wife with
the scorekeeper of his son’s baseball team for years,
we are the ones going to hell, and we’ve learned from
experience that the phrase “we’ll pray for you” is not kind.

We come home because it can be hard to
connect to people who have never hauled hay
in the August heat and humidity, never stuffed
their belongings into a pillowcase when the tornado
sirens went off.

We come home because sometimes it helps to know
that the person throwing punches and slurs comes from
a home where their father beats everyone smaller
than him, and so, in a way, with each strike
they are claiming you as family in the only way they know how.

We come home because the younger ones need
to see people who are like them, and if everyone
leaves there will always only be three of us in every
small town.

We come home because even when they rail
against who we are and who we love or
who we do (or don’t) worship, they can’t
deny we are part of them, can’t deny that the red clay between
all of our childhood toes is as binding as blood
and just as impossible to wash out

Just What Kind of Trickster Are You?

“Well, which are you—a finger or a thumb?”


        I am a hand
                an arm reaching
                a body
                a community across generations

        I am
                the cosmos translucent.

“Ok . . . I’ll put you down for thumb, then.”

Found Poem, External Shell

most classification
of the unionids
is based
upon anatomy
of soft parts,
the shell
is the most
commonly encountered

Either the shell is all you have,
or the animal is alive
you may not be inclined
to sacrifice the animal
to look at the internal

for live material
you may only have
external shell
to go by.

Real Indian ABC

According to someone we all know, “real Indians” don’t:

Adapt or
Break tradition. Don’t
Call out racism,
      misogyny, and privilege. Don’t
Date white,
      Mexican women. Don’t have
Ebony skin,
      blue eyes. Don’t
Fight disenrollment, or get
Gender confirmation surgery. No
Hablan Español. Don’t
Identify as gay,
      two-spirit. Don’t
Jam to death metal,
      hip-hop, or
      classical music. Don’t study
Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Never
Live off-rez—especially not in
      cities. Don’t
March in Pride parades, or
Need to get tested. Wouldn’t
Operate casinos or
Protest police brutality. Never
Question their elders or
       tribal leaders. Don’t
Receive per caps, don’t need to use
Sunblock or condoms. Wouldn’t
Teach outsiders our languages. Don’t get
University degrees, don’t
Validate our Freedmen. Don’t
Watch sci-fi or read
X-Men. Definitely don’t
Yawn during sunrise ceremonies, and have
Zero interest in anthropology.

They are full of shit.

How Turtle Got Her Shell

Did you know Turtle
didn’t always have
a shell?
She grew it
to keep the world
from crushing her
her own body
to protect
her heart from
into carapace and plastron.
She knew
meant preserving


1. If we don’t know our clan,
does that mean we can eat all of the animals, or none of them?

2. If my partner and I are both
from matriarchal communities,
whose family do we move in with?
(And who provides the deer for the wedding?)

3. If being decolonial means I should give up fry bread,
do I also have to give up my glasses? They’re the only
way I can see the beads to make my traditional regalia.

4. If I am Deer Clan on my mom’s side
but the sorting hat put me in Ravenclaw,
which animal do I put on my beaded medallion?
Can I put both?

Excerpted from A Trickster Academy by Jenny L. Davis. Published with permission from University of Arizona Press. Copyright (c) 2022 by Jenny L. Davis.

Available for purchase now here!

Lambda Literary, the nation’s leading LGBTQ+* literary organization, seeks an organized, detail-oriented, and highly collaborative Manager of the Executive Office to serve as a key support partner to its new Executive Director, Samiya Bashir. This is a full-time position, based in New York City, in a remote office environment. All candidates must be eligible to work in the U.S.

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 LGBTQ+ literature is fundamental to the preservation of  our culture and that LGBTQ+ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published, and  read.

*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and all emerging identities

What You’ll Do

The Manager of the Executive Office provides support in a close one-on-one working relationship with the Executive Director. They serve as the primary point of contact and the connection between staff, consultants, board of director members, and external stakeholders on matters pertaining to the Office of the Executive Director. The Manager of the Executive Office is expected to be able to work on multiple projects independently.

  • Scheduling and time management with regard to the Executive Director’s multiple calendars; maintaining and following up on priorities
  • Assists in managing the Executive Director’s correspondence and deliverables to external stakeholders.
  • Supports basic IT needs of the Executive Director and serves as the bridge to IT vendors and consultants to address remaining tech issues.
  • Manages communications between the Executive Director’s office, internal departments, external contractors and stakeholders, and the Board of Directors.
  • Managing post office boxes, shipping. Process and distribute incoming communications to appropriate team members.
  • Assist with the preparation of financial reports and create additional reports as needed for projects and Board meetings.
  • Assist in the creation and updating of marketing materials and documents in support of fundraising, donor stewardship, and programs.
  • Board meeting coordination, including meeting logistics as well as any necessary travel and accommodations, materials preparation, and related responsibilities.
  • Directly staffs the Executive Committee, Governance Advisory Committee, and other committees of Lambda Literary’s Board of Directors.
  • Assists with preparing materials for the Governance Committee related to new Board member recruitment, nominations, and orientation.

Minimum 2-3 years’ experience working with senior executive management, and/or President / Executive Director in a nonprofit setting preferred, along with the following qualifications:

  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills.
  • Well-developed problem-solving skills.
  • Applications proficiency using Microsoft Office and Google platforms, Constant Contact, Submittable, Canva, Airtable, Zoom, Quickbooks, and DonorPerfect, among others.
  • Possesses strong organizational, prioritization, and process management skills, with the ability to handle multiple tasks, projects, and priorities effectively and professionally.
  • Must be a creative and strategic thinker with good judgment and ability to make independent decisions in a changing environment.
  • Commitment and ability to thrive within a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, including in dealings with colleagues, donors, consultants, and other critical stakeholders.
  • Cultural responsiveness and alignment with our values; commitment to equity and inclusion, as well as LGBTQ books and supporting our community’s stories, and knowledgeable about the literary world and/or the publishing industry
  • Strong relationship building, especially within a remote office; high ethical standards, discretion, and tact.

Reporting Relationship

This position reports to Lambda Literary’s Executive Director and has no direct reports.

Compensation + Benefits

This is a full time, salaried position with a salary range of $65,000 – $70,000 based on salary history and experience. This position includes a competitive benefits package that includes healthcare insurance and paid vacation.

Location + Travel

Some travel (~10%) is expected, including in-person board meetings and other meetings and events.

How to Apply

Please submit a cover letter, resume, and brief biographical statement, as well as 2-3 references to Kindly use the position title as the subject line of your email. No calls please.

Applications will be accepted through January 30, 2023

Interviews will begin January 15, 2023

Lambda Literary is an equal opportunity employer. We value having staff who come from communities that are most impacted by our work. People of color, LGBQ people, transgender and gender non-conforming people, and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Lambda Literary, the nation’s leading LGBTQ+* literary organization, seeks an organized, detail-oriented, and highly collaborative Director of Development & Engagement. The ideal candidate will possess an excitement about LGBTQ+ literature and a dynamic approach to leadership for a growing nonprofit organization as well as a proven track record in non-profit fundraising. This position is remote with potential to work in our NYC-based office on occasion. All candidates must be eligible to work in the U.S.

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 LGBTQ+ literature is fundamental to the preservation of  our culture and that LGBTQ+ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published, and read.

*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and all emerging identities

What You’ll Do

Lambda Literary is hiring the organization’s first Director of Development and Engagement to work in partnership with the Executive Director and Grant Manager. The organization seeks a dynamic, visionary development professional with experience in project management and fundraising. The Director of Development and Engagement is responsible for implementing a year-round fundraising plan including individual giving, corporate sponsorship and supporting the annual special event, the Lammy Awards. The Director of Development and Engagement will work closely with the organization’s Grant Manager and will play a key role in strategic communications while working with the Executive Director to build out a successful Department of Development & Engagement.


  • Work closely with the Executive Director to develop a multi-year actionable fundraising plan to increase revenue by $600,000 to grow the organization’s budget to $1.5 million by the end of 2023. Areas of focus for financial expansion include individual, corporate giving, and special events.
  • Work with key staff to conduct strategic communications to elevate Lambda Literary’s thought leadership, programs, impact to engage diverse audiences.
  • Work closely with ED, Special Events Consultant, Board and key staff on the production and fundraising efforts to execute the Lammy Awards
  • Work to identify foundation funding opportunities, cultivate relationships with program officers, and help lead messaging for donors, and funders.
  • Manage the Grants Writer Consultant and assist with back-end management and development of annual fundraising plan, to include prospect research, donor cultivation, grant preparation, and communications.
  • Conceptualize and implement a corporate giving program that offers volunteer opportunities, in-kind support, corporate foundation grants, and corporate sponsorships of the Lammy Awards and other events and partnership opportunities.
  • Provide support to ED and board to make funding asks
  • Ensure the maintenance of organization’s development database and donor/prospect list as well as donor communication, and acknowledgement thank you letters.


  • Develop communications calendar and protocols for content dissemination across multiple platforms, including website, social media platforms, email and public education and marketing materials.
  • Cultivate a culture of philanthropy across the organization providing opportunities for full and part-time staff to better understand the relationship between fundraising and programs and how they can best engage.
  • Minimum of 5 years of development experience (fundraising, communications, and leadership roles.)
  • Ability to work collaboratively as well as build and maintain professional relationships
  • Excellent verbal and written communications skills – ability to communicate mission to funders, individual donors, and other stakeholders.
  • Project management skills – stays on top of multiple projects, identifies deadlines and meets through careful planning, anticipates obstacles, identifies and involves staff appropriately
  • Highly organized, motivated, and detail-oriented with a strong sense of ownership over goals.
  • Able to juggle competing demands and prioritize accordingly
  • Maintains a high bar even when things are hectic. Manages a high volume of work with efficiency.

Reporting Relationships

This position reports to Lambda Literary’s Executive Director and currently has no direct reports.


Annual Salary range is $90K to $110K based on salary history and experience. This position includes a competitive benefits package that includes healthcare insurance and paid vacation.

How to Apply

Please submit a cover letter, resume, and brief biographical statement, as well as 2-3 references to  No calls please.

Applications will be accepted through January 30, 2023

Interviews will begin January 15, 2023

Lambda Literary is an equal opportunity employer. We value having staff who come from communities that are most impacted by our work. People of color, LGBQ people, transgender and gender non-conforming people, and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

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