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Announcing the Winners of the 2021 Lambda Literary Awards

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Leah Rachel von Essen

Senior Contributor

Leah Rachel von Essen reviews genre-bending fiction for Booklist, and writes regularly as a senior contributor at Book Riot. Her blog While Reading and Walking has over 10,000 dedicated followers over several social media outlets, including Instagram. She writes passionately about books in translation, chronic illness and bias in healthcare, queer books, twisty SFF, and magical realism and folklore. She was one of a select few bookstagrammers named to NewCity’s Chicago Lit50 in 2022. She is an avid traveler, a passionate fan of women’s basketball and soccer, and a lifelong learner. Twitter: @reading_while

Last night, the winners of the 33rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards (affectionately called “the Lammys”) were announced via a virtual ceremony. Lambda Literary began its mission when L. Page (Deacon) Maccubbin, owner of Lambda Rising Bookstore in Washington, D.C., published the first Lambda Book Report. The awards began in 1989 to recognize the crucial role LGBTQ writers play in shaping the world and celebrate LGBTQ books.

The 2021 Lambda Literary Awards recognized books in 24 categories published between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Finalists were selected by a panel of more than 60 literary professionals from more than 1,000 book submissions. The awards are typically held in-person in New York City, but their virtual format this year allowed them to open the ceremony to readers and literature lovers across the world. The event was hosted by Rakesh Satyal, author of Blue Boy, and awards announced by James Sie. Awards were presented by a spectacular range of authors, including Carmen Maria Machado (In the Dream House), R.O. Kwon (The Incendiaries), Cyrée Jarelle Johnson (SLINGSHOT), Katherine V. Forrest (Curious Wine), and Torrey Peters (Detransition, Baby), among others.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon cover

The ceremony was rich and full of pride, a quick-moving virtual experience to kick off Pride Month. It included a performance by Meshell Ndegeocello, with Chris Bruce. Winners of the main prizes included Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You; Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies; Jenn Shapland’s My Autobiography of Carson McCullers; and Love after the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction edited by Joshua Whitehead; among others.

Among the categories were several special prizes. The Randall Kenan Prize for Black LGBTQ Fiction was presented for the first time. It honors “Black LGBTQ writers whose fiction explores themes of Black LGBTQ life, culture, and/or history,” and it includes a cash prize of $3,000. It honors Kenan, author of Let the Dead Bury Their Dead, also former faculty at the Lambda Literary’s Writer’s Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices. The inaugural award went to Ana-Maurine Lara, author of Streetwalking: LGBTQ Lives and Protest in the Dominican Republic.

The Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize went to Sarah Gerard, author of True Love and Binary Star, and Brontez Purnell, author of 100 Boyfriends and The Cruising Diaries. The Judith A. Markowitz Award for Emerging LGBTQ Writers was awarded to Taylor Johnson (Inheritance) and T Kira Madden (Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls).

Finally, the Jeanne Córdova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction, honoring lesbian/queer-identified and trans/gender-nonconforming nonfiction authors committed to “nonfiction work that captures the depth and complexity of lesbian/queer life, culture, and/or history.” The winner was Nancy Agabian, author of Me as Her Again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter.

Get your reading lists ready: you’ll want to add a ton of these books to your library holds and to-read lists. See the full list of winners for the 2021 Lambda Literary Awards:

Learn more about Lambda Literary here, and brush up on last year’s winners here.