The US-Based Lambda Literary Awards Program Names Its 2021 Finalists

In News by Porter Anderson

Moving this year to entirely digital submissions, the 33rd annual Lambda Literary Awards program names 120 titles in its shortlists. Winners are to be announced on June 1.

A March 11 shot at Table d’Hôte in New York City, next to the Hotel Wales’ condo conversion construction project on East 92nd Street, Carnegie Hill. Image – iStockphoto: Christine McCann

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

The Program This Year Fields 24 Categories
Now in their 33rd year, the New York-based Lambda Literary Awards program today (March 15) has announced the finalists in this year’s competition.

The awards program is set for June 1 and is expected to include appearances by Meshell Ndegeocello, Torrey Peters, and Alan Hollinghurst. Registration, with a suggested donation of US$25 is here.

One of the largest of the English-language markets’ forest of annual book awards programs, the Lambda fields 24 shortlists of five titles each, and the intent of the program is the elevation of LGBTQ writings.

Since the award was established in 1989 it has honored at least 3,500 books as finalists or winners. And one of the most valuable elements of the program is its ability to help a title and/or its author to capture the attention of booksellers and librarians, as well as consumers.

In a prepared statement for the release of today’s shortlists, Lambda Literary director Sue Landers is quoted, saying, “By celebrating LGBTQ books, we celebrate LGBTQ life, and as a community often under threat of legislative and actual violence, the ‘Lammys’ offer a rare and necessary space where we come together in joy.”

Among authors many readers will recognize here are Douglas Stuart, winner of the 2020 Booker Prize for Shuggie Bain, and Garth Greenwell, whose new Cleanness was published in January 2020 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

In the category of LTGBQ children’s books for middle grade, you’ll find acen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies from Scholastic, won the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The title’s audiobook—narrated by Ron Butler—is nominated for an Audie award this year.

Jane Ward’s The Tragedy of Heterosexuality (New York University Press) is the 2021 PROSE Awards social science category winner in cultural anthropology and sociology.

Unusual among book awards, this one accepts (and has short-listed) self-published as well as trade-published works.

Submitted books for the 2021 competition have to have been published between January 1 and December 31, 2020. Books must be published in English, but translations from other languages are accepted. This year, two allowances were expanded—in the LGBTQ Drama category in light of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandeemic—to accept:

  • Plays that were scheduled to be produced in theaters in 2020 but which were postponed or cancelled because of the pandemic
  • Plays that were produced and performed outside traditional theatrical venues in 2020 because of the pandemic

Also because of the health emergency, all submissions were made digitally. Full details on eligibility requirements and regulations are here.

Lambda Literary Awards 2021 Shortlists

Lesbian Fiction

  • Bestiary, K-Ming Chang, One World
  • Butter Honey Pig Bread, Francesca Ekwuyasi, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Exile Music, Jennifer Steil, Viking
  • Fiebre Tropical, Juli Delgado Lopera, Feminist Press
  • Pizza Girl, Jean Kyoung Frazier, Doubleday

Gay Fiction

  • Cleanness, Garth Greenwell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Neotenica, Joon Oluchi Lee, Nightboat Books
  • Real Life, Brandon Taylor, Riverhead Books
  • Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart, Grove Atlantic
  • This Town Sleeps, Dennis E. Staples, Counterpoint Press

Bisexual Fiction

  • Catherine House, Elisabeth Thomas, Custom House
  • How Much of These Hills Is Gold, C Pam Zhang, Riverhead Books
  • Silence Is My Mother Tongue, Sulaiman Addonia, Graywolf Press
  • Take a Hint, Dani Brown, Talia Hibbert, Avon Books
  • You Exist Too Much, Zaina Arafat, Catapult

Transgender Fiction

  • Finna, Nino Cipri, Tordotcom Publishing
  • The Seep, Chana Porter, Soho Press
  • The Subtweet, Vivek Shraya, ECW Press
  • The Thirty Names of Night, Zeyn Joukhadar, Atria Books
  • Trans-Galactic Bike Ride: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories of Transgender and Nonbinary Adventurers, Lydia Rogue, Microcosm Publishing

Bisexual Nonfiction

  • Terroir: Love, Out of Place, Natasha Sajé, Trinity University Press
  • The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia, Emma Copley Eisenberg, Hachette Books
  • This Is Major: Notes of Diana Ross, Dark Girls, and Being Dope, Shayla Lawson, Harper Perennial
  • The Wanting Was a Wilderness: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and the Art of Memoir, Alden Jones, Fiction Advocate
  • Wow, No Thank You.: Essays, Samantha Irby, Vintage

Transgender Nonfiction

  • The Black Trans Prayer Book, J Mase III & Dane Figueroa Edidi, The Black Trans Prayer Book
  • Fairest: A Memoir, Meredith Talusan, Viking
  • The Freezer Door, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Semiotext(e)
  • Nepantla Squared: Transgender Mestiz@ Histories in Times of Global Shift, Linda Heidenreich, University of Nebraska Press
  • Trans Care, Hil Malatino, University of Minnesota Press

LGBTQ Nonfiction

  • All the Young Men, Ruth Coker Burks, Grove Atlantic
  • An Excess of Quiet: Selected Sketches by Gustavo Ojeda, 1979-1989, Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué & Erich Kessel Jr., Soberscove Press
  • Forget Burial: HIV Kinship, Disability, and Queer/Trans Narratives of Care, Marty Fink, Rutgers University Press
  • The Lexington Six: Lesbian and Gay Resistance in 1970s America, Josephine Donovan, University of Massachusetts Press
  • The Lonely Letters, Ashon T. Crawley, Duke University Press

Lesbian Poetry

  • dayliGht, Roya Marsh, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Devil’s Lake, Sarah M. Sala, Tolsun Books
  • Flèche, Mary Jean Chan, Faber & Faber
  • Funeral Diva, Pamela Sneed, City Lights Books
  • : once teeth bones coral :, Kimberly Alidio, Belladonna Collaborative

Gay Poetry

  • Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Tommye Blount, Four Way Books
  • Guillotine, Eduardo C. Corral, Graywolf Press
  • The Malevolent Volume, Justin Phillip Reed, Coffee House Press
  • Sacrament of Bodies, Romeo Oriogun, University of Nebraska Press
  • Thanksgiving: A Poem, Ted Rees, Golias Books

Bisexual Poetry

  • Birthright, George Abraham, Button Poetry
  • One God at a Time, Meghan Privitello, YesYes Books
  • Salt Body Shimmer, Aricka Foreman, YesYes Books
  • sick, Jody Chan, Black Lawrence Press
  • Wild Peach, S*an D. Henry-Smith, Futurepoem Books

Transgender Poetry

  • Greyhound, Aeon Ginsberg, Noemi Press
  • I Love You and I’m Not Dead, Sade LaNay, Argos Books
  • More Than Organs, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Sibling Rivalry Press
  • The Nancy Reagan Collection, Maxe Crandall, Futurepoem Books
  • Theories of Performance, Jay Besemer, The Lettered Streets Press

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

  • And The Walls Come Crumbling Down, Tania De Rozario, Gaudy Boy
  • The Change: My Great American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour, Lori Soderlind, University of Wisconsin Press
  • Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity, Tana Wojczuk, Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster
  • My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, Jenn Shapland, Tin House Books
  • Practicing for Love: A Memoir, Nina Kennedy, Dorrance Publishers

Gay Memoir/Biography

  • A Dutiful Boy: A Memoir of a Gay Muslim’s Journey to Acceptance, Mohsin Zaidi, Square Peg
  • Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America, R. Eric Thomas, Ballantine Books
  • A History of My Brief Body, Billy-Ray Belcourt, Two Dollar Radio
  • The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard, John Birdsall, W. W. Norton & Company
  • Officer Clemmons: A Memoir, Dr. François S. Clemmons, Catapult

Lesbian Romance

  • Finding Jessica Lambert, Clare Ashton, Self-published
  • Nottingham, Anna Burke, Bywater Books
  • One More Chance, Ali Vali, Bold Strokes Books
  • Written in the Stars, Alexandria Bellefleur, Avon Books
  • Wrong Number, Right Woman, Jae, Ylva Publishing

Gay Romance

  • Finding Joy, Adriana Herrera, Self-published
  • Flower of Iowa, Lance Ringel, Distant Mirror Press
  • The Ghost and Charlie Muir, Felice Stevens, Self-published
  • Ink and Ice, Erin Colleen McRae & Racheline Maltese, Avian30
  • Two Rogues Make a Right, Cat Sebastian, Avon Impulse

LGBTQ Anthology

  • Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement, Ejeris Dixon & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, AK Press
  • Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales of a World That Wouldn’t Die, dave ring, Neon Hemlock Press
  • Love after the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction, Joshua Whitehead, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities, Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker & Kat Gupta, Jessica Kingsley Publishers
  • We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, Andrea Abi-Karam & Kay Gabriel, Nightboat Books

LGBTQ Children’s/Middle Grade

This year, the Lambda program cites a “significant increase in the volume of LGBTQ books for younger readers.” Organizers have split what was one category into two, this one and the YA category that follows.

  • The Deep & Dark Blue, Niki Smith, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • From Archie to Zack, Vincent X. Kirsch, Abrams Books for Young Readers
  • A High Five for Glenn Burke, Phil Bildner, FSG Books for Young Readers
  • King and the Dragonflies, Kacen Callender, Scholastic
  • Our Subway Baby, Peter Mercurio & Leo Espinosa, Dial Books

LGBTQ Young Adult 

  • Camp, L.C. Rosen, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Flamer, Mike Curato, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
  • The Magic Fish, Trung Le Nguyen, Random House Graphic
  • Sasha Masha, Agnes Borinsky, FSG Books for Young Readers
  • You Should See Me in a Crown, Leah Johnson, Scholastic

LGBTQ Comics

  • Apsara Engine, Bishakh Som, Feminist Press
  • The Contradictions, Sophie Yanow, Drawn & Quarterly
  • Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid: A Baopu Collection, Yao Xiao, Andrews McMeel
  • SFSX (Safe Sex), Vol. 1: Protection, Tina Horn, Michael Dowling, Alejandra Gutiérrez & Jen Hickman, Image Comics
  • Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir, Bishakh Som, Street Noise Books


  • Babel, Jacqueline Goldfinger, Unicorn Theatre, Theatre Exile
  • The Book of Mountains and Seas, Yilong Liu, New Conservatory Theatre Center
  • F*ck7thGrade, Liza Birkenmeier & Jill Sobule, City Theatre
  • House Plant, Sarah Einspanier, New York Theatre Workshop
  • Safe Space, R. Eric Thomas, Single Carrot Theatre

LGBTQ Erotica

  • Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 5, Sinclair Sexsmith, Cleis Press
  • Femme Tales, Anne Shade, Bold Strokes Books
  • The Nerves, Lena Suksi, Metatron Press
  • Smut Peddler Presents: Silver, Andrea Purcell, Iron Circus Comics
  • Smut Peddlers: Glad Day 50, Kel Hardy, Tianna Henry & MJ Lyons, Self-published

LGBTQ Mystery

This catetory has been expanded this year to include bi, trans, and queer books “by creating a single LGBTQ mystery category as opposed to separate lesbian and gay mystery categories.”

  • Death Before Dessert: A Vanessa Harrington Cozy Mystery, A.E. Radley, Heartsome Publishing
  • Find Me When I’m Lost: A Charlie Mack Motown Mystery, Cheryl A. Head, Bywater Books
  • Fortune Favors the Dead: A Pentecost and Parker Mystery, Stephen Spotswood, Doubleday
  • I Hope You’re Listening, Tom Ryan, Albert Whitman & Company
  • Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery, Rosalie Knecht, Tin House Books

LGBTQ Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse, Gallery / Saga Press
  • Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe, Lethe Press
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, Zen Cho, Tordotcom Publishing
  • The Silence of the Wilting Skin, Tlotlo Tsamaase, Pink Narcissus Press
  • Subcutanean, Aaron A. Reed, Self-published

LGBTQ Studies

  • Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, NYU Press
  • Information Activism: A Queer History of Lesbian Media Technologies, Cait McKinney, Duke University Press
  • The Sense of Brown, José Esteban Muñoz, Duke University Press
  • The Sex Obsession: Perversity and Possibility in American Politics, Janet R. Jakobsen, NYU Press
  • The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, Jane Ward, NYU Press
The Coronavirus in the United States

At this writing, the 8:25 p.m. ET (0025 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 29,492,614 cases in the United States’ population of 332 million, with 535,597 fatalities.

The most hopeful news for Americans at this point is a major and growingly effective vaccination program, which is beginning to surpass other such efforts in the world. As this article is published, the newest figures updated by the Washington Post report 71.1 million people having received one or both doses of the vaccine in the United States. A total 36.9 million people now is fully vaccinated, which is 11.1 percent of the population.

Challenges remaining include the fast-rising presence of variants in the population, with the “UK variant,” B.1.1.7 in the lead and doubling in presence every 10 days or so. At Forbes, this evening, Victoria Forster reports on a new study released today indicating a more deadly classification for B.1.1.7 than was originally assessed, while its transmissibility has been known to be as much as 70-percent higher.

Another growing challenge is a newly recognized vaccine resistance among Republican Party members. Annie Karni and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report tonight at The New York Times that “behind the scenes, there has been a quiet effort to persuade Donald Trump to get involved. Joe Grogan, the former director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, under Mr. Trump, has been working with the Covid Collaborative on addressing vaccine hesitancy among conservatives.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, more relative to LGBTQ issues is here, and more on the US market is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.