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Why The Lambda Matters

Why The Lambda Matters

Last year, I won the Lambda Award for Best Gay Mystery for my fifth book, Lake On The Mountain. The win served to raise my status, especially in the highly coveted US market. Apart from giving me a career boost, there are a number of reasons why this award matters.

First, it tells me I’ve achieved a standard in writing that is recognized by my peers. As six-time Lambda winner Michael Nava wisely pointed out, however, it’s not about being best because that is “ultimately a subjective decision.” Nonetheless, there’s a powerful psychological factor to being recognized by other industry professionals, in the sense of having been accepted into a creative community that knows and shares my struggles.

As a writer, I take my identity from the LGBTQ community…

ar135287549852452Second, winning the award tells me that what I have to say about the LGBTQ community is meaningful to others. That’s important, too. Not because I write exclusively about the LGBTQ communityI don’tbut rather because I write from a viewpoint that in many ways is shaped by that community and its values.

Whatever else it stands for, to me being queer means living outside the mainstream. We sharpen our differences and our uniqueness by standing apart and looking objectively at the world around us. As a writer, I take my identity from the LGBTQ community and in turn offer my observations, and sometimes criticisms, in hopes of making it a better and stronger community. I could not do that from the perspective of the mainstream.

While I was in New York for the awards ceremony, I visited a number of bookstores. It was a sobering experience: of the six stores I visited, both small and large, independents and chains, not one featured a Lambda nominees table. While most of the clerks I spoke to professed to having heard of the Lambdas, only one knew the ceremonies were taking place in the city that week.

The struggle to be recognized is not new to me, nor to any writers I know, whatever their sexual orientation.

DanSharpOf all the stores I checked, again, only one had copies of my book. Predictably, that store was the Mysterious Bookshop, where you would expect to find mysteries of all stripes. Of the others, not one carried a single copy of the other Lambda-nominated titles in my category, and only a handful in other categories. That, to me, was appalling.

The struggle to be recognized is not new to me, nor to any writers I know, whatever their sexual orientation. But I would dare to say that LGBTQ writers still have it much harder than most, despite what anyone will tell you. During the awards ceremonies, I heard it said there was a noticeably stronger presence of LGBTQ authors in bookstores now than in recent decades. Admittedly, there are a handful of queer authors who are household names, some of those deservedly classics, but overall I haven’t seen much improvement. My experience in New York attests to that.

I write always with a view to sharing my thoughts, and sometimes to provoke by doing so. I never write to be popular. If I did, I suspect I would lose my edge. (And probably my self-respect as well.) To me, that is what the Lambda Literary Foundation fosters and stands for. That is what the “Lammie” means to me. It spotlights books that otherwise would not be seen and read, books written and prized by those of us who stand outside the mainstream, whether by choice or decree.

As a community, we cannot afford to have our values co-opted—values that are too often seen as being at odds with the mainstream. Nor can we, the writers, afford to be co-opted out of our voices, despite criticism, public disapproval, or even just the lack of popular acclaim we might experience. Silence was and always will be the result.

That to me, more than anything, is why the Lambda matters.

Jeffrey Round is a Lambda Award-winning author.

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Jeffrey Round.jpgJeffrey Round’s first two books, A Cage of Bones and The P-town Murders, were listed on AfterElton’s Top 100 Gay BooksPumpkin Eater, the sequel to the Lambda award-winning Lake on the Mountain, was released in April 2014. Please visit his website: jeffreyround.com.

 


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