Congratulations are in order for Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, who will receive the Trustee Award at the 31st Annual Lambda Literary Awards in June. The Lambda Literary Awards, or Lammys for short, recognize and honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender books. The Trustee Award is a relatively new award, with only six previous recipients, and is bestowed upon “those who, through their achievements and passionate commitment, have contributed to the LGBT literature and arts community in significant and tangible ways.”
Having just completed Chee’s book of essays—on the day I heard this news, no less—I was overwhelmed with happiness for Chee. His essays filled me with such empathy and warmth, and I agree with the panel of judges choosing to honor his contribution. In the book he writes much about being an AIDS activist since the 1980s, the brutality of that struggle within the community, how his identity informed his first novel, and what it means to be a writer in America. From the essay, “The Autobiography of My Novel,” he writes:
I was, meanwhile, struggling with a different existential issue from the ones my writing peers from more normative backgrounds simply didn’t have to address. Kit Reed, my undergraduate fiction teacher, first identified it. She had told me that if I was fast enough, I might be the first Korean American novelist. She wasn’t entirely right: Younghill Kang was, in fact, that person, but he was, until recently, lost to contemporary literary history. And when Chang Rae Lee published Native Speaker, in 1995, she said, ‘Well, you’ll be the first gay one.’ And she would be right.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is a finalist for Best Gay Memoir/Biography at the awards, among the many other finalists over 24 categories. The linked finalist list really does provide a wonderful longlist of LGBTQ works from fiction to poetry to add to your TBR list!
Also receiving honorary awards will be author Masha Gessen (The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia) for the 2019 Visionary Award as well as author and editor Barbara Smith (Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith) for the Publishing Professional Award.
Congratulations to all the honorees and finalists! The Lammys will be held on June 3rd in New York City.