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Queer Comic Books Get the Attention They Deserve at the Lammys

lammys

Move over, Oscars! See ya, Emmys! (And the less said about the Golden Globes the better.)

The Lammys, streaming online Tuesday, June 1 at 7 p.m., is the annual award show by LGBTQ+ literary organization Lambda Literary. Since 1989, Lambda Literary has celebrated and spotlighted some of the best queer literature with their Lammy award event. This year the award show goes virtual, and promises an exciting performance by Grammy-winner Meshell Ndegeocello. 

For the past 33 years, Lambda Literary has featured 24 categories for readers of all ages, identity, and interest. Some nominees include literature written by debut authors, self-published authors, books by big and small publishers, in diverse categories as LGBTQ Erotica, Gay Romance, and Transgender Poetry. Of those 33 years it’s only been the past seven that comic books have been added as their own category. According to William Johnson, deputy director of Lambda Literary, “this category was created to correct an oversight from the past and to honor the dynamic creators who are working today.

“While a Lambda Literary award dedicated to honoring LGBTQ comics was not established until 2014, Lambda has often recognized the importance of queer comics to our literary culture,” Johnson says. “The reason this category was recently added, [is that] we don’t want the awards to become a mausoleum. For them to be vital, they always have to be evolving and offer a snapshot of the contemporary literary landscape.” Anytime comic books are legitimized as literature is win for queer geeks everywhere. 

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The 2021 comic book nominees include books in which “creators skillfully reflect the expansiveness of the LGBTQ experience, an expansiveness that truly makes our community so dynamic,” says Johnson. “From subverting traditional ideas of identity to navigating the byways of sex, power, and community, these books offer a kaleidoscope of queer experience.”

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The five awesome nominees are Apsara Engine, by Bishakh Som, a book featuring eight short stories delving “into strange architectures, fetishism, and heartbreak.” The Contradictions, by Sophie Yanow, a graphic novel about a “student figuring out radical politics in a messy world.” Everything Is Beautiful, and I’m Not Afraid: A Baopu Collection, by Yao Xiao is a “one-of-a-kind graphic novel exploring the poetics of searching for connection, belonging, and identity through the fictional life of a young, queer immigrant.” The fictional SFSX (Safe Sex), Vol. 1: Protection, by Tina Horn, Michael Dowling, Alejandra Gutiérrez & Jen Hickman, is about “a draconian America where sexuality is strictly bureaucratized and policed, [and where] a group of queer sex workers keep the magic alive in an underground club called the Dirty Mind.” And Spellbound: A Graphic Memoir, by Bishakh Som, about a transgender artist, exploring “the concept of identity by inviting the reader to view the author moving through life as she would have us see her, that is, as she sees herself.”

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The diverse, and less mainstream superhero-focused comic books nominated for a Lammy this year is a testament to the strength and power of the medium. As Johson states, “literature is the rare forum in which unfiltered lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer lives can be presented with both artistry and authenticity. If we want to keep this important form of vibrant art making alive, buy queer books. Support queer comic creators.”

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And of course, support Lambda Literary Awards by watching the Lammy ceremony on Tuesday, June 1, 7 p.m. Eastern. RSVP watch the event here: https://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/current-finalists/

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