A number of Canadian writers are nominated for this year’s Lambda Literary Awards, including several Xtra freelance writers and an employee at Pink Triangle Press, Xtra’s parent company.
Suzy Malik, PTP’s advertising art director, says she was taken aback when the announcement was made this week. Malik illustrated The Adventures of Tulip, Birthday Wish Fairy, which is up for the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult Award. Local writer and activist S Bear Bergman, who is also a contributor to Xtra, wrote the book.
Malik says The Adventures of Tulip resonated “from the second I read his words. I could just start to picture what the character looked like. Literally, Tulip just popped out of the page.”
The Lambda Literary Awards champion the work of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender writers. This year, the 25th year of the awards, saw a record number of books submitted, almost 700 works from more than 300 publishers.
Malik and Bergman are two of a handful of talented Canadians among the finalists. Other works include Rae Spoon’s First Spring Grass Fire (Transgender Fiction), Kamal Al-Solaylee’s Intolerable (Gay Memoir/Biography), Barry Webster’s The Lava in My Bones (Gay General Fiction), Anthony Bidulka’s Dos Equis and Jeffrey Round’s Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery (both up for Gay Mystery), and Alex Leslie’s People Who Disappear (LGBT Debut Fiction). Toronto writer and Xtra contributor Lydia Perovic is also nominated in LGBT Debut Fiction, for her novel Incidental Music.
Perovic’s novel explores the lives and relationships of three queer women. She says she is thrilled to be nominated and believes it’s especially important within the Canadian literary community. “The nominations and the awards seem to be the only way to get noticed now for a first-time novelist with a small press,” she says. “Book reviewing is on the wane in all Canadian media, and it’s not replenishing itself with a growing online media sector or a lively book blogosphere. I think some of the international and some of the local and specialist awards still may leave some doors ajar for us.”
William Johnson, Lambda Literary's managing editor, is not surprised by the strong Canadian showing. “What you really have to contribute to such a strong showing from Canadian writers is Canadian publishers,” he says, noting that independent publishers like Arsenal Pulp Press (First Spring Grass Fire and The Lava in My Bones) and Inanna Publications (Incidental Music) help give voice to stories that normally wouldn’t be shared. “It’s really great to see those publishers and that work getting recognized.”
The Adventures of Tulip is the story of a birthday-wish fairy who finds another calling as a gender-wish fairy, helping children, their friends and families to be themselves. A year after completing her work on Tulip, Malik is now herself a proud parent to a four-month-old. “Now, having my own child, I want to make sure that she’s able to read different stories, engage and understand different experiences, and also, hopefully, find characters that resonate with her,” she says.
Check out Xtra's video interview with Kamal Al-Solaylee, the author of Intolerable: