Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Lambda Literary Awards Finalists: A Cornucopia of Queer Literary Talent

Event hosts Tony Valenzuela and Katherine Forrest

A lucky 13 finalists gathered for the Lambda Literary Awards reading at the San Francisco Main Library on April 13. More than 60 connoisseurs of fine queer writing filled every seat, where they were welcomed and thanked for attending by Karen Sundheim of the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center. The event was a presentation of the Hormel Center and The Lambda Literary Foundation, which is based in Los Angeles. The Lambda Literary Awards will be happening on May 27 in New York City. Information is at lambdaliterary.org/awards.

Co-hostess Katherine Forrest is the Lambda Literary Foundation board president, and she is the award-winning author of 15 works of fiction, including the fascinating novel "Daughters of the Coral Dawn," about an all-woman utopian planet where propagation is by parthenogenesis.

Her co-host was the one-time infamous Tony Valenzuela. Valenzuela is the newly appointed executive director of the Lambda Literary Foundation, and his experience working at non-profits makes him a good fit for the vital position, according to Forrest. He is a social issues writer who knows how to get to the focal point and push buttons.

Lamdba Literary Foundation executive director Tony Valenzuela

Valenzuela is best known for posing naked on a horse on the Feb. 1999 cover of POZ Magazine. The photo illustrated an article on his speech at the Creating Change Conference about performing unsafe “bareback” sex as an HIV-positive sex worker. This caused an uproar that has not ended at some AIDS-fighting organizations and clinics. Male attendees at the reading seemingly murmered in tongues when they locked eyes on Valenzuela’s smoldering good looks, as he alternated the introductions with Forrest.

Finalist Minal Hajratwala

Minal Hajratwala is the charming author of the nonfiction epic "Leaving India" that is nominated also for a California Book Award. The book is a best-seller in India and it has been highly praised by Alice Walker. Hajratwala, dressed in a shimmering green outfit, had the audience’s full attention when she read about a man who lived as a woman for decades in her parents’ village, and was accepted. She is also a part of "Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry," and her website features that amazing phenomenon — a promotional video for a book.

Finalist Malinda Lo

Malinda Lo read from her nominated novel "Ash," a lesbian makeover of the Cinderella story, and she has a popular blog that delves into the continuing allure of lesbian vampires and newscaster Rachel Maddow’s appeal to a broad range of excited women.

Finalist Patrick Letellier

Striking Patrick Letellier is a part of the "My Diva: 65 Men on the Women Who Inspire Them" anthology that brought a couple other writers and fans to the event. Letellier wrote about Queen Elizabeth I, a sickly unwanted child who maneuvered herself onto England’s throne and became one of the most powerful women in history. Letellier is also known for his acclaimed "Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them: Men and Domestic Violence.”

Finalists Randall Mann and Ron Palmer

Ron Palmer is another contributor to "My Diva," and he is the author of "Logica-logics." His next project is a is a porn thriller that includes Hart Crane’s ghost.

Randall Mann is enthused to be nominated for his poetry collection Breakfast With Thom Gunn, which is also nominated for a California Book Award.

Finalist Matt Dean

Country writer Matt Dean read with a South Carolina twang about guys looking for someone to settle down with among a mass of guys into one night stands from his novel "The River in Winter."

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, wearing his ubiquitous white cap, read from his coming out story in a conservative Italian-American neighborhood in south Philly. He is nominated for his "Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation."

Z Egloff wrote about primal lesbian fantasy in her book "Verge," about the nightmare of a woman finding out that the co-worker that she desires is a nun.

Jon Ginoli has performed with the San Francisco queer punk band Pansy Division for two decades and his memoir "Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division" delves into his bacchanalian sex and rock-and-roll tours.

Finalist Dexter Flowers with writer Katherine Forrest

Sister Spit veteran Dexter Flowers is nominated for her contribution to "Portland Queer: Tales of the Rose City," and her blue gown drew admiring glances from the alert guests.

Elana Dykewoman is happy that her novel "Risk" was nominated for the Lesbian Fiction category, and Karin Kallmaker’s "Stepping Stone" is nominated in the Lesbian Romance category.

Kevin Killian is a celebrated short story writer whose "Impossible Princess" is nominated for a Gay Erotica award. He is the author of four novels and is known for his experimental gay fiction.

The event ended as Katherine Forrest praised two writers who could not attend, Lynn Breedlove and Rhiannon Argo, and she spoke lovingly about the overwhelming, vivid talent that been heard. Then writers and fans interacted as the remnants of the generous buffet were devoured, and some guests paired off to discuss the event in cafes.

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