There Sure Are a Lot of Great Canadians in the 2015 Lambda Literary Award finalists!

Is it that time of year again already?  The 2015 Lambda Literary Award finalists were announced today!  As I’ve written before, I have mixed feelings about the lammies, their policies (mostly past), and their decisions.  However, this year’s finalists include some pretty awesome Canadian offerings, and a lot of writers I had never heard of before reading the full finalist list here.  Here are the Canadian women nominated, as well as a few special non-lady Canadian writers.

9781551525600_SheOfTheMountainsShe of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya is up for the award for bi fiction and I am so pumped because I loved this novel.  When was the last time you read a book about a brown bisexual man from Alberta that was part love story and part re-telling of Hindu mythology?  Never, that’s when.  Did I mention this book also has really cool illustrations?  Have a look at the beginning:

In the beginning, there is no he. There is no she.

Two cells make up one cell. This is the mathematics behind creation. One plus one makes one. Life begets life. We are the period to a sentence, the effect to a cause, always belonging to someone. We are never our own.

This is why we are so lonely.

This is the future of bisexual writing and I am so excited for it.

adultAs was expected, Adult Onset by Torontonian Ann Marie MacDonald is included in the category of lesbian fiction.  Zoe Whittall published a fascinating piece in the Walrus about this book, and how she has “often thought that if any author could change Canadian publishing’s reticence to promote present-day queer stories, it would be Ann-Marie MacDonald.”  This book, about “a late-forties lesbian writer who lives in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood with her theatre-director wife and two young children, struggling to write her third book while dealing with the stresses of parenting,” just might be the one to break the lavender ceiling Whittall talks about. It’s also quite interesting to note that the description of the main character could be MacDonald herself, giving this book a kind of tongue in cheek, semi-autobiographical feel.

uncatholicUnCatholic Conduct by Stevie Mikayne is a nominee for lesbian mystery I had never heard of before.  Mikayne is based in Ottawa, and her book looks pretty juicy:

Private investigator Jil Kidd is sent to St. Marguerite’s Catholic School to investigate teachers breaking their contracts of Catholic conduct, her investigation takes a dramatic turn after a student winds up dead on campus. To further complicate matters, circumstances keep throwing her together with the hot blond principal, Jessica Blake, at the center of her investigation.

ceaseCease: A Memoir of Loss, Love, and Desire by Lynette Loeppky, another author I had never encountered before, is up for lesbian memoir.  Check out a CBC interview with her here.  This one really sounds fascinating, according to a review in the Globe and Mail:

Lyn and Cec tacitly understood that if anyone were to exit the relationship, it would be Lyn, and after 8 1/2 years with the dedicated but domineering Cec, Lyn is quietly but seriously considering exactly that. Then Cec falls seriously ill and suddenly Lyn becomes caregiver to the woman she was soon to leave. Many threads of interest run through this thoughtful and carefully woven memoir: Lyn and Cec’s discovery of their desire – Cec’s in midlife and Lyn’s in the midst of a Mennonite upbringing; their somewhat closeted relationship in “family-values” Alberta.

Janey_iconJaney’s Arcadia by Rachel Zolf, up for the lesbian poetry award, looks very experimental and strange, yet it is about an extremely important topic in contemporary Canada: the legacy of colonialism and its present day continuation. I’m not sure what to think.  Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Janey’s Arcadia restages Canada’s colonial appropriations in a carnivalesque cacophony of accented speech, weather, violence, foliage and carnality. Rachel Zolf assembles a pirate score of glitch-ridden settler narratives, primarily from Manitoba. Clashing voices squall across time, flashing pornographic signs that the colonial catastrophe continues with each brutal scrubbing of Indigenous knowledges and settler responsibility.

MxT_Queyras_webI haven’t read anything by poet Sina Queryas yet, and I’m not sure why, since I hear about her work all the time.  Her latest book MxT (short for memory x time, Queryas’s method of measuring grief) is in the lesbian poetry category. It’s gotten a lot of praise, like “[t]his year’s most devastating and enlightening Canadian poetry collection” from Telegraph-Journal and “The energy is eclectic, even in its moments of stillness, of silence, there’s a tension of vitality. A strong, and confident collection, it has at its core a generosity of spirit” from the QWF judges Sue Elmslie, Sue Goyette and Daniel Zomparelli.

So, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Katheen Jacques, a Vancouver-based comic artist, before today! Band Vs. Band Comix Volume 1 is nominated in the the LGBT graphic novel category, and it looks like it’s a self-published collection of comics that she’s been drawing for years.  There are a ton of comics on her website, too, check it out.  The colours are all red, blue, and black, and have kind of a retro feel to them.  Look!

band vs band

100 crushesIt’s pretty great that the lammies have a LGBT graphic novel category at all, and there’s another Canadian nominee, 100 Crushes by Elisha Lim, a Montreal-based artist who use the pronoun ‘they.’  Check out their website for a taste of the awesome visual art they make.  100 Crushes is a compilation of five years’ worth of comics, including bios of all sorts of crush-worthy people.  As the Lambda review says, “One chapter, ‘The Illustrated Gentleman,’ is a butch fashion zine, featuring suave trendsetters, butch clothes, anecdotes and tips about creating your own butch wardrobe.”  I really need to get my hands on this book soon.  Check out this excerpt:

crush excerpt

child of a hidden seaChild of a Hidden Sea by Toronto writer A.M. Dellamonica is in the running for for LGBT SF/F/Horror (it looks decidedly like F, meaning fantasy).  I loved her bisexual magic novel Indigo Springs and I didn’t even know she had a new book!  The premise of this book sounds awesome:

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.
The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.
Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

safe girl to loveOf course, A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett is in the line-up for transgender fiction, and it’s a shoo-in in my humble opinion.  It was my favourite read of last year.  If it doesn’t win, I will be super pissed: especially if they choose one of the three out of five cisgender people who are nominated for the award.  It’s such a smart, funny, cynical, authentic collection of short stories about trans women.  The stories take place all over North America, including Winnipeg, New York, and Oregon, the writing is gorgeous, and the characters are so real. One story features a talking cat.   WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

mootooMoving Forward Sideways Like a Crab by cisgender queer artist Shani Mootoo is also up for transgender fiction.  I also really loved this elegiac beautifully written book, which is kind of a love letter to a trans parent from a long-lost child.  It’s a complex look at some complex issues, including gender transitions, racism and immigration in Canada, being an artist of colour, and the idea of home.  I was taken by this book right from the first gorgeous line:

Surely it is a failure of our human design that it takes not an hour, not a day, but much, much longer to relay what flashes through the mind with the speed of a hummingbird’s wing.

outer voicesBonus! Vancouver writer Jane Eaton Hamilton is featured in a collection edited by Mark McNease and Stephen Dolainski, Out Voices, Inner Lives, that is up for the LGBT anthology prize.  This is a pretty unique anthology, in that it includes only LGBTQ writers over 50.  Hamilton’s story is called “Just Be Glad You Have High Heels.”

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About CaseytheCanadianLesbrarian

Known in some internet circles as Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and future librarian who holds an MA in English literature and is currently studying for an MLIS in the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, BC). Topics and activities dear to her heart include cats, bisexuality, libraries, queer (Canadian) literature, running, and drinking tea. She runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find reviews of LGBTQ2IA+ Canadian books, archives of the book advice column Ask Your Friendly Neighbourhood Lesbrarian, and some other queer, bookish stuff. She also writes for Autostraddle, Book Riot and Inside Vancouver. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian. Some of her old reviews, especially the non-Canadian variety, can be found at the Lesbrary.
This entry was posted in Alberta, Asian, Bisexual, Butch, Canadian, Caribbean, Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic, Indigenous, Lesbian, Montreal, News, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Postcolonial, Queer, Rural, Shani Mootoo, Short Stories, South Asian, Toronto, Trans Feminine, Trans Masculine, Transgender, Zoe Whittall and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to There Sure Are a Lot of Great Canadians in the 2015 Lambda Literary Award finalists!

  1. Naomi says:

    I love the beginning of She of the Mountains!

  2. Pingback: Lambda nomination! | Jane Eaton Hamilton

  3. So many fantastic books on this list! I’m just finishing Casey Plett’s ‘A Safe Girl to Love’, and have thoroughly enjoyed it so far. Then I’ll be moving on, laterally, to Shani Mootoo’s novel ;).

  4. Sally Bend says:

    I was disappointed in the finalists this year, and thought there were a lot of titles that got missed. Cevin’s Deadly Sin by Sally Bosco, especially, is a book I thought a shoe-in for a YA winner. However, A Safe Girl to Love is one I do want to read, and I had no idea Dellamonica was Canadian, but Child of a Hidden Sea is another that leapt onto my to-read list.

    If you get a chance, download the The Transgender Archives from the University of Victoria website. It’s only about 50 pages, but fascinating to see some of the old books, magazines, and notes they’ve collected. Not that I needed another excuse, especially in winter, but I really want to head out to B.C. now.

    • I had never heard of Cevin’s Deadly Sin before now! There are so many books submitted to the lammies and the reason they chose certain ones can definitely be a mystery!
      The transgender archives from UVic sound awesome! Thanks for the heads up! (:

  5. Kai says:

    I finished Kim Fu’s For Today I Am a Boy just before the finalists went up. That is an amazingly written and really touching book. And Fu is from Vancouver!

  6. Kai says:

    I finished Kim Fu’s For Today I Am a Boy just before it was named as a finalist! It’s an amazingly written and really touching book. And Fu’s from Vancouver!

    • I know a bit about this book, but I haven’t heard good things, re: it being a book about a trans girl/woman written by a cisgender straight woman, which is why I didn’t include it in my summary. Do you have any thoughts on that aspect of the novel?

      • Kai says:

        I definitely share your concern about trans stories written by straight people, and it’s certainly a grey area around whether it is a trans novel (re: subject matter) or a cis novel (re: author viewpoint), especially around awards like these where a nomination like this takes focus away from trans voices.

        In the novel itself, I found the focus to be on how gender dysphoria affects one woman’s path through life, and her relations to her father, a cisnormative patriarchal society, and ultimately the idea of sisterhood. So more on how gender, gender identity, and gender expression influence communities than a on a trans narrative. At least that’s what I took away from it.

        Is that a novel a cis straight woman should write, publish under one of the largest publishing companies, and receive a nomination for a GSM-specific award? That’s something I can’t claim to know the answer to. But it is one I found personally very affecting and a great example of Canadian literary talent.

      • Thanks for this thoughtful response! I am really troubled by the fact that trans writers writing about trans characters like Casey Plett are not being published by big publishing companies and Kim Fu is. Topside Press is amazing, but they’re small: you can’t get the kind of press, funding, and legitimacy from a small independent publisher that you can from a big publishing house. Why are cis people being paid big money to write about trans people and not trans people?
        I’d really like to hear a trans woman’s perspective on the book! The criticisms I heard were from someone on the trans masculine spectrum.

      • Kai says:

        Also I somehow didn’t know before this that Casey Plett was Canadian? I’m even more excited for my Topside Press order to arrive now!

      • Her work is amazing–I’m sure you’ll love it!

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