TBR | Top Picks from the 2016 Lambda Book Awards

Posted By Whitney | 1 comment


The Lambda Literary Award winners were announced on June 7th, celebrating excellence in LGBT fiction and non-fiction. All of the nominees were pretty incredible, but a special congratulations to those who won in their categories!

After this month, packed full of the highest highs and lowest lows, I feel like it’s even more apparent that reading diverse books can be a gateway to acceptance, tolerance, and love. I scoured the many many winners across the categories and put together this list of goodies which will be making it into my TBR pile!

1. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, by Anna North

Winning in the category of Bisexual Fiction, Anna North’s novel has been popping up on all kinds of lists over the past year. I’ve been meaning to pick this up for ages, and it’s officially made it on my TBR now. The story follows filmmaker Sophie Stark weaving narratives from different perspectives together to tell the story of an incredibly talented artist who paid the price of pursuing the truth.

2. The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, by E. K. Weaver

I’ve been having a real moment with graphic novels, and I’m excited to add this to my TBR pile. Weaver’s work won for the LGBT Graphic Novels category, and tells the story of Amal Chakravarthy, who calls off his arranged marriage, comes out to his parents, and promptly goes on a bender, which leads him to meet TJ. It’s supposed to be a classic road trip romance, and sounds like a lot of fun.

3. Irrepressible: The Jazz Age Life of Henrietta Bingham, by Emily Bingham

First off, I love that this story (non-fiction, y’all) is investigated by Henrietta’s great-niece Emily. I love when family members are able to recount the complicated stories of their ancestors, and this sounds like just the perfect read. Henrietta was one of those people who ran with a crazy crowd of celebrities, writers, and artists who became famous in their time. The Bisexual Nonfiction category definitely called this one right, and I cannot wait for this read.

4. Tarnished Gold, by Ann Aptaker

A good mystery is always fun, and this winner in the Lesbian Mystery category (which was a tie!) sounds like it would be great fun. Set in the 1950s in New York City, the story follows art smuggler and lesbian Cantor Gold, who is hunting for a missing masterpiece. Evading jail and gangsters is just what I want out of a mystery, thank you.

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5. George, by Alex Gino

The children’s book category is somehow my favorite, regardless of the book awards. And, in fact, I think this is where we can make a big impression – impacting how our children see the world in a very concrete way. Alex Gino’s debut novel George is for those middle-grade readers, and follows the confusion of a little girl figuring our how to stop people from calling her George and understand her reality as Melissa.

6. Glitter & Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy, edited by Damien Luxe, Heather María Ács and Sabina Ibarrola

This would be pushing my reading comfort zone in perhaps the best of ways. The Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow is a tour of interdisciplinary performance artists, which has grown gradually over the past handful of years. This anthology collects writing and art from over 50 participants in what would surely be a very interesting read.

7. God in Pink, by Hasan Namir

Taking prime place in the Gay Fiction category, Namir’s debut novel is definitely one that’s making it on my TBR list. Particularly given recent events in Orlando, this revelatory account of being queer and Muslim is surely a must read. Set in war-torn Iraq, it tells the story of Ramy, and his struggle to balance sexuality, religion and culture.

8. Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta

Winning in the Lesbian Fiction category, this story pairs Nigeria’s folktales with the story of the coming of age of Ijeoma and her star-crossed love with a young girl from a different ethnic community. The pairing of the rise of Ijeoma with the rebuilding of Nigeria following years of civil war should make for a layered, complex, and insightful look into both statehood and personhood. The praise for Okparanta is overwhelming, and I’m going to make sure this sticks around the top of the TBR pile!

This may even need to be a book club pick for this year – let me know how you feel about that in the comments!

Now, there is a LOT we skipped over here. The Lambda’s celebrate poetry, memoirs, romance, erotica, drama, horror, and so much more that I’m sure would also be excellent reads. You can read the whole list of winners here. But of course, that doesn’t even mention all of the other nominees, who produced their own amazing works this year.

But hey, I’ve got to narrow down the TBR pile somehow, right?

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for posting this, Whitney! I needed to reinvigorate my LGBTQ+ fiction knowledge.

    I’ve only read one of the award winners, but I highly, highly recommend The Life and Death of Sophie Stark. For me, it was one of those books you devour and you think about when you’re not reading it. And, (maybe spoiler alert, not sure), Sophie’s story is told through OTHER people and NOT her. For me, that absence made my curiosity about her even stronger.

    Totally putting God in Pink on the list too — the queer Muslim community is really strong in Toronto and definitely a perspective that I’d love to know more about.

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