Back in the day, if you wanted to read LGBTQ literature, you had to scour books hoping for any faint hint of queerness — a flamboyant bachelor, a female athlete, an androgynous shop clerk, anything! Threatened by vague “decency laws”, publishers and writers avoided any overt LGBT content by encoding queerness into their work through euphemism and ambiguity,lest they risk public harassment or, like Oscar Wilde, imprisonment.
Thankfully, in these modern times, many LGBT authors can write openly about queer life and romance without getting tossed in the can (though we should remember, this is not the case in other countries like Russia). Groups like The Publishing Triangle can also honor LGBTQ fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers through events like the 28th Annual Triangle Awards.
We decided to highlight all this year’s award nominees because they’re all worth checking out. Take a look at the titles below; you might even find a new favorite book for some summertime reading!
Finalists for the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature
WINNER – The Middle Notebookes by Nathanaël
The Middle Notebookes are mostly a work of philosophy from author Nathanaël: an examination of history, gender and murder. Presented in a collection of vignettes — some only a paragraph long, other no more than a mere quotation — they create a beautiful mosaic: disparate pieces that come together into a whole, giving weight to what is said, as well as un-said. Nathanaël, a translator of many works into French and English, understands how a single word can resound with a multiplicity of meanings, which makes The Middle Notebooks an obvious choice for acclaim.
NOMINEES – The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
The title of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts refers to Roland Barthes’ metaphor of the Ancient Greek ship, the Argo. The Argo spent so long in service that the crew had to keep replacing parts, until there was no original material left — but yet, what remained was still the Argo. The Argonauts tells the story of Maggie Nelson’s pregnancy, an event that coincides with the start of her agender partner’s testosterone regimen. Nelson uses the situation as a springboard to talk about queerness, sexuality, body, gender, birth and what remains after life literally transforms your body.
Debridement by Corrina Bain
Corrina Bain’s Debridement — a title which refers to the removal of damaged flesh from a wound — is a poetry collection examining death and femininity. The poems provide a backstory behind the deaths of various women, exploring the true costs of patriarchy and rape culture. But Bain’s work also deals with his own gender, and being gender-nonconforming. As Michael Dennis said, “These are exactly the sort of poems we need more of.”
Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities by Jackson Wright Schultz
One of the reasons representation is so important is that the media rarely lets members of diverse groups speak for themselves. Trans/Portraits seeks to redress the balance; Jackson Wright Schultz interviewed 34 transgender people across demographic lines all around America. The book is in an “oral history” format, but is more cohesive than what you might expect. Trans/Portraits provides an important look at what it really means to be trans in the United States, one more real than any portrayals you’ll find from Hollywood.