The Stonewall Awards given by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association include The Barbara Gittings Literature Award, named in honor of Barbara Gittings, a prominent activist for LGBT equality, and the Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award named for Israel Fishman, founder of the Task Force on Gay Liberation.
First given in 1971 as the Gay Book Award, The Stonewall Book Awards were renamed in 2002 to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a pivotal event in the fight for Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender rights.
The Barbara Gittings Literature Award
Winner: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull off an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister.
Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. The two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the eighties and the chaos of the modern world, as both Yale and Fiona struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.
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Honors: Forward by Lisa Maas
Still smarting years after a horrible breakup, Rayanne diligently buries herself in her work. Aside from work, she has her cat. And other than her cat, she has her crushes: crushes that she prides herself on being able to resist. Then unexpectedly, one of her crushes beings to affect her more than the others, and threatens to upset the delicate balance of her carefully controlled life. Ali is still feeling lost and numb almost a year after the death of her wife. Then one ordinary day something extraordinary happens: she is ambushed by her attraction to another woman that is both invigorating and fantastically inappropriate. Whether she’s ready for it or not, it stirs up feelings Ali didn’t think she was capable of having anymore. Funny, moving, and full of heart, Forward is a novel that explores the parameters of second chances and the tricky emotions of grief, fear, vulnerability, and desire.
Honors: Luisa: Now and Then by Carole Maurel, adapted by Mariko Tamaki
At 32, Luisa encounters her 15-year-old self in this sensitive, bold story about self-acceptance and sexuality. Single, and having left behind her dream to become a renowned photographer, she is struggling to find out who she is and what she wants. In order to help and guide her younger self, she must finally face herself and her past. When Luisa finds herself attracted to a female neighbor, things become even more complicated. Insightful and funny, this is a feel-good coming-of-age story.
Honors: Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him.
When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.
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Honors: White Houses by Amy Bloom
Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.
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Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award
Winner: Go the Way Your Blood Beats: On Truth, Bisexuality and Desire by Michael Amherst
Using bisexuality as a frame, Go the Way Your Blood Beats questions the division of sexuality into straight and gay, in a timely exploration of the complex histories and psychologies of human desire.
A challenge to the idea that sexuality can either ever be fully known or neatly categorized, it is a meditation on desire’s unknowability. Interwoven with anonymous addresses to past loves – the sex of whom remain obscure – the book demonstrates the universalism of desire, while at the same time the particularity of each individual act of desiring.
Part essay, part memoir, part love letter, Go the Way Your Blood Beats asks us to see desire and sexuality as analogous with art – a mysterious, creative force, and one that remakes us in the act itself.
Honors: Black. Queer. Southern. Women: An Oral History by E. Patrick Johnson
Drawn from the life narratives of more than seventy African American queer women who were born, raised, and continue to reside in the American South, this book powerfully reveals the way these women experience and express racial, sexual, gender, and class identities—all linked by a place where such identities have generally placed them on the margins of society. Using methods of oral history and performance ethnography, E. Patrick Johnson’s work vividly enriches the historical record of racialized sexual minorities in the South and brings to light the realities of the region’s thriving black lesbian communities.
At once transcendent and grounded in place and time, these narratives raise important questions about queer identity formation, community building, and power relations as they are negotiated within the context of southern history. Johnson uses individual stories to reveal the embedded political and cultural ideologies of the self but also of the listener and society as a whole. These breathtakingly rich life histories show afresh how black female sexuality is and always has been an integral part of the patchwork quilt that is southern culture.
Honors: Raising Rosie: Our Story of Parenting an Intersex Child by Eric and Stephani Lohman
There is often medical pressure on parents of intersex children to have their child’s gender reassigned at birth, based on cultural ideas of gender. When Rosie was born, Eric and Stephani Lohman decided to not have her gender reassigned. Part memoir, part guide, this book gives much needed information for parents of children born intersex children.
Honors: Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler
Buried for decades, the Up Stairs Lounge tragedy has only recently emerged as a catalyzing event of the gay liberation movement. In revelatory detail, Robert W. Fieseler chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman on June 24, 1973, at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until 2016. Relying on unprecedented access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates an indelible portrait of a closeted, blue-collar gay world that flourished before an arsonist ignited an inferno that destroyed an entire community. The aftermath was no less traumatic-families ashamed to claim loved ones, the Catholic Church refusing proper burial rights, the city impervious to the survivors’ needs-revealing a world of toxic prejudice that thrived well past Stonewall. Yet the impassioned activism that followed proved essential to the emergence of a fledgling gay movement. Tinderbox restores honor to a forgotten generation of civil-rights martyrs.
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Honors: The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois
When Tony Kushner’s Angels in America hit Broadway in 1993, it won the Pulitzer Prize, swept the Tonys, launched a score of major careers, and changed the way gay lives were represented in popular culture. Mike Nichols’s 2003 HBO adaptation starring Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, and Mary-Louise Parker was itself a tour de force, winning Golden Globes and eleven Emmys, and introducing the play to an even wider public. This generation-defining classic continues to shock, move, and inspire viewers worldwide.
Now, on the 25th anniversary of that Broadway premiere, Isaac Butler and Dan Kois offer the definitive account of Angels in America in the most fitting way possible: through oral history, the vibrant conversation and debate of actors (including Streep, Parker, Nathan Lane, and Jeffrey Wright), directors, producers, crew, and Kushner himself.