Books change lives. Sometimes books save lives. Queer books save queer lives.
My first novel, Ammonite, was a mass market paperback about a women-only world, one of those cheap disposables with a spaceship on the cover. It should have come and gone unnoticed—but it won a Lambda Literary Award. Because of that, it got picked up in many languages (Polish! Chinese!) and went on to win the Tiptree Award and the Premio Italia. Because of that, my second novel Slow River was a hardcover and reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. Both books were—still are—read all over the world.
A woman in Australia, married with two children, read Ammonite and wrote me a letter to tell me that my novel had shown her what the empty space inside her meant: she was a lesbian. Two years later, I got an email from the same woman, saying she had read Slow River and as a result had found the courage to do something about it; she now had a girlfriend. At a bookstore reading in the South, a man told me Slow River had made his job bearable during a truly awful period in his life. A woman in the Midwest approached me at a convention: No, she didn’t want to chat, but she thought I ought to know that Ammonite had literally saved her life: she had been planning to kill herself but instead, for six months, read the book cover to cover, over and over, endlessly, immersing herself in a world of women until she knew it was okay to be a woman, to stay alive and become herself.
I’m not special. Any queer writer, whether of memoir, YA, or f/sf, or romance, has similar stories. We don’t talk about it much—these are private, heartfelt gifts from readers, not meant for public consumption—but we know how important our books are.
Stories shape us. Stories show us possibilities. Without them we have to reinvent the wheel, again and again, believing we’re the only one in our Australian city or Southern job or Midwest town. With enough stories, we can create culture and build community. For decades, LGBTQ and feminist bookstores have functioned as de facto community centers, places for us to meet others like ourselves, to know—by seeing real live writers and readers, by touching actual books, by laughing and crying in recognition at authors’ stories—that we aren’t alone.
The Lambda Literary Foundation’s sole purpose is to champion those stories, to nurture, celebrate, and preserve queer literature.
Without LLF there would be no Lambda Literary Awards. Without those awards, Ammonite would not have been noticed, and I wouldn’t have a career. Several people might be dead. And that’s just one Lambda winner. Multiply this by all the categories—23 this year—and all the years we’ve been holding the awards (2010 will be our 22nd anniversary). So many stories. So many lives…
Without LLF there would be no Lambda Literary website—which, less than one month after launch, is already shaping up to be the premier online destination for queerlit-loving readers worldwide.
Without LLF there would be no Writers’ Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, where new writers of all ages can come to find their people and learn their magnificent heritage. They arrive uncertain; they leave burning with a sense of purpose. As one Fellow told us, “If you ever had a doubt that you have done something to change the world, don’t.”
Please help us to keep changing the world.
Please give to help us build this community, and provide resources to writers and readers worldwide. Five dollars, fifty dollars, five hundred, five thousand—every single dollar will but put to good use.
Books change lives. Queer books change queer lives. You can be part of that change. Every dollar helps queer writers be heard and queer readers find more stories to make them laugh, cry, fight, hope, and be proud.
11 thoughts on “Books save lives. Queer books save queer lives.”
*Nods* Re-tweeted. I have stories like that, too, and often the queer people from whom I'm hearing are also people of colour. When I begin to think that what I do is a frippery, I remind myself of the things readers (of all stripes, orientations, persuasions) have told me about what my work has meant to them.
Yes. What we do matters. Thanks for the RT.
May your writing day be smooth. Mine is already full of chocolate. I am *awake*!
Wow. I don't know how anyone could read that and not want to donate. I certainly will.
As someone who grew up in a small town I feel certain that the internet and the LLF website could/will save/shape lives. The library in that small town saved my life, but you can bet there was not an LGBT section. I didn't even know I wanted one, but I'm sure I would've found it as it was not a large library and I explored it all. But I did find a subversive SF section. Robert Henlein books showed me options and made me think I'd be bi. No telling what I would've thought if I had stumbled on Ammonite on those shelves.
And I suspect that we wouldn't have this LLF website if it weren't for you, Nicola. Well done!
Yeah, I also grew up in the Days Before LGBT Sections. The first lesbian sex scenes I ever read were in some straight bodice ripper about a woman being kidnapped in the desert and being 'prepared' for the Sheikh by harem girls. Made me blink. But I think I would have preferred Dykes to Watch Out For or something similar–seeing women in something resembling the real world.
Imagine reading something like Ash at fourteen. Just imagine…
I hope everyone gives. LLF needs the money. It costs a lot to put on glitzy red-carpet name-in-lights shows in New York. It cost a lot to run an office in LA. It costs a lot to maintain a high bandwidth website and staff it, to hold a week's teaching retreat for 30 emerging writers.
I hope people give $$.
I'm pretty sure that millions of small towns just in the US, nevermind outside of here, still don't have quiltbag sections. So yes, it's important, life saving/changing stuff.
And I really can't imagine reading Ash at twelve or fourteen and what that would've done for me. What a gift.
I hope people give $$$ too.
Jennifer, you are so right. That's why we need organisations like LLF. It's why we need libraries. Why we need librarians on our side.
I like that new PayPal button for donations. Makes it easy because I don't have to dig out a credit card.
I'm here because of Nalo's retweet. I'm a librarian, and I grew up in a small town, long before the lambda's or a quiltbag section in the library.
I'm actually not a fan of the idea of literary genre ghettos, or little logos on the spines of library books. They do make it easy for people to browse and find things, but they also out, or intimidate, readers. Discovering the books that will save you is HARD, and doing so in a way that doesn't put you at risk is harder.
But awards, and the promotional information about them help with that. I can see a display about the Lambdas in the library and then either take a book from the display (if I have the nerve), or I can wander into the stacks to find something by the people mentioned in the display, which is much more anonymous.
Connecting readers with books (Ranganathan's first law) is challenging, and every librarian has their own ideas about the best way to do it. So, this is my rant against hiding the genres in the corner.
Would you mind if I copied and posted this on my livejournal? I'm sure I've got a reader or two who would be very moved to read this and part with some money.
David, welcome. I like your display idea. I think it would be great if you would email Lambda Literary and perhaps suggest an article for the website. It could help so many people.
transceptor, copy away. And thank you.
No, Thank you. It was while looking for your books that I found out about Lambda Literary.
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