Each January, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) announces a list of 30 finalists, five books for each of six genre categories. After about six weeks of close reading and deliberating, the NBCC board members announced the winners for the 2012 publishing year yesterday evening at the New School in New York City: Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (fiction), Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity (nonfiction), D.A. Powell’s Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys (poetry), Robert Caro’s The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (biography), Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies (autobiography), and Marina Warner’s Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights (criticism).

During his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, nonfiction winner Andrew Solomon, whose book is described as one about “families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender,” said he was especially grateful to win the award on the same day that the Obama Administration urged the Supreme Court to reject California’s ban on gay marriage. In the friend-of-the-court brief filed on Thursday evening, the administration argued that Proposition 8, which allowed California voters to deny same-sex marriage, is a violation of the equal protection clause.

This brief was just one of several political victories for gay rights activists this week. The House of Representatives also renewed the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday. The legislation, which passed with a vote of 286 to 138, provides assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence. As part of the renewed bill, however, assistance will also be granted to gay, bisexual or transgender victims and will additionally allow tribal courts to have jurisdiction over non-Indian individuals who assault American Indian women on reservations.

And at a city council meeting in Phoenix on Tuesday, some 500 members of the public gathered to vote on an ordinance to the city’s anti-discrimination law that would extend protection to LGBT individuals in areas such as housing, employment and public accommodations such as restaurants. The ordinance passed 5-3.


Julio’s Day

If there were ever a book that could most succinctly capture the scope of these changing attitudes towards LGBT individuals over the past century, it would have to be Gilbert Hernandez’s graphic novel, Julio’s Day. Scheduled to be released this April, the novel catalogues the life of Julio over 100 pages, from his birth in 1900 to his death in 2000—and all the political, social and economic milestones in between. Though it is never overtly stated that Julio is a gay man—a testament to the social stigmas of coming out during the early 20th century—Hernandez hints at his sexuality through images and dialogue of his sexual encounters with other men. These more secret acts of homosexuality are later contrasted with Julio’s great, great nephew, also named Julio, who, in the midst of coping with the outbreak of AIDS, does not feel ashamed to verbally admit he is gay. He even opens a gay nightclub!

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