April 7, 2009—The Lambda Literary Foundation has named Leslie Feinberg, Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and Edmund White as this year’s recipients of its Pioneer Award, to be presented at the Lambda Literary Awards Ceremony on May 28, 2009 in New York City.

The Lambda Literary Foundation bestows its Pioneer Award on those individuals who have broken new ground in the field of LGBT literature and publishing. Established in 1995, the Award honors those who, through their achievements and passionate commitment, have contributed to the LGBT literary community in significant and tangible ways: through works of literature, or by establishing publishing houses, publications, archives, bookstores, or other institutions.

“My Pioneer Award sits prominently on my bookshelf, each day signifying that I’ve made a meaningful contribution to the literary community I love.  No other award could possibly mean more,” observes Katherine V. Forrest, recognized in 1998 for her body of work and literary activism. Other recipients include L. Page “Deacon” Maccubbin, Lambda Rising; the Astraea Foundation (2001); Barbara Grier, Naiad Press (2002); Amazon Bookstore Cooperative (2003); Samuel R. Delany (2004); Blanche Wiesen Cook (2004); Martin Duberman (2007); Marijane Meaker (2007); Ann Bannon (2008); Malcolm Boyd (2008), and Mark Thompson (2008).

Leslie Feinberg

Leslie Feinberg came of age as a butch lesbian in the factories and gay bars of Buffalo, N.Y. in the 1960s. Since that time, Feinberg has been a grass roots activist, journalist and author. Feinburg was born female but writes, “I have shaped myself surgically and hormonally twice in my life, and I reserve the right to do it again.” Ze is well known as a seminal figure in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movements in the U.S. and abroad.

Feinberg’s first novel, Stone Butch Blues, published in1993 by Firebrand Books, received a wildly popular response in the United States and has been translated into Chinese, German, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Slovenian and Hebrew. In addition to winning a Lammy, the novel won the American Library Association Award for Gay and Lesbian Literature.

Feinberg’s nonfiction work, Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul, is the first analysis of the historical roots of transgender oppression. Transgender Warriors won the 1996 Firecracker Alternative Book Award for Non-Fiction. In Spring 1996, Beacon released the paperback edition, newly subtitled: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman. Feinberg’s nonfiction book Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue (Beacon) contains a compilation of speeches by the author with written portraits by other trans activists. Drag King Dreams, Feinberg’s second published novel, was released by Carroll & Graf (Avalon) in 2006.

Feinberg is a national leader of Workers World Party, and a managing editor of Workers World newspaper. As a trade unionist, anti-racist and socialist, Feinberg also organizes to build strong bonds of unity between political and social movements in defense of oppressed nationalities, women, disabled, and the working-class movement as a whole. Feinberg has worked for more than three decades in defense of the sovereignty, self-determination and treaty rights of Native nations and for freedom of political prisoners in the U.S.

Feinberg was the opening speaker at the 25th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall rally in New York City-a historic rally that drew over a million people from across the country and around the world. A video about Leslie Feinberg entitled Outlaw has been distributed by Women Make Movies nationally and internationally.

The Violet Quill, featuring Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, & Edmund White

According to Claude Summers on www.glbtq.com, “In its narrowest sense, the Violet Quill was simply a circle of gay male writers in Manhattan who met a few times in 1980 and 1981 to read to one another from their works in progress. In a much larger sense, however, the Violet Quill commands interest because this group of friends and rivals–Christopher Cox, Robert Ferro, Michael Grumley, Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, Edmund White, and George Whitmore–helped create the post-Stonewall renaissance of American gay male writing. The members of the Violet Quill were quite different from one another and did not consciously constitute a ‘school,’ but collectively and individually they placed homosexuality at the very center of their literary visions.”

As David Bergman has observed, they “shared several impulses: a desire to write works that reflected their gay experiences, and specifically, autobiographical fiction; a desire to write for gay readers without having to explain their point of view to shocked and unknowing heterosexual readers; and finally, a desire to write . . . in a selection of the language really used by gay men.”

Lambda Literary Foundation is pleased to honor the three surviving members of the Violet Quill: Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and Edmund White. These pioneers helped to create a literature that reflected the social revolution wrought by the Stonewall uprising. Their works chronicle both the headiness of the early years of gay liberation and the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic, to which four of the seven have succumbed.

Andrew Holleran is the author of the novels Dancer from the Dance, Nights in Aruba, and Grief; a collection of essays, Ground Zero; and a collection of stories, In September the Light Changes. He lives in Florida and Washington, DC.

Felice Picano’s first book was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Since then he has published twenty volumes of fiction, poetry, memoirs, etc. Picano also founded two publishing companies: the SeaHorse Press and Gay Presses of New York. Among his many award-winning books, are the novels, Like People in History and The Book of Lies. His most recent memoir is Art & Sex in Greenwich Village.

Edmund White’s best-known work is A Boy’s Own Story, the first volume of an autobiographical-fiction series that continued with The Beautiful Room Is Empty and The Farewell Symphony, describing stages in the life of a gay man from boyhood to middle age. His most recent books include the historical fictions, Fanny and Hotel de Dream; a biography, Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel; and the memoir, My Lives.


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  • Ron Fritsch

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