A Brief History of Lambda Literary
1987: First publication of the Lambda Book Report
1989: First black-tie Lambda Literary Awards ceremony
1997: Lambda Literary Incorporated as 501(c)(3)
2007: First LLF Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices
2010: Relaunch of LambdaLiterary.org
2012: Launch of pilot LGBT Writers in School Program
A History of Lambda Literary
The Lambda Literary traces its beginnings back to 1987 when L. Page (Deacon) Maccubbin, owner of Lambda Rising Bookstore in Washington, DC, published the first Lambda Book Report. The Lambda Literary Awards were born in 1989. At that first gala event, honors went to such distinguished writers as National Book Award Finalist Paul Monette (Borrowed Time), Dorothy Allison (Trash), Allan Hollinghurst (The Swimming Pool Library), and Edmund White (The Beautiful Room is Empty).
The purpose of the Awards in the early years was to identify and celebrate the best of lesbian and gay books in the year of their publication. The Awards gave national visibility to a literature that had established a firm if nascent beachhead through a network of dynamic lesbian and gay publishers and bookstores springing up across America. Lambda Book Report, meanwhile, grew into a comprehensive review periodical, and together LBR and the Lambda Literary Awards cemented the reality that a distinct, definable LGBT literature existed. Lambda Literary Foundation was created in 1997 as a 501(3)(c) corporation to officially host the Awards and LBR. It’s first Executive Director was Jim Marks.
Since their inception, the Lambda Literary Awards have been presented in conjunction with the nation’s premier book convention, Book Expo America (previously the American Booksellers Association), traveling each year to a different host city. The Award ceremony has consistently drawn an audience representing every facet of publishing. The Awards have ranged over many categories, reflecting the wide spectrum of LGBT books, and from the very first year they have made the statement that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans stories are part of the literature of the nation. Over its 22-year history, the Lambda Book Report reviewed a significant number of books each year. The Awards continued to celebrate LGBT writers, many of whom have acquired international fame: fiction writers such as Michael Cunningham, Jeanette Winterson, Colm Toibin, Sarah Waters, Armistead Maupin; noted historians Martin Duberman and Lillian Faderman; mystery writers Joseph Hansen, Nicola Griffith, and Michael Nava; poets Adrienne Rich and Mark Doty; playwright Tony Kushner; and many others. Groundbreaking books have been honored, such as Alan Berube’s Coming Out Under Fire and Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On.
In 2007, led by Board President, Katherine V. Forrest and Executive Director Charles Flowers, the Lambda Literary Foundation founded its Writers’ Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices: a residency designed to offer intensive and sophisticated instruction to selected writers over a carefully designed one week period. The Retreat is intended to fill a void in the development of many LGBT writers, offering instructive feedback in a supportive environment. Faculty have included well-known and highly regarded writer-teachers such as Dorothy Allison, John Rechy, Fenton Johnson, Katherine V. Forrest, Claire McNab, Bernard Cooper, Nicola Griffith, Ellen Bass, Rigoberto Gonzalez, D. A. Powell, Ellery Washington and Eloise Klein Healy. The Retreat provides open access to industry professionals and the opportunity for fellows to create for themselves an ongoing community of practice as they advance in their craft and careers. It is one of LLF’s most important initiatives: it represents the future of LGBT literature.
In early 2010, in an effort led by board member Nicola Griffith, LLF funded, staffed, and launched an online presence at LambdaLiterary.org which celebrates, supports, serves, informs, entertains, and connects the whole of the brilliantly diverse community that creates and supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans literature. Our website/web magazine, led by Managing Editor William Johnson, offers content of interest to readers, writers, agents, booksellers, editors, educators, distributors, librarians, bloggers, and more. It represents Lambda Literary Foundation’s fullest immersion in the technological possibilities of the 21st century.
In 2012 Lambda Literary launched a pilot LGBT Writers in School program, headed by Program Coordinator Monica Carter, where LGBT writers visit, in person or via video Skype, high school and college literature classes, or youth LGBT organizations such as GSA, to discuss LGBT literature with young people.
With a clarified mission and under the leadership of Executive Director Tony Valenzuela, the Lambda Literary Foundation fully intends to earn its acknowledged position as the world’s premier LGBT literary organization.