Publishing Triangle Announces 2021 Finalists

Cheryl Clarke Photo credit: Nivea Castro.

The Publishing Triangle, the association of LGBTQ people in publishing, has announced 29 finalists for the 33rd annual Triangle Awards, which honor the best LGBTQ books published in 2020. It has also named recipients of three special awards. Winners in the seven competitive categories will be announced virtually on Wednesday, May 12.

Cheryl Clarke is the 2021 recipient of the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement.Robert Fieseler is the winner of the Publishing Triangle’s Betty Berzon Emerging Writer Award, a prize honoring an LGBTQ writer who has published at least one book but not more than two. Fieseler will receive a prize of $1,500 with the award. William Johnson is the winner of the Publishing Triangle Leadership Award, which recognizes contributions to LGBTQ literature by those who are not primarily writers, such as editors, agents, librarians, and institutions. Johnson will receive $500 with this award.

Finalists for the competitive category awards are as follows:

Finalists for the Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction

Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing, by Julie Marie Wade (Mad Creek Books/Ohio State University Press)

Lady Romeo: The Radical and Revolutionary Life of Charlotte Cushman, America’s First Celebrity, by Tana Wojczuk (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster)

My Autobiography of Carson McCullers, by Jenn Shapland (Tin House)

The Power of Adrienne Rich, by Hilary Holladay (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

The Randy Shilts Award honors the journalist whose groundbreaking work on the AIDS epidemic for the San Francisco Chronicle made him a hero to many in the community. Shilts (1951–1994) was the author of The Mayor of Castro Street, And the Band Played On, and Conduct Unbecoming. This award recognizes the best nonfiction book of the year by or about gay men, bisexual men, and/or trans men, or that has significant influence upon the lives of queer men.

Finalists for the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction 

The Deviant’s War: The Homosexual vs. the United States of America, by Eric Cervini (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Figure It Out, by Wayne Koestenbaum (Soft Skull Press)

The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life of James Beard, by John Birdsall (W. W. Norton)

Plague Years: A Doctor’s Journey Through the AIDS Crisis, by Ross A. Slotten (University of Chicago Press)

The Publishing Triangle established its poetry awards in 2001. Each winner receives $1000. The Audre Lorde Award honors the American poet, essayist, librarian, and teacher. Lorde (1934–1992) was nominated for the National Book Award for From a Land Where Other People Live and was the poet laureate of New York State in 1991. She received the Publishing Triangle’s Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement shortly before her death. Among her sixteen other books are Zami (1982) and A Burst of Light (1989).

Finalists for the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry

Devil’s Lake, by Sarah M. Sala (Tolsun Books)

Here Is the Sweet Hand, by Francine J. Harris (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Indigo, by Ellen Bass (Copper Canyon Press)

Postcolonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz (Graywolf Press)

Francine J. Harris’s Play Dead won this award in 2017. Ellen Bass was a finalist for this award in 2015, for her collection Like a Beggar.

The Thom Gunn Award honors the British poet Thom Gunn (1929–2004), who lived in San Francisco for much of his life. Gunn was the author of The Man with Night Sweats (1992) and many other acclaimed volumes. In its first four years, this award was known as the Triangle Award for Gay Poetry, and Mr. Gunn himself won the very first such prize, in 2001, for his Boss Cupid.

Finalists for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry

Fantasia for the Man in Blue, Tommye Blount (Four Way Books)

Homie, by Danez Smith (Graywolf Press)

Pricks in the Tapestry, by Jameson Fitzpatrick (Birds, LLC)

13th Balloon, by Mark Bibbins (Copper Canyon Press)

Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead was a finalist for this award in 2018.

The Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, first presented in 2006, is named in honor of Edmund White, the esteemed novelist and man of letters who won the very first Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement, in 1989. The Edmund White Award celebrates the future of LGBTQ literature by awarding a prize to an outstanding first novel or story collection. The winner receives $1000.

Finalists for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction

After Elias, by Eddy Boudel Tan (Dundurn Press)

The Contradictions, Sophie Yanow (Drawn and Quarterly)

99 Erics: A Kat Cataclysm Faux Novel, by Julia Serano (Switch Hitter Press)

Real Life, by Brandon Taylor (Riverhead)

The Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature was first presented in 2016. Works of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction by writers whose self-definition is gender-variant or non-gender-conforming compete for this prize; in addition, works of nonfiction that are primarily about the trans/gender-variant experience and which are co-written or solely written by cis people are eligible. The winner receives $1000.

Finalists for the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature

The Death of Vivek Oji, by Akwaeke Emezi (Riverhead)

My Daily Actions, or The Meteorites, by S. Brook Corfman (Fordham University Press)

Trans Care, by Hil Malatino (University of Minnesota Press)

We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetry, edited by Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel (Nightboat Books)

Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater was a finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction in 2019.

The Ferro-Grumley Literary Awards, Inc., was established in 1988 to recognize, promote excellence in, and give greater access to fiction writing from queer points of view. To honor the memory of authors Robert Ferro (The Blue StarSecond Son, etc.) and Michael Grumley (Life Drawing, etc.), life partners who both died that year of AIDS, the group gave two awards, one for lesbian fiction and one for gay fiction, from 1990 through 2008. Starting in 2009, a single award, the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction, has been presented; it is bestowed by a specially constituted panel of judges selected from throughout the United States and Canada, from the arts, media, publishing, bookselling, and related fields. The winner receives $1000 as well as a summer residency at Art Workshop International in Assisi, Italy.

Finalists for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction

The Appointment, by Katharina Volckmer (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster)

Apsara Engine, by Bishakh Som (Feminist Press)

Fiebre Tropical, by Juliana Delgado Lopera (Feminist Press)

Memorial, by Bryan Washington (Riverhead)

Neotenica, by Joon Oluchi Lee (Nightboat Books)

Bryan Washington’s Lot was a finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction in 2020.

On the evenings of May 10 and May 11 a group of finalists will participate in a virtual reading, hosted by the New York City–based bookshop Bureau of General Services—Queer Division. Also in the run-up to announcement of the winners in the competitive categories, videos from the winners of the Whitehead, Berzon, and Leadership Award will be posted on the Publishing Triangle’s website.

Winners in these seven competitive categories will be announced on Wednesday, May 12. Because of Covid-19, once again there will be no in-person awards ceremony this year.