Stonewall Book Award Winners 2022: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ Literature in the USA
By Caitlin Evans, Paridhi Badgotri, Thomas Caldow and Gabriella Sotiriou
Since 1971, the Stonewall Book Awards have aimed to celebrate the best and most exciting LGBTQIA+ literature of the year in the USA. Whilst this year’s award presentation is still yet to come in June, the winners of 2022 have already been discreetly announced, and they did not disappoint.
The Stonewall Book Awards are run by the Rainbow Round Table (RRT) of the American Library Association, the oldest professional association for LGBTQIA+ people in the United States. The awards are presented in four categories: the Barbara Gittings Literature Award for adult fiction; the Israel Fishman Award for adult non-fiction; and the Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature Awards. Each of the books were at first nominated by the general public, before being whittled down by the committed members of the RRT.
Barbara Gittings Literature Award: Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, MCD Books
Sorrowland is Rivers Solomon’s third novel, and it has taken the literary scene by storm. The novel is loosely tied to the Gothic genre, but has been credited for its genre-bending abilities as it weaves in the complicated history of American racism. Sorrowland follows the story of Vern, a pregnant teenager who escapes the Cainland cult and gives birth to twins in the woods whilst on the run. Vern then desperately tries to make sense of life for herself and her children, whilst deconstructing everything she was taught by the oppressive, experimental, and violent institution she was once trapped in.
Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award: Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi, Riverhead Books
An award-winning and best-selling author Emezi has now delivered a memoir which is as beautifully observed and written as their fiction work. Tracing their life through a series of correspondences with family, friends and lovers, Emezi’s intimate and illuminating prose helps paint the portrait of a life in gorgeous detail. Tackling questions about sexuality and identity alongside their quest to become a writer, Emezi ties their search for identity to their relationship with language. In a letter published on their website, Emezi rejects writing for a western market, instead stating they “want to write as if I am free.” From the prose style to the work’s uncompromising portrayal of black, queer identity, this novel is certainly free.
Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s Award: Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff, Dial Books
Too Bright to See is a self-discovery story done differently. Bug is a young transgender boy who is grappling with understanding who he really is in the wake of his gay Uncle Roderick’s death and how he will fit in amongst his peers at school come the end of the summer. Lukoff takes a stride away from the typical telling of such a story by setting it in a haunted house. Thrown into a world of grief, Bug finds himself followed by the ghostly figures that previously had not bothered him in the slightest. Lukoff avoids stereotypical themes of sports and makeup, making this a familiar tale told in an unfamiliar fashion. He challenges common ideas of how young people come to terms with who they are, and portrays it as a highly intimate process which is perfectly reflected in the chilling atmosphere of Bug’s haunted house.
Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Young Adult Award: Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, Dutton Books
This novel is set in 1954 in the Chinatown of San Francisco. It is a gripping young adult novel which glows with deep youthful desire of love and togetherness amidst systemic difficulties. The book is a saga of two Chinese American women who face the oppression of homophobia and racism in 20th century America. The book is packed with areas of desire and passionate love between the protagonists who risk their lives in order to be together. Their desire for one another is undeniable when they first meet in the Lesbian bar called Telegraph Club. The writer, Malinda Lo, also performs research on diversity in young adult literature and publishing when she is not penning down her own novels. This particular novel of Lo’s ends with hope and possibilities of the victory of love over hate.
Barbara Gittings Honoured Books
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki, Tor Books
Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans, Berkley
Stone Fruit by Lee Lai, Fantagraphic Books
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers, Tor Books
Israel Fishman Honoured Books
Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes: And the Unwritten History of the Trans Experience by Zoë Playdon, Scribner
A History of Scars by Laura Lee, Atria Paperback
Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 by Sarah Schulman, FSG Books
Punch Me Up to the Gods: A Memoir by Brian Broome, Hough Mifflin Harcourt
Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Honoured Books
Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow, Dial Books
The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer, Katherine Tegen Books
Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate, Little Bee Books