Postcards from a Librarian:
Julie Kane on the Stonewall Book Awards

Julie Kane

Julie Kane, Head of Collection Services

I’ve spent the past four years dedicating my American Library Association service to work on the Conference Committee. This year I’m transitioning to my first appointment on a book award committee, the first award established for LGBTQIA+ books. The Stonewall Book Award has three committees: Barbara Gittings Literature, Israel Fishman Non-Fiction, and Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s and Young Adult Literature. The adult literature award is named after the iconic gay rights activist and lover of books Barbara Gittings, who famously fought over a series of years for the American Psychological Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. In 1973, her campaign was successful, and the classification was removed.

The committee begins its work almost immediately after the announcement of the previous year’s winner at the ALA Midwinter meeting. Anyone can recommend a title to the Stonewall Committees to consider via web form. Titles must contain a certain threshold of queer content to be considered for the award (a new shorthand in my reviewing vocabulary for rejecting titles – neqc: not enough queer content). We review in physical and e-book form, and I anticipate some audiobook releases in the coming months.

Over the course of the year we’ve been meeting as a committee online monthly, with email discussions of individual books in between meetings. At the Midwinter meeting in 2021, we would usually meet from 8:30-5:30, locked in a room as a committee for three consecutive days (Friday-Sunday) to determine the award winner and any honorable mentions before the award announcement and press release reception. Though our meetings will be virtual this year, our schedule will be largely the same since we’re held to a press release deadline, and deliberations must conclude in time. The award is officially presented to the winning authors or editors at the following Annual conference in June. Winners receive a commemorative plaque and $1,000. I was delighted to meet W&L’s own Rebecca Makkai at an ALA publisher’s event when she was attending in 2019 to accept her Stonewall award for The Great Believers.

I’m thrilled and overwhelmed to serve on the Stonewall – Barbara Gittings Literature Award Committee, though it’s not without its novel challenges. I regularly review contemporary literature for Library Journal, and I’m an avid reader, but I did not anticipate scaling up my reading to accommodate evaluating ~300 titles in one year. As we get closer to the end of the calendar year, titles are coming to us at a furious pace, and the need to DNF (did not finish) books is increasing along with the height of the TBR (to be read) piles. I’m accustomed to reviewing novels only, and pleasure-reading a mix of novels and nonfiction, but this committee entertains a mix of literary fiction, poetry, drama, scifi, and graphic novels. Hardest of all struggles is the primary rule of the book award committee – the gag order. We are forbidden from discussing what we’re reading outside of the committee. My favorite part of returning from ALA or BookExpo is sharing (loudly, widely!) which books are coming out soon that I love or feel strongly about. Having to keep my mouth shut for the next two years is absolutely, bone-breakingly brutal. On the other hand, being part of a process that promotes and celebrates LGBTQIA+ literature is rewarding, hard work, and an incredible honor. I’m happy to report that there is no shortage of astonishingly good work coming in. I wish I could tell you more about it.

Check out recent Stonewall Book Awards winners held by the library:

2020 Awardees

Barbara Gittings Literature Award

    • How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir, Saeed Jones (2019)
      Leyburn Lower Level 4 PS3610.O6279 Z46 2019
      Check availability.

Stonewall Honor Books in Literature

    • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
      Leyburn Lower Level 4 PS3622.U96 O52 2019
      Check availability.

Stonewall Honor Books in Non-Fiction

    • In the Dream House: A Memoir, Carmen Maria Machado (2019)
      Leyburn Lower Level 4 PS3613.A2725243 Z46 2019
      Check availability.

2019 Awardees

Barbara Gittings Literature Award

    • The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai (2018)
      Leyburn Lower Level 4 PS3613.A36 G74 2018
      Check availability.

Israel Fishman Nonfiction Award

    • Go the Way Your Blood Beats: On Truth, Bisexuality and Desire, Michael Amherst (2018)
      Leyburn Lower Level 3 HQ74 .A52 2018
      Check availability.

Stonewall Honor Books in Non-Fiction

    • Black. Queer. Southern. Women.: An Oral History, E. Patrick Johnson (2018)
      Leyburn Lower Level 3 HQ75.6.U52 S684 2018
      Check availability.
    • Raising Rosie : our story of parenting an intersex child, Eric Lohman & Stephani Lohman (2018)
      Ebook.

2018 Awardees

Barbara Gittings Literature Award

    • Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers, Cat Fitzpatrick & Casey Plett, editors (2017)
      Leyburn Lower Level 4 PS508.T73 M43 2017
      Check availability.

Stonewall Honor Books in Literature

    • When I grow up I want to be a list of further possibilities, Chen Chen (2017)
      Leyburn Lower Level 4 PS3603.H4471 A6 2017
      Check availability.

Stonewall Honor Books in Non-Fiction

    • Black on Both Sides A Racial History of Trans Identity, C. Riley Snorton (2017)
      Ebook.