Utahns Nominated for Queer Book Award

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Two Utah authors are finalists for a prestigious literary award given annually to authors of books with gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender content.

University of Utah psychologist Lisa Diamond’s book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love & Desire is a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in the category of Best Bisexual Book. This non-fiction book chronicles Diamond’s groundbreaking, decade-long study of 79 non-straight women’s sexual identification and attitudes towards their orientations. Diamond wrote that the study disproved the idea that bisexuality in females was just a “transition” stage to lesbianism, and that her data suggested bisexuality differed from lesbianism and female heterosexuality. Early last year, the American Psychological Association cited Diamond’s findings in its acceptance of bisexuality among women as a legitimate sexual orientation.

Additionally, University of Utah creative writing doctoral student Ely Shipley is a finalist for Best Transgender Book. Shipley’s first book of poems, Boy with Flowers, describes its author’s experiences as a transgender man in language poet Paisley Rekdal called “gorgeous, taut, and often quietly, almost dreamily, menacing.”

Recently, Boy with Flowers won the Thom Gunn Award in Poetry from the Publishing Triangle, an organization for gays and lesbians in publishing. But while the award recognizes a superior work of gay poetry, Shipley said he does not necessarily identify as gay, but as genderqueer.

“It’s interesting to see how these two organizations are using decidedly different ways to categorize my book,” he said.

Although the Lambda Literary Awards recognize books with gay and lesbian content in a number of categories, including poetry, romance and biography, the awards typically have only one category each for bisexual and transgender work. If the judging committee receives more than 10 submissions of bisexual and transgender fiction and non-fiction, awards are given for Bisexual Fiction and Non-Fiction, and Transgender Fiction and Non-Fiction.

Diamond said that she was “absolutely thrilled” to be a finalist. She first heard the news of her nomination, she added, when QSaltLake contacted her seeking an interview.

“I have no idea what my chances are, but it’s certainly an honor,” she said. “Even if this is as far as it goes, I’m absolutely delighted.”

“I’m really excited that this is happening,” said Shipley, noting that he might attend the awards ceremony in New York City on May 28. “I’m glad a foundation like that [the Lambda Literary Foundation, which administers the awards] exists to recommend writers that are often marginalized.”

Although this is the first award nomination Diamond’s book has received, Diamond noted that her book has been well-received not only by the scientific community and general readers, but by locals—including her mail delivery person, who noted that her entire family had enjoyed it.

“Moments like that are what it’s about for me,” she said. “Anything that gets [my book] into the hands of more average, day-to-day people out there who have a kinship with these issues is what makes it all worthwhile.”

Diamond added that she hoped that, as time went on, more books with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender content would be published by mainstream outlets.

“[Then] there’ll be more cross talk between communities. That’ll be a good thing all around,” she said.

She was also pleased that two Utahns had made it onto this year’s finalist list.

“We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re writing books!” she laughed.

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