Mark Doty’s Dog Years: A Memoir won in the nonfiction category for this year’s Stonewall Book Award, selected by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Roundtable of the American Library Association — passionate readers who spend a year steeped in this particular literature (“exceptional merit relating to the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered experience”).
Dog Years is a gorgeous book, an exploration of grief, loss, love, and empathy told through stories of life and death — of dogs, of lovers, of all the endings life brings us as it moves forward to its inexorable conclusion. Until I read Dog Years I did not understand the criticism that Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking was too focused on her own grief. I do not fully agree — we live in our heads, after all, and once someone dies, our grief is an important last connection — but I now understand the argument better.
This year’s winner in “Literature” (as the fiction category is labeled) is The Teahouse Fire. Haven’t read it, but I am rarely disappointed by a Stonewall award winner.
The awards will be presented during the Stonewall Book Awards Brunch on Monday, June 30, 2008 during the ALA’s Annual Conference in Anaheim, California.
It would be nice to see ALA trumpet the Stonewall winners the way the Caldecott and Newbery winners in children’s literature get their due.
The main ALA website currently features a press release, “American Library Association announces literary award winners.” But this is a misleading title; these are only the youth awards (Caldecott, Newbery, and so others).
If today you had followed press releases from the “more news” link on the main ALA page, this is what you would have seen (it is of course subject to change):
01/16/2008 – ALA Midwinter Meeting attracts large number of attendees; Youth Media Award selections announced
01/15/2008 – Video Round Table announces 2008 Notable Videos for Adults
01/15/2008 – 2008 American Indian Youth Literature Award
01/14/2008 – American Library Association announces literary award winners
01/14/2008 – Curtis, Bryan win 2008 Coretta Scott King Awards
Again, no mention of the Stonewall awards; no link to the press release. You have to go to the full list of press releases, which in all fairness lists many other unheralded winners.
I’m not suggesting a Vast ALA Conspiracy; I am sure there is none. I also know that the Caldecotts and Newberys receive (and deserve) very high-profile attention worldwide. They are a “money-maker” for ALA and good press for LibraryLand. PLus there are other deserving awards that also drop off the radar scope.
But it would be nice if the Stonewalls had a place at the table. If these awards — two of the few ALA awards targeted at adult readers of good literature — felt welcome and visible.
The Stonewall award also points up the value of “hyphenated” awards. There’s nothing condescending about recognizing books for a particular experience. Dog Years deserves many awards, but the Stonewall Award gives it a nod for a certain slant of light.
The 2008 Stonewall honor books in “literature” are:
“Bow Grip” (Arsenal Pulp Press) by Ivan E. Coyote
“Dark Reflections” (Avalon Publishing Group, Inc.) by Samuel R. Delaney
“The IHOP Papers” (Avalong Publishing Group, Inc.) by Ali Liebegott
“The Indian Clerk, a Novel” (Bloomsbury US) by David Leavitt
The 2008 Stonewall honor books in non-fiction are:
“Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman” (Knopf Publishing Group) by Leo Lerman and Stephen Pascal
“Mississippi Sissy” (St. Martins Press) by Kevin Sessums
“Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers” (Harcourt) by Cris Beam
“Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice” (Yale University Press) by Janet Malcolm
Help Support the Stonewall Awards
GLBTRT has almost reached its goal of $75,000 to endow the Stonewall two awards. To contribute toward the Endowment, go to https://www.ala.org/cfapps/donations/ and select GLBTRT.