An Evening of Words and Laughter

Karin Kallmaker Above Temptation, Events and Appearances

Lambda Literary Awards Finalist Readings, San Francisco Public Library

My favorite thing about this annual event is the range of books – from fiction to poetry to LGBT studies. Like a lot of writers I ought to read more than I do, and to have such an array of works assembled like a tasty sampler buffet makes for, to extend the metaphor, a delicious evening.

Let’s face it, it’s an amazing event when a reading from a book about lesbianism in England being equated with sedition during the closing years of WWI is not only interesting, but humorous. Citizen Invert Queer: Lesbianism and War in Early Twentieth-Century Britain, by Deborah Cohler, was both.

In particular, it’s wonderful to hear poetry read aloud, and three of the finalists read poetry. I was especially touched by Amir Rabiyah’s sharp, sparkling entry in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, the collection of essays, poetry and conversations edited by Kate Borstein and S. Bear Bergman.

My thoughtful takeaway for the evening was from an LGBT Studies finalist, Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community. Read by editor Lucas Noach Dzmura, the reading selection focused on the literal and figurative metaphor of the dividing wall (the mechitza) between men and women at prayer in orthodox communities. Discussing the person who moves from one side of the wall to the other, there is a time when they balance atop that wall during their journey to the other side. But there are others for whom the top of the wall is the destination, when a life of ambiguity is, for them, fixed.

The evening concluded with comic book geekery with slide shows and readings from Teleny and Camille, by Jon Macy, and Glamazonia: The Uncanny Super Tranny by Justin Hall. Both works displayed visual drama and a wealth of humor. Seriously, how cool is that?

All of the readings were highly enjoyable. I didn’t get a chance to greet Katherine Bricetti, who read from her memoir Blood Strangers, and who revealed she too had teenagers, but I did chat with Erik Orrantia, a finalist in gay romance for Normal Miguel. Erik had journeyed up from Tijuana and was staying in Castro Valley, where I live. Speaking of, who knew that Lucy Jane Bledsoe once worked in Castro Valley? I didn’t, but learned that tonight as well. I also got to hear Lucy read from Big Bang Symphony, another amazing novel. She tolerated my fan grrl demand for a photo (see top of the page).

My thanks to Tony Valenzuela and the Lambda Literary Foundation for organizing the event. I appreciate it not only as a finalist given the chance to air her work, but also as a reader being offered so many tastes of what makes up our community literature. Also many thanks to the tireless Karen Sundheim of the San Francisco Public Library and the James C. Hormel Center, for hosting the event for so many years. Librarians and libraries, in the parlance of my teenagers, are sick.