Monday, March 29, 2010

Books save lives. Queer books save queer lives.

Dear Friend:

Books change lives. Sometimes books save lives. Queer books save queer lives.

My first novel, Ammonite, was a mass market paperback about a women-only world, one of those cheap disposables with a spaceship on the cover. It should have come and gone unnoticed—but it won a Lambda Literary Award. Because of that, it got picked up in many languages (Polish! Chinese!) and went on to win the Tiptree Award and the Premio Italia. Because of that, my second novel Slow River was a hardcover and reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. Both books were—still are—read all over the world.

A woman in Australia, married with two children, read Ammonite and wrote me a letter to tell me that my novel had shown her what the empty space inside her meant: she was a lesbian. Two years later, I got an email from the same woman, saying she had read Slow River and as a result had found the courage to do something about it; she now had a girlfriend. At a bookstore reading in the South, a man told me Slow River had made his job bearable during a truly awful period in his life. A woman in the Midwest approached me at a convention: No, she didn’t want to chat, but she thought I ought to know that Ammonite had literally saved her life: she had been planning to kill herself but instead, for six months, read the book cover to cover, over and over, endlessly, immersing herself in a world of women until she knew it was okay to be a woman, to stay alive and become herself.

I’m not special. Any queer writer, whether of memoir, YA, or f/sf, or romance, has similar stories. We don’t talk about it much—these are private, heartfelt gifts from readers, not meant for public consumption—but we know how important our books are.

Stories shape us. Stories show us possibilities. Without them we have to reinvent the wheel, again and again, believing we’re the only one in our Australian city or Southern job or Midwest town. With enough stories, we can create culture and build community. For decades, LGBTQ and feminist bookstores have functioned as de facto community centers, places for us to meet others like ourselves, to know—by seeing real live writers and readers, by touching actual books, by laughing and crying in recognition at authors' stories—that we aren't alone.

The Lambda Literary Foundation’s sole purpose is to champion those stories, to nurture, celebrate, and preserve queer literature.

Without LLF there would be no Lambda Literary Awards. Without those awards, Ammonite would not have been noticed, and I wouldn’t have a career. Several people might be dead. And that’s just one Lambda winner. Multiply this by all the categories—23 this year—and all the years we’ve been holding the awards (2010 will be our 22nd anniversary). So many stories. So many lives…

Without LLF there would be no Lambda Literary website—which, less than one month after launch, is already shaping up to be the premier online destination for queerlit-loving readers worldwide.

Without LLF there would be no Writers’ Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, where new writers of all ages can come to find their people and learn their magnificent heritage. They arrive uncertain; they leave burning with a sense of purpose. As one Fellow told us, "If you ever had a doubt that you have done something to change the world, don’t."

Please help us to keep changing the world.

Please give to help us build this community, and provide resources to writers and readers worldwide. Five dollars, fifty dollars, five hundred, five thousand—every single dollar will but put to good use.

Books change lives. Queer books change queer lives. You can be part of that change. Every dollar helps queer writers be heard and queer readers find more stories to make them laugh, cry, fight, hope, and be proud.


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