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literature

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Awards  
 
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Among glbtq winners of the Nobel Prize are such figures as Selma Lagerlöf (1909), Thomas Mann (1929), Gabriela Mistral (1945), André Gide (1947), T. S. Eliot (1948), and Patrick White (1973).

In the United States, the oldest continuously awarded book prize is the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, which dates from 1917. It inaugurated the practice of giving awards in several distinct categories, in addition to the umbrella category "literature," which has come more and more to mean fiction.

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Among glbtq Pulitzer Prize winners for literature are Willa Cather (1923), John Cheever (1979), John Kennedy Toole (1981), Alice Walker (1983), and Michael Cunningham (1999). Pulitzer Prize winners for poetry include such glbtq writers as Sara Teasdale (1918), Edna St. Vincent Millay (1923), Amy Lowell (1926), W. H. Auden (1948), Elizabeth Bishop (1956), Richard Howard (1969), John Ashbery (1976), James Merrill (1977), and Mary Oliver (1983). Among glbtq Pulitzer Prize winners for drama are Tennessee Williams (1948, 1956), William Inge (1953, 1955), Edward Albee (1967, 1975, 1994), Lanford Wilson (1980), Tony Kushner (1993), and Paula Vogel (1998).

Another prestigious American book award is the National Book Awards (NBAs). Presented annually since 1950, the NBAs were established by a consortium of book publishers to recognize the best in American writing. Among the most prestigious of literary awards, the NBAs are selected by five-member independent judging panels for each of the four genres that are currently recognized: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People's Literature. The winners receive a substantial cash award and a crystal sculpture.

While many glbtq authors have won awards, glbtq-themed books were rarely recognized prior to 1971, when Francis Steegmuller won for Cocteau: A Biography, which forthrightly addressed Jean Cocteau's homosexuality. In 1981, John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality became the first non-fiction, gay-themed work by a gay author to win an NBA. In 1992, another such work, Paul Monette's Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, was honored.

Among glbtq winners of the National Book Award are the following: Newton Arvin (1951), W. H. Auden (1956), John Cheever (1958, 1981), James Merrill (1967, 1979), Thornton Wilder (1968), Elizabeth Bishop (1970), Howard Moss (1972), Frank O'Hara (1972), Ursula K. Le Guin (1973), Allen Ginsburg (1974), Adrienne Rich (1974), Marilyn Hacker (1975), John Ashbery (1976), John Boswell (1981), Alice Walker (1983), Richard Howard (1983), Paul Monette (1992), Mary Oliver (1992), Gore Vidal (1993), and Susan Sontag (2000).

Britain's most prestigious book prize, awarded to the best full-length novel written in English by a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Pakistan, South Africa, and nations of the British Commonwealth, is the Man Booker Prize. First awarded in 1969, it had not been presented to an openly glbtq author or for a gay-themed novel until 2004, when Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty was honored. Interestingly, in 2004 another of the six finalists for the award was also a gay-themed work by an openly gay author, Colm Tóibín's The Master.

Another significant American book prize is the Clifton Fadiman Award for Excellence in Fiction. Sponsored by the Mercantile Library of New York and named for the distinguished editor and reviewer, the award, which includes a $5000 cash prize, was established in 2000 to recognize a work of fiction by a living American author who deserves recognition and a wider readership. In 2005, James Purdy's Eustace Chisholm and the Works (1967) was chosen for the honor.

GLBTQ Book Awards

The Task Force on Gay Liberation of the American Library Association created the first book award specifically for glbtq literature in 1971, in the heady days following the Stonewall Rebellion of the summer of 1969. Spearheaded by activist and bibliographer Barbara Gittings, the creation of the Gay Book Award, as it was then known, was a grassroots effort involving both librarians and non-librarians to recognize works of "exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered experience."

Initially, fiction and nonfiction competed equally for the prize and decisions regarding winners were made by consensus. At the 1971 ALA convention in Dallas, the Task Force presented the first Gay Book Award to Alma Routsong, who wrote as Isabel Miller, for Patience and Sarah (formerly published as A Place for Us).

Such was the nature of this homegrown initiative that early recipients of the Gay Book Award might receive anything from a hand-lettered scroll to a commencement cap, lavender cape, or even a kite. By 1981, however, the publication of glbtq literature had increased to such a degree that it was impossible to make decisions by consensus, so an awards committee with formal guidelines and procedures was established.

The following year the Task Force, now known as the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, petitioned the American Library Association's award committee to formally recognize the Gay Book Award; this recognition was granted in 1986. Other significant developments in the history of the award include establishing cash awards for winners (1986), creating separate awards for literature and non-fiction (1990), designating "Honor Book" status for runners-up (2001), renaming the awards the Stonewall Book Awards (2002), and creating a Children'/Young Adult award (2010).

The narrowness of Stonewall's categories guarantees tough competition, which lends prestige to the award. A selective list of winners, in addition to Routsong, includes life partners Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Joan Nestle, Jim Grimsley, Randy Shilts, Edmund White, and Leslie Feinberg. Lillian Faderman was the first author to triumph twice, both times in the same category, and Sarah Schulman was the first to earn Stonewalls in different categories.

Other milestones include the first African-American awardees, Essex Hemphill (1993) and Marci Blackman (2000). The earliest Asian-American winners were Urvashi Vaid (1996) and Noel Alumit (2003). Moisés Kaufman, a native of Venezuela, is the first person of Hispanic origin to win the award (2002).

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