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Awards  
 
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While many works that we now recognize as masterpieces of glbtq literature were published well before the emergence of the modern gay rights movement, most of the contemporary literary awards given specifically to honor glbtq books date from the post-Stonewall period. Indeed, the major glbtq literary awards may be seen as an outgrowth of the modern American gay rights movement, so intertwined are they with the movement for equality.

Methods of Literary Acclaim

Acclaim for literary works takes many forms. The earliest forms, book reviews and bestseller status, are interrelated. A favorable review can propel an item onto a bestseller list. However, book reviewing is a much older phenomenon than bestseller lists.

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The appearance of printed bestseller lists in 1895 legitimized sales figures as a measure of literary acclaim. Bestseller lists are usually generated by the publishing industry. Attainment of bestseller status, however, is a reflection of sales figures rather than a measure of literary quality, and books often achieve bestseller status as a result of notoriety or salaciousness rather than because of their seriousness or literary merit.

Beyond bestseller lists, book reviews can also serve as a gauge of literary success. While there are many types of reviews, all rely on the opinions of a reviewer and therein lies the weakness of reviews to rate literary triumph--they represent the judgments of particular individuals.

Thoughtful reviews by a number of qualified reviewers can establish a critical consensus as to the merit of a particular book and can propel a literary career. But some books, especially from independent publishers, fail to be reviewed at all and must depend on word-of-mouth to gain an audience. Moreover, mainstream publications often refuse to review serious books with glbtq content.

The leading journals dedicated to reviewing glbtq books are Lambda Book Report, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, and Bay Area Reporter, as well as the academic publications Journal of Homosexuality and GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies.

By contrast with book reviews, selection by a book club usually involves a panel of judges, theoretically mitigating the possibility of individual bias. Rooted in literary salons of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, book clubs serve the function of identifying works that a particular audience is likely to be interested in. The earliest book clubs were local and specialized, but with the founding of the Book-of-the-Month Club in 1926, book clubs became national in scope and unabashedly commercialized. While recognition from a club ensures a national audience, it is an audience limited in scope to club members.

One of the earliest commercial book clubs directed to a glbtq audience was the "Cory Book Service," established in 1952 by Edward Sagarin, who published The Homosexual in America (1951) under the pseudonym Donald Webster Cory, a name that was chosen to allude to André Gide's Corydon.

The Homosexual in America was the first widely-read book of non-fiction to present homosexuals and homosexuality sympathetically and from the perspective of an insider. As a consequence, Sagarin received hundreds of letters from homosexuals interested in learning more about homosexuality. These correspondents became the targeted audience of the "Cory Book Service," a subscription service that selected a gay-themed book each month, usually literary works of high quality. While the "Cory Book Service" was small and did not last very long, it did establish the fact that there was an audience for gay-themed books, even during the McCarthy-era, when homosexuality was widely disdained and homosexuals derided as security risks.

Currently, the largest commercial book club to feature glbtq books is the Insight Out Book Club, which offers a large selection of discounted glbtq books, ranging from memoirs and biographies to fiction and erotica.

Book Awards

Book awards combine the best elements from each mode of literary acclaim. The value judgments inherent in reviewing are present in the awards process, but, like book club selection, assessment is made by a group. Additionally, awards panels frequently consult reviews and bestseller lists to determine nominations. The added benefit of professional or commercial organizational sponsorship confers legitimacy upon awards and provides an avenue for promoting the awards and winners.

The most prestigious, and by far the most lucrative, of international literary prizes is the Nobel Prize for Literature. First given in 1901, the Nobel Prize has sometimes gone to writers who seem, in retrospect, unworthy. Many of the winners are no longer considered major writers. Moreover, many giants of literature have been overlooked. Still, there is no doubt that the Nobel Prize helps define a successful literary career.

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Several glbtq writers have won Nobel Prizes in Literature. They include (top to bottom) T. S. Eliot, André Gide, Selma Lagerlöf, and Thomas Mann.
  
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