Recently, Lambda Literary unveiled the finalists of their 2023 Lambda Literary Awards, commonly referred to as the Lammy’s or Lammy Awards. Since 1989, this organization has granted awards for LGBTQ+-centered fiction and non-fiction works. The winners are announced in June of the year following when these books were published and submitted for consideration after a judging round. What initially was an award program centered on non-fiction and literary fiction stories with a gay male perspective has changed into an event that now encompasses categories devoted to sapphic/lesbian content, bisexual works, and transgender works.
Please note: This article uses the terms ‘sapphic/lesbian’ because while the literary world is increasingly moving towards a more expansive definition of sapphism, Lambda Literary still uses ‘L’ for lesbian writing in its awards program.
Lesbian/sapphic fiction, memoir/biography, romance and poetry each have their own Lammy categories. This tends to be true for gay, bisexual, and transgender works too. Other categories are combined and presented as ‘LGBTQ+’ including comics, drama, erotica, mystery, spec fiction, YA, Middle Grades, and more.
We’re focusing on this with this post because the Lammy Awards tend to recognize more books from academia, university presses, and major publishers, more so than those from dedicated LGBTQ+ and sapphic specific small presses. Unfortunately, these authors and their works often don’t reach the sapphic reading community that frequents online platforms, sapphic bookstores and coffee houses, and other places where sapphics and sapphic friendly readers gather. They miss the chance of being bought, read, and talked about.
This year, the panel of 65 judges had their hands full when it came to deciding on the Lambda Literary Award nominees – with over 1,350 books to choose from. Eventually, five finalists were chosen in 25 categories. We’ve highlighted those specifically relating to sapphic or lesbian content for you to browse through, and also shared some of our top picks from the LGBTQ+ and bisexual genres that have more sapphic elements.
|Lambda Literary Award Finalists||Category and Title||Author||Publisher|
|Big Girl: A Novel|
An extraordinary debut novel shot through with remarkable nuance and tenderness, Big Girl traces the intergenerational hungers of the profoundly lovable Malaya Clondon.
|Mecca Jamilah Sullivan||W.W. Norton & Company|
|Gods of Want|
Startling stories center the bodies, memories, myths, and relationships of Asian American women in “a voracious, probing collection, proof of how exhilarating the short story can be” (The New York Times Book Review)
|K-Ming Chang||One World|
“Was desire something like being possessed by a nightmare?”
|Mónica Ojeda, translated by Sarah Booker||Coffee House Press|
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK • A dazzling novel about a young Black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system.” (Tommy Orange, author of There There).
|Leila Mottley||Alfred A. Knopf|
|Our Wives Under the Sea: A Novel |
“A deeply strange and haunting novel in the best possible way…An impressive and exciting debut novel that may leave you thinking about your own relationships in a new light.” —NPR
|Julia Armfield||Flatiron Books|
|Meet Us by the Roaring Sea|
New York Times Editors' Choice 2022
An NPR Books We Love 2022
|Akil Kumarasamy, Farrar||Straus and Giroux|
|Mother Ocean Father Nation |
A riveting, tender debut novel, following a brother and sister whose paths diverge—one forced to leave, one left behind—in the wake of a nationalist coup in the South Pacific.
|Nishant Batsha||Ecco, HarperCollins|
"For fans of Mexican Gothic, from three-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Gwendolyn Kiste comes a novel inspired by the untold stories of forgotten women in classic literature..."
|Gwendolyn Kiste||S&S / Sage Press|
|Roses, In the Mouth of a Lion: A Novel |
For fans of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, an unforgettable story about female friendship and queer love in a Muslim-American community
|Bushra Rehman||Flatiron Books|
|Stories No One Hopes Are about Them|
Stories No One Hopes Are about Them explores convergences of power, privilege, and place.
|by A.J. Bermudez||The University of Iowa Press|
|Burn Down, Rise Up |
Mysterious disappearances. An urban legend rumored to be responsible. And one group of friends determined to save their city at any cost.
|Vincent Tirado||Sourcebooks Fire|
|Funny Gyal: My Fight Against Homophobia in Jamaica|
Angeline Jackson stands up to the culture of homophobia in Jamaica by sharing the story of her sexual and spiritual awakening as well as her traumatic experience of “corrective rape.”
|Angeline Jackson with Susan McClelland||Durden Press Ltd|
Two non-binary teens are pulled into a magical world under a lake - but can they keep their worlds above water intact?
|Anna-Marie McLemore, Feiwel & Friends||Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group|
|The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School |
A sharply funny and moving debut novel about a queer Mexican American girl navigating Catholic school, while falling in love and learning to celebrate her true self.
|Sonora Reyes||HarperCollins: Balzer + Bray|
|The Summer of Bitter and Sweet |
A powerful story about rage, secrets, and all the spectrums that make up a person—and the sweetness that can still live alongside the bitterest truth.
|Jen Ferguson||HarperCollins: Heartdrum|
|Appropriate Behavior |
Premiering at Sundance in 2014, Desiree Akhavan’s acclaimed debut feature, Appropriate Behavior, introduced the indie film world to the deadpan, irreverent wit that had already won over fans of her trailblazing LGBTQ web series The Slope.
|Maria San Filippo||McGill-Queen's University Press|
|Never Simple: A Memoir |
This gripping and darkly funny memoir “is a testament to the undeniable, indestructible love between a mother and a daughter” (Isaac Mizrahi).
|Liz Scheier||Henry Holt / Macmillan|
|Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy |
An unprecedented exploration of polyamory and gaslighting.
|Rachel Krantz||Harmony Books, Penguin Random House|
|The Crane Wife |
A memoir in essays that expands on the viral sensation “The Crane Wife” with a frank and funny look at love, intimacy, and self in the twenty-first century.
|CJ Hauser||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison |
This singular history of a prison, and the queer women and trans people held there, is a window into the policing of queerness and radical politics in the twentieth century.
|Hugh Ryan||Bold Type Books, Hachette Book Group|
|LGBTQ+ Speculative Fiction|
|The Book Eaters|
An International Bestseller
An NPR Best Sci Fi, Fantasy, & Speculative Fiction Book of 2022
A Book Riot Best Book of 2022
A Vulture Best Fantasy Novel of 2022
A Goodreads Best Fantasy Choice Award Nominee
A Library Journal Best Book of 2022
|Sunyi Dean||Tor Books|
|Into the Riverlands |
"A delicious bonbon of a novella about stories and their unreliable narrators, who wink at their...readers fully expecting us to catch on."—The Wall Street Journal
|Nghi Vo||Tor.com Publishing|
|The Paradox Hotel |
“Time travel, murder, corruption, restless baby dinosaurs, and a snarky robot named Ruby collide in this excellent, noir-inflected, humor-infused, science-fiction thriller.”—The Boston Globe
|The Wicked and the Willing |
Love demands sacrifice. Her blood. Her body. Even her life.
|Lianyu Tan||Shattered Scepter Press|
|As She Appears |
Shelley Wong's debut, As She Appears, foregrounds queer women of color in their being and becoming.
|Shelley Wong||YesYes Books|
|Beast at Every Threshold |
Beast at Every Threshold dances between familial hauntings and cultural histories, intimate hungers and broader griefs.
|Natalie Wee||Arsenal Pulp Press|
Courtney Faye Taylor explores the under-told history of the murder of Latasha Harlins―a fifteen-year-old Black girl killed by a Korean shop owner, Soon Ja Du, after being falsely accused of shoplifting a bottle of orange juice.
|Courtney Faye Taylor||Graywolf Press|
Prelude delineates the gay female experience through a poetic reconstruction of the girlhood of Catherine of Siena, a Catholic saint who lived in 1300s Italy and disobeyed her parents by refusing marriage to devote her life to God.
|Brynne Rebele-Henry||University of Pittsburgh Press|
|50 Things Kate Bush Taught Me About the Multiverse|
This is a book of tragicomic gurlesque word-witchery inspired by the Kate Bush cosmos.
|Karyna McGlynn||Sarabande Books|
Gabrielle Octavia Rucker's debut collection of poetry, moves through childhood and into the afterlife with poems that evoke an artful and urgent sense of the author's "insatiable wandering."
|Gabrielle Octavia Rucker||The Song Cave|
|Meat Lovers |
Meat' is a coming of age in which pony clubs, orphaned lambs and dairy-shed delirium are infused with playful menace and queer longings.
|Rebecca Hawkes||Auckland University Press|
|Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes |
What is illusion—a deception, or a revelation? What is a poem—the truth, or “a diverting flash, / a mirror showing everything / but itself”?
|Nicky Beer||Milkweed Editions|
|Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place||Neema Avashia||West Virginia University Press|
|Brown Neon||Raquel Gutiérrez||Coffee House Press|
|Lost & Found: Reflections on Grief, Gratitude, and Happiness||Kathryn Schulz||Random House|
|Ma and Me||Putsata Reang||Farrar, Straus and Giroux/MCD|
|Pretty Baby: A Memoir||Chris Belcher||Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster|
|Hard Pressed||Aurora Rey||Bold Strokes Books|
|If I Don't Ask||E. J. Noyes||Bella Books|
|Queerly Beloved||Susie Dumond||Dial Press|
|Southbound and Down||K.B. Draper||K.B. Draper, LLC.|
|The Rules of Forever||Nan Campbell||Bold Strokes Books|
|LGBTQ Romance and Erotica|
|Kiss Her Once For Me: A Novel||Alison Cochrun||Atria Books|
|Mistakes Were Made||Meryl Wilsner||St. Martin's Griffin|
|The Romance Recipe||Ruby Barrett||Carina Adores|
|Dead Letters from Paradise||Ann McMann||ByWater Books|
|Dirt Creek||Haley Scrivenor||Flatiron Books|
|Lavender House||Lev AC Rosen||MacMillan|
|Mamo||Sas Milledge||Boom! Studios|
|The Greatest Thing||Sarah Winifred Searle||First Second|