30 Sep 2009

kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
[note: there are some minor errors in here where I conflated things -- like mission statement for org, vs mission statement for awards, whoops -- and I need to get around to editing or at least adding clarifications. until then, however, you'll find all corrections and discussions of such in the comments.]

There's a massive kerfluffle ongoing about the Lamda Literary Foundation (LLF) and its recent alteration to its rules of inclusion for its annual awards (LLA, or Lammies). After contemplating, working through a few kneejerk reactions and taking a big step back, this is me eating some of my original reactions now that I've got some distance from the original messengers, and it seems to me that the one bearing fault for this to-do is, unfortunately, LLF -- but not for the reasons most people are going on about.

In fact, the original fault, I would say, is actually that of a few authors (and by extension, their publishers), but LLF compounded this fault and poured gasoline on the fires of wank by some badly-chosen words and failure to communicate effectively.

Before I get into that, I should clarify something. If you read the thread about this at Dear Author, it may seem to you that I do a lot of the complaining myself that I may seem to be condemning, here. I do have a chip on my shoulder about the LLF, which is only somewhat relevant here but does tend to color my reactions when anyone mentions the foundation. However, my disagreements with the wider LGBTIQ† community -- of which I am a part -- does not in any way validate a non-member's disagreements. My complaints do not constitute giving you, the non-member, a right to use me as example or justification for your conclusions -- ones which, I can pretty much guarantee, I won't agree with. Why? Your premise will be faulty: you are not a member. Simple as that.

Secondly, the vast majority of my own complaints are, and always have been, centered on being a marginalized minority within the LGbt (little letters on purpose) community. Where I, and mine, are not invisible, we are treated as though others wish we were invisible. The few places in literature you may find us, we are nearly always stereotyped, caricatured, completely mis-represented, if not outright dismissed. So, yeah, I gots some complaints about my community, but I have the same damn complaints about the greater mainstream society. I'm not picking sides; I think pretty much both suck equally, some days. Just so you know.

Now that's out of the way, let's talk about literature.

In an academic/traditional sense, a 'body of literature' -- lesbian, black, Chinese, gay, women's, native american, ethnic, etc, etc -- is made up of writing by members of that group. For instance, "lesbian literature" is, by definition, a work whose author is part of the lesbian community. A piece of "black literature," then, is a work whose author is African-American, African-European, African-whatever: the author is black.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is 'African-American literature', having been written by a black American woman (Zora Neale Hurston). In contrast, Gone with the Wind may have significant black characters, and has sold probably a bazillion more copies than Hurston's book ever has or will, but Mitchell's book is not 'black literature'. And if you were to try arguing that it is, you would probably get laughed out of any decently-educated gathering, and rightfully so. Same thing would happen if you tried to argue that "The Lone Ranger" is Native American literature. You wouldn't get much farther than your opening statement and then you wouldn't be able to hear yourself talk, because everyone would be on the floor in hysterics at your absolute stupidity, if not ready to throw you out for your unmitigated gall.

This is where LLF went wrong. )

I will continue the rest tomorrow, most likely. Yes, there is more. That's how irritated I am.

Also, free bonus text: the obligatory footnotes! )

continue to part II: random thoughts and follow-up commentary