As many of you know, the annual GCLS Awards have announced their finalists this week. The award I’m most curious about is the Trailblazer Award, which I assumed would go this year to Barbara Grier. Instead, I’m told that she was not considered eligible because she does not meet the award criteria (specifically, she apparently was not an author, which assertion boggles the mind). While most of us know Barbara Grier as a publisher and an editor, the truth is that Barbara Grier began her career as a writer, and she remained a writer whose work was published over a span of some forty years.
Here is the official description of the GCLS Trailblazer Award:
This award is for lifetime achievement and is presented each year to a single author in recognition of the contributions made to the field of lesbian literature. To be eligible to win, the author must meet specific criteria. The author must have:
· been publishing over a period of at least ten (10) years
· published a significant body of work
· written lesbian-themed works that have had a positive impact upon the growth and visibility of the field of Lesbian Literature
Nominations for the Trailblazer Award are eagerly solicited from any member. The Executive Director, in concert with the GCLS Board of Directors, chooses the recipient of this award.
Now, let’s look at these points individually.
Publishing over a period of at least ten (10) years AND published a significant body of work.
· Barbara Grier was an editor for and regular contributor to The Ladder, which was a periodical put out by the Daughters of Bilitis. She contributed articles and short stories, as well as book reviews. The book reviews themselves were published in 1976 as Lesbiana: Book Reviews from The Ladder, 1966–1972.
· In 1967 she published The Lesbian in Literature (subsequent editions appeared in 1975 and 1981), a bibliography of lesbian literature.
· The Lavender Herring: Essays from The Ladder was published in 1976. It was edited by and included an essay by Barbara Grier.
· The Lesbians Home Journal: Stories from The Ladder was published in 1976. It was also edited by and included an essay by Barbara Grier.
· She was a contributor to The Coming Out Stories (1980), edited by Julia Penelope Stanley and Susan J. Wolfe.
· Her essay “The Garden Variety Lesbian” appeared in The Lesbian Path (1980, revised ed. 1985), edited by Margaret Cruikshank.
· She was a contributor to Happy Endings: Lesbian Writers Talk about Their Lives and Work (1993), edited by Kate Brandt. (This alone should erase any doubt that she is considered a respected lesbian author.)
· She was editor of record on a number of Naiad anthologies, the most recent of which appeared in 1999.
Then we get to the final criterion: written lesbian-themed works that have had a positive impact upon the growth and visibility of the field of Lesbian Literature. It’s important to note here that “lesbian-themed works” is not limited to works of fiction. This means that works of nonfiction are eligible–essays, for example. I would assume that if an author's "lesbian-themed works" could be entered in current GCLS awards categories, they would qualify the author for eligibility for the Trailblazer Award.
That being said, I am hard-pressed to name any “lesbian-themed works” that have had a MORE “positive impact upon the growth and visibility of the field of Lesbian Literature” than The Ladder—not to mention Barbara Grier’s book reviews in The Ladder. Yes, Barbara Grier was best known for being a publisher and an editor. But she was also a writer, and I think it’s a shame that the GCLS apparently doesn’t realize this. I’m hoping someone has already stepped in and Barbara Grier is on the shortlist for the Trailblazer Award. If not, it’s an oversight that should sadden all of us. Arguably no one has had a greater impact on modern lesbian literature than Barbara Grier—publisher, editor, WRITER.