Image taken form event page
Last night Lambda Literary, an organization that nurtures and advocates for LGBTQ writers, hosted the Bespoke reading series, in hopes of gaining donations for the hardships the nonprofit organization has fallen upon in recent times due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As Jerome Murphy, a former board member of Lambda Literary, explained, many nonprofits have been suffering financially due to the coronavirus pandemic and the inability to gather members and new interested members. Thus, the hashtag #savelambda originated and the idea of the reading series began.
Sue Landers, the executive director at Lambda literary and author of three books of poetry, introduced herself and explained the importance of the organization; the importance of being the voice of countless LGBTQ writers and being an advocate for getting their work published and into the curriculum of schools all across the country. So you can imagine the despair she might have felt when, just a few days ago, she was made aware of the financial struggles of the nonprofit organization and that they might have to end their ambitious and important endeavors. She decided to reach out to the community for donations and has received much more than she originally expected.
It was then the reading series kicked off at 8:00 p.m. with 120+ audience members, give or take moving in and out of the meeting as the night went on, and six unique reader’s each with unique writing styles and life experiences.
Readers included Andre Aciman, Carmen Maria Machado, Shakina Nayfack, Tommy “Teebs” Pico, Sarah Schulman, and Jose Antonio Vargas, each writer accomplished in their own writing arts.
I found the reading series to be something that was much needed as the pandemic threatens to eventually extend lockdowns, or continue lockdowns, in several states around the country. If writers are collectors of things, of life, then they are now the librarians of a life people have forgotten, reminding us of a time where things were normal; where hugging your friends, kissing your boyfriend, and avoiding a person from high school in a grocery market takes a different meaning now. And I think, despite writers feeling like they might not be doing much in the time of a pandemic, as much as nurses or doctors, writers are much needed during these times. Because as often as writers make long forgotten relationships and connections you’ve forgotten over time known to readers, like a wave of nostalgia, so too now do writers give us something to hope for, give us something to look forward to.
This reading also got me thinking. Tommy “Teebs” Pico read a poem about his experiences in quarantine and what he’s been feeling as the pandemic rages on. And as he read his struggles, how he washes his hands constantly, and hopes for a time he can expand his social circle soon to see his friends, he reminds us that we aren’t alone in these times; that many of us are feeling a collective grief that is taking a toll on all of us. As he says, it’s the first thing he’s written in seven weeks, and as a writer I needed to hear that. As much as we have time now, we don’t have peace and we have nothing new to collect.
So to see the Lambda literary community adapt and support one another was something that gave me hope, and a reminder that, although we are separated, our communities still exist.
We just have to find new ways to organize, and Lambda literary has reminded us that although it’s hard, it most certainly is possible.
To make a donation to Lambda Literary, please go here: https://www.lambdaliterary.org/donate/
On June 1st, to kick off Pride Month, Lambda will be announcing the 2020 Lambda Literary Award Winners in an online celebration and RDN will be there!