The 29th Annual Event Lambda Literary Awards celebrating achievement in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) writing for books published in 2016 NAMES AS A FINALIST “Speakers of the Dead – A Walt Whitman Mystery” by J Aaron sanders
Debut novel by J. Aaron Sanders’ says he let the ‘research dictate the direction for the private life of the American literary giant.’
Speakers of the Dead is a mystery novel about the investigative exploits of a young Walt Whitman. The reporter-cum-poet navigates the seedy underbelly of New York City’s body-snatching industry in an attempt to exonerate his friend of a wrongful murder charge. The accolade for J Aaron Sanders’ debut novel comes just weeks after a newly discovered Whitman novel was published.
“Walt Whitman is different from the great American poet we read about,” Sanders says. “He was young and ambitious, and he was living a big life in New York City. He could kick ass if he needed to – what I found fun, when writing the novel, was how human Walt became.”
Based on Whitman’s life experience and thoroughly researched by J Aaron Sanders, Speakers of the Dead is now being honored as a finalist in the Gay Mystery category. “My research on Whitman’s personal life made his relationships obvious, and his sexuality became another facet to who Whitman was. Whitman did not have to articulate his sexual identity the way we do now but he did document the emerging subculture around him. In that way we can look at his life and poetry to begin to form an idea about what it was like to be gay in 1843 New York.”
Sanders’ second novel, The Ritual, is a contemporary crime thriller set in the deserts of Southern Utah and follows a 16-year-old woman as she avenges her mother’s death, the result of a barbaric 19th century ritual called blood atonement. His third novel, set in 1848, will follow Walt Whitman down to New Orleans.
ABOUT LAMBDA LITERARY
Lambda Literary, the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature, announced the finalists of the 29th Annual Lambda Literary Awards–or the “Lammys,” as they are affectionately known. They were chosen from nearly 900 submissions and over 300 publishers. Submissions came from major mainstream publishers and from independent presses, from both long-established and new LGBTQ publishers, as well as from emerging publish-on-demand technologies. Visionary and Trustee Award honorees, the master of ceremonies, and celebrity presenters will be announced in April. The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony on Monday evening, June 12, 2017 in New York City.
“Never in my lifetime have LGBTQ stories felt so important as a means of being recognized and counted, as a form of resistance to this dangerous political climate we find ourselves in,” said Lambda Literary Executive Director Tony Valenzuela. “The Lammys are a celebration of great queer literature, and this year they’re also a reminder that our community of writers, publishers, and readers is not only strong, but part of a vital pathway to asserting our humanity.”
ABOUT J AARON SANDERS
Aaron Sanders is a writer living in Hollywood. Previously, he was Associate Professor of English at Columbus State University where he taught literature and creative writing. He holds a PhD in American Literature from The University of Connecticut and an MFA in Fiction from The University of Utah. His stories have appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Quarterly West, and Beloit Fiction Journal, among others.
Aaron co-founded and edited The Lumberyard, a radio magazine of poetry, prose and music, which aired weekly on WHUS in Connecticut from 2005-2008; and Dead Academics Press, the publications division of The Halawaukee School of Exegetical Arts. He also runs the website The Negatives, a celebration of failure.
Marian Brown, Penguin-Random House