I recently blogged about a serious gap in the history of the Michigan Notable Book Awards.
These awards have been sponsored by the Library of Michigan since 2004, but go back almost 25 years. Each year judges pick 20 Notable Michigan books "reflective of Michigan's diverse ethnic, historical, literary, and cultural experience."
But there've been limits to that diversity.
There haven't been any books with major LGBT content among the books annually celebrated and publicized statewide. The fact was confirmed to me by one of the judges, who couldn't explain why.
City Pulse, a Michigan magazine, picked up the story. In that piece, the Librarian of Michigan, Randy Riley, muddied the waters by mentioning outing, which I hadn't raised in any way at all, but he admitted that there was a "blind spot" in the judging.
Without the original blog and the subsequent news coverage, who knows if he would have said anything, but at least the problem is out in the open now:
Riley said that the blog post will likely spur discussion among the committee about how to better include LGBT literature. Committee member and City Pulse book reviewer Bill Castanier suggested that the committee, which is flexible in size, consider bringing on a committee member with expertise in the area of LGBT books. Riley is confident that the committee will take steps to create a more inclusive Notable Books program. "There's not a more open-minded group of people that I've worked with," said Riley. "I'm sure it will be a topic we discuss."
Let's hope they do more than "discuss" the 25-year-long absence of LGBT titles and actually bring the awards into the 21st century. That would do something to counter a shameful past in a state that has been widely seen as hostile to gay rights and banned same-sex marriage in 2004.
Lev Raphael is the author of the coming out novel Winter Eyes and 24 other books in many genres.