NEW YORK, NY On the 20th anniversary of its Lesbian Writers Fund, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice celebrates the shifts in acceptance of lesbian writing, and acknowledges work left to do. Since the Fund was established in 1991, Astraea has awarded more than half a million dollars in unrestricted funds to emerging lesbian poets and fiction writers to ensure their voices are supported and amplified. This years recipients are Francesca Austin Ochoa in Fiction and Lori Swartz in poetry. Astraea also named four finalists and six honorable mentions, distributing a total of $26,600. To mark the 20th anniversary of the fund, Astraea will host a Lesbian Writers Fund showcase on October 22nd.
Too often, lesbian writing is marginalized by literary venues and funding sources. Lori Swartz said, As lesbian or queer writers, there are so many barriers to writing down our stories. There is the struggle of coming out, accepting our histories and then having the guts to put it on paper. Putting our experiences in writing lends them credibility.
Both art and social justice can be expressions of how we see, and how we wish to see the world, said Francesca Austin Ochoa. It is about contributing to the library of human thought and imagination in a way that recomposes truth and reinterprets dreams.
Astraea Executive Director, J. Bob Alotta said, Along with the Lesbian Writers Fund, Astraea supports a range of arts and culture projects because they are an essential part of achieving social justice. She continued, They speak to us on a different level and allow more direct access to the heart without prejudices getting in the way.
Since its founding in 1977, Astraea has been on the cutting edge of progressive funding initiatives, providing more than $17 million to hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) organizations and projects that work to secure human rights for LGBTI people and advance gender, racial, economic and social justice across the U.S and internationally.
A prestigious panel of writers determined the 2011 Lesbian Writers Fund awards: Fiction panelists were Ana-Maurine Lara and R. Erica Doyle. Poetry panelists were Chrystos and Nikky Finney.
Also recognized for their work were Finalists in Fiction Sheree L. Greer and Chinelo Okparanta; Finalists in Poetry Donna M. Lane and Lauren Peterson; Honorable Mentions in Fiction Michele Koury, Sassafras Lowrey, and Jenie Pak; and Honorable Mentions in Poetry Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers, Nicole Santalucia, and Kirya Traber. More about the award recipients and samples of their work can be found at www.astraeafoundation.org.