Anthology receives Lammy!
Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community edited by the Bay Area's own Noach Dzmura and published by Berkeley's North Atlantic Books, has won the 2011 Lambda Literary Award for the category Transgender Non-Fiction. Instituted in 1988 by the US-based Lambda Literary Foundation, the Lambda Literary awards ("the Lammys") are awarded at a gala ceremony in New York each year to published works which celebrate or explore LGBT themes.
Jase Schwartz, a colleague and friend of the book's editor, was present in New York on May 26 to receive the award. Directly after making his acceptance remarks, Schwartz texted the results to Dzmura at local Berkeley congregation Chochmat HaLev, where a book reading was underway. The audience for the book reading were given the news and the gathering turned into an unexpected, and utterly fabulous, party. [Kudos to Talya Husbands-Hankin, Janet Falk, Ibrahim Farajaje and Kate Allen of Chochmat HaLev for making it happen!!]
This year's transgender non-fiction category Lammy award winner is the first anthology to devote its pages entirely to the encounter between Jewish life and practice, and transgender bodies. One message of Balancing on the Mechitza is that, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of Jewish observance, and no matter where you fall on the spectrum of gender identity, there is a home for you in the Jewish community. "Transition" is not just for the gender-variant individual: as we transition, our communities of belief and practice make the transition with us. We work together during the change process to understand and learn how to be in community. Among the things we learn is a new vocabulary and a new way of seeing intentions rather than simple surfaces.
The book's three chapters concern themselves with:
1. the life experiences of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer and intersex Jews;
2. traditional and newly created rituals that have been shaped to sanctify the life-cycle events of transition and transformation; and
3. practical exploration of the gender variant role models that exist in the pages of Torah, Mishnah and Talmud, and an investigation of how communities might move closer to a kind of _practical_ welcome and inclusion that is deep, true, and rooted in Jewish tradition.
Some of the best known contributing essayists in the anthology are Kate Bornstein, Elliot Kukla, Joy Ladin, Judith Plaskow, and Reuben Zellman. Local essayists Charlotte Fonrobert, Jhos Singer, Eliron Hamburger and Chav Doherty and 16 others from around the nation lend their powerful voices to the anthology as well.
Editor Noach Dzmura and (in many cases) contributing essayists from the Bay Area and (less frequently) from the East Coast or the heartland are available to speak with your organization, synagogue, chevra kadisha, ritual committee, or book club. Formats for the event can range from book talks with audience Q & A and book signing, to specific topics such as conversations with burial societies about traditional burial and transgender bodies. For book talks, sponsoring organizations are expected to cover travel costs. For specific topics, sponsors will be requested to negotiate a consulting fee or honorarium, as appropriate. Contact Mr Dzmura at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your event today.