April 12, 2022

Hasanthika Sirisena, assistant professor of English and creative writing at Susquehanna University, has been named a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for her collection of essays titled Dark Tourist: Essays.

Sirisena’s latest offering explores dark tourism — the act of visiting sites of war, violence and other traumas experienced by others.

Hasanthika Sirisena, assistant professor of English and creative writing Hasanthika Sirisena, assistant professor of English and creative writing

The Lambda Literary Awards, or “Lammys,” were created in 1989 to garner national visibility for LGBTQ books, which had established a foothold through a nascent network of lesbian and gay publishers and bookstores. Today, the Lammys celebrate more than 150 LGBTQ writers across 24 categories, and include several cash prizes for writers at all stages in their careers.

“It’s a great privilege to be on the short list and be included among so many writers I admire,” Sirisena said. “Being a finalist is particularly rewarding to me given all that Lambda Literary does for the literary community and the queer community.”

As described by publisher Mad Creek Books, Dark Tourist is an excavation of the unexpected places (and ways) in which personal identity and the riptides of history meet. In Dark Tourist, Sirisena writes about

  • A 1961 plane crash that left a nuclear warhead buried near her North Carolina hometown, juxtaposed with reflections on her father’s stroke.
  • A visit to Jaffna in Sri Lanka — the country of her birth, yet where she is unmistakably a foreigner — to view sites from the recent civil war, already layered over with the narratives of the victors.
  • A fraught memory of her time as a young art student in Chicago that is uneasily foundational to her bisexual, queer identity today.
  • The ways that life-changing impairments following a severe eye injury have shaped her thinking about disability and self-worth.

Lammy Award winners receive a plaque, the coveted Lambda Literary Award sticker for the covers of their award-winning book, and a place in Lambda’s decades-long history of recognized LGBTQ literary excellence.