UK’s Polari Book Prize Names Its 2019 Shortlists: Two Awards, 12 Contenders

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Narrowing down its longlists, the now double-award Polari Prize program honoring LGBT writing names a dozen titles for its 2019 shortlists.

On the top row above, the six shortlisted titles in the traditional Polari First Book Prize; on the lower row, the shortlisted titles for the new Polari Prize for work by established writers

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Two Prizes, Two Shortlists
On June 10, the dual-award Polari Prize program announced the shortlists for its 2019 cycle in honoring literature that treats topics in LGBT life, experience, and issues.

Today (July 26), the program returned to London’s Southbank Centre to name not one but two shortlists. This year for the first time, the “Polari Prize” is in place to recognize established authors. The parallel Polari First Book Prize continues the program’s original mission, the recognition of new writers.

Jurors for the traditional Polari First Book Prize this year are novelist Kiki Archer; writer and performer Cerys Evans; author and Southbank Centre former head of literature Rachel Holmes; and poet and former Polari First Book Prize winner John McCullough.

Jurors for the new Polari Prize for established writers are author Bernardine Evaristo; National Centre for Writing CEO Chris Gribble; author and performer VG Lee; and playwright and former winner of The Polari First Book Prize Paul McVeigh.

The chair for both prizes is author and founder Paul Burston.

The winner is to be announced October 22 at the Southbank’s London Literature Festival, in an event headlined by Tracey Thorn.

2019 Polari Prize Shortlists

Polari First Book Prize 2019 Shortlist

  • XX by Angela Chadwick (Dialogue Books)
  • Attend by West Camel (Orenda Books)
  • The Unexpected Love Objects of Dunya Noor by Rana Haddad (Hoopoe)
  • The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve (Raven)
  • Soho by Richard Scott (Faber & Faber)
  • Next Lesson by Chris Woodley (Aurora Metro Books)

Polari Prize 2019 Shortlist

  • The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury (Bloomsbury)
  • Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale (Headline)
  • Prodigal by Charles Lambert (Gallic)
  • A Simple Scale by David Llewellyn (Seren)
  • Playtime by Andrew McMillan (Penguin)
  • Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss (Granta)
Jurors’ Comments on the Shortlists

In a prepared statement for the First Book Prize, juror McCullough is quoted saying, “The four novels, poetry collection, and play on this year’s diverse shortlist include a trans perspective on Victorian London, a probing of Syrian sexualities under Bashar Al Assad, and a modern magic realist fable. “They explore the politics of shame, a world where lesbian couples can conceive without sperm, and the teaching of same-sex relationships in schools.

“Here are six daring books that redefine the boundaries of queer writing.”

For the newly introduced Polari Prize, juror VG Lee is quoted saying, “Six very different and exciting voices make up the shortlist for the Polari Prize, taking us from the English countryside to Soviet Russia and post-9/11 New York, a Brighton garden to music-making in Berwick-on-Tweed, and a teenage rite of passage towards self-hood.

“Any one of these books is a potential winner because each is perfect in its own right.

The Polari First Book Prize was launched in 2011. Last year’s shortlisted books were displayed at WHSmith Travel outlets in the UK and the prize was supported by a
Polari national tour funded by Arts Council England. The Polari First Book Prize is sponsored by FMcM Associates. The winner is to receive a check for £1,000 (US$1,216).

The new Polari Prize, open to writers at any stage of their career except debuts, is sponsored by DHH Literary Agency. The winner is to receive a check for £2,000 (US$2,431).


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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