London’s Polari Prize Shortlists: Winners in Person in October

In News by Porter Anderson

The Polari Prize program has announced a physical awards ceremony for October 30 at London’s Southbank Centre.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, 2020. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Heardin London

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

Two Prizes, One for a First Book
We continue to update our news on awards programs in publishing and books.

As you’ll recall, the United Kingdom’s Polari Prizes are geared toward recognition of literature that treats topics in LGBTQ life, experience, and issues. The “Polari Prize” is in place to recognize established authors. The parallel “Polari First Book Prize,” as its name implies, continues the program’s original mission: a recognition of new writers.

The winner of the Polari First Book Prize receives £1,000 (US$1,387), the Polari Prize pays £2,000 ($2,774).

In a somewhat evolved descriptor, this year’s media messaging from organizers depicts the program’s mission as exploring “the meeting points of class, race, and sexuality.” And the program continues to tout itself as the UK market’s only literary awards for LGBTQ work–an annual surprise, in light of the fact that the English market has more book and publishing awards than any other.

The Polari First Book Prize 2021 Shortlist
  • Swimming In The Dark by Tomasz Jędrowski (Bloomsbury)
  • Charred by Andreena Leeanne (Team Angelica)
  • Forced Out by Kevin Maxwell (Granta)
  • Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez (Dialogue Books)
  • Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart (Picador)
  • A Dutiful Boy by Mohsin Zaidi (Square Peg)
The Polari Prize 2021 Shortlist
  • Dragman by Steven Appleby (Vintage)
  • The Air Year by Caroline Bird (Carcanet)
  • The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore (Windmill)
  • What Girls Do in the Dark by Rosie Garland (Nine Arches Press)
  • The Ministry of Guidance by Golnoosh Nour (Muswell Press)
  • No Modernism Without Lesbians by Diana Souhami (Head of Zeus)

Paul Burston

Paul Burston, who founded the awards and chairs the selection each year, is quoted, saying, “This year’s shortlists are our most diverse ever, with a wide variety of writers working across different genres to explore the intersections between sexuality, gender, race, class, religion, and more.

“These 12 remarkable books include tales of resilience and celebration, love and pride, exploring the LGBTQ+ experience with emotional honesty, humour, passion and joy.”

In 2020, the Polari First Book Prize was won by Amrou-Al Kadhi for Life as a Unicorn: A Journey from Shame to Pride and Everything in Between, while the 2020 Polari Prize was won by Kate Davies for the novel In at the Deep End.

Both writers this year are on the juries for the 2021 awards with Angela Chadwick, Rachel Holmes, and Keith Jarrett (Polari First Book Prize); and Suzi Feay, Chris Gribble and VG Lee (Polari Prize). Both jury panels are chaired by the program’s creator, Paul Burston.

The winners of the 2021 Polari Prizes will be announced at an in-person ticketed event at London’s Southbank Centre on October 30. The program is sponsored by DHH Literary Agency.

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, more on the United Kingdom’s market is here, and more on LGBTQ issues and publishing is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing 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 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.