London’s Polari Prizes Name Armfield and Ransom Their 2024 Winners

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The Polari Prize program for UK and Irish books relative to LGBTQ themes announced its winners at an event held at the British Library.

The audience for the 2023 Polari Prize winners’ event at the British Library in London. Image: Polari Prizes

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

Two Categories’ Winners Honored
Catching up with yet another book-prize contest following the collision of longlists, shortlists, and winners this autumn, the Polari Prizes in the United Kingdom are, according to organizers, “the UK and Ireland’s only dedicated prize for LGBTQ literature.” They embrace an unusually wide range of writings—memoir, poetry, historical fiction, and thrillers—and they’re given in two categories: one for a debut publication and the other an all-around award.

The program is sponsored by London’s FMcM, a literary PR consultancy, for the debut award, and by the DHH Literary Agency for the main prize.

The winner of the debut award, established in 2011, receives a purse of £1,000 (US$1,269). The winner of the main prize, established in 2019, receives £2,000 (US$2,537).

Each of the two categories began with 12 longlisted titles from a mix of independent presses and major publishers. We’ll repeat those longlistees below.

The winners announced at a program at the British Library late last month were Julia Armfield for Our Wives Under the Sea (Pan Macmillan / Picador (March), and Jon Ransom for The Whale Tattoo (Muswell Press, February 2022).

Julia Armfield

About Armfield’s winner of the main Polari Prize, that honor’s juror (and last year’s winner) Joelle Taylor is quoted, saying, “While each of the shortlisted works is a dynamic addition to the LGBT+ literary canon, Our Wives Under the Sea opens up what we believe is possible from queer writing.

“It is a strange, speculative, poetic, and thrilling novel—a heart-turner as much as a page-turner.”

Jon Ransom

And Adam Zmith (the 2022 winner) is quoted, saying, “Jon Ransom’s novel is suffused with salt air and gay longing.

“It transported me to a life that is not my own, and yet one where I recognized myself, too.

“Ransom conjures up gorgeously evocative images for his hostile locations and finds love and energy there.”

Each of the two categories operative this year—a biennial young readers’ category is expected to resurface next year—began with 12 longlisted titles from a mix of independent presses and major publishers.

Polari Prize 2023 ‘First Book’ Longlist
  • Love from the Pink Palace by Jill Nalder (Hachette / Wildfire)
  • A Visible Man by Edward Enninful (Bloomsbury)
  • The Whale Tattoo by Jon Ransom (Muswell Press)
  • Whatever Happened to Queer Happiness? by Kevin Brazil (Influx Press)
  • Rising of the Black Sheep by Livia Kojo Alour ​(Polari Press)
  • The New Life by Tom Crewe (Penguin Random House / Chatto & Windus)
  • None of the Above by Travis Alabanza (Canongate Books)
  • Orpheus Builds a Girl by Heather Parry (Gallic Books)
  • In Her Jaws by Rosamund Taylor (Banshee Press)
  • Is This Love? by CE Riley (Profile Books / Serpent’s Tail)
  • No Country for Girls by Emma Styles (Hachette / Little, Brown / Sphere)
  • Some Integrity by Padraig Regan (Carcanet Press)
Polari Prize 2023 Longlist
  • Fire Island by Jack Parlett (Granta Books)
  • Roam by Juno Roche (Hachette / Dialogue Books)
  • Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley (Swift Press)
  • All Down Darkness Wide by Seán Hewitt (Penguin Random House / Jonathan Cape)
  • Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart (Pan Macmillan / Picador)
  • Mother’s Boy by Patrick Gale (Hachette / Tinder Press)
  • The Schoolhouse by Sophie Ward (Hachette / Little, Brown / Corsair)
  • Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield (Pan Macmillan / Picador)
  • Rookie by Caroline Bird (Carcanet Press)
  • Cells by Gavin McCrea (Scribe)
  • ScreenAge by Fenton Bailey (Penguin Random House / Ebury Press)
  • Here Again Now by Okechukwu Nzelu (Hachette / Dialogue Books)

The jury this year, addition, was reported earlier to comprise the program’s founder, Paul Burston, with VG Lee, Suzi Feay, Chris Gribble, and Taylor.

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.

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.

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