PolarI BOOK prize



  • Criminal Barrister Mohsin Zaidi wins the Polari First Book Prize for his coming-of-age memoir A Dutiful Boy: A Memoir of a gay Muslim’s journey to acceptance

  • Award-winning writer Diana Souhami wins the overall Polari Prize for her latest foray into biography, No Modernism Without Lesbians



Mohsin Zaidi and Diana Souhami have tonight (Sat, Oct 30) been announced as the winners of the 2021 Polari Prizes, the UK’s only awards celebrating literature that explores the LGBTQ+ experience.

Mohsin Zaidi becomes the 11th winner of the Polari First Book Prize for his memoir A Dutiful Boy (Square Peg), which charts his journey growing up in a devout shia Muslim community within a poor pocket of east London.

Diana Souhami scooped the overall Polari Prize for non-debut talent for her biography No Modernism without Lesbians (Head of Zeus) about a singular group of women who fostered the birth of the Modernist movement. The winners were announced in a ceremony held at the Southbank Centre at the London Literature Festival.

A Guardian, New Statesman and GQ Book of the Year, Zaidi’s revelatory memoir is a moving and ultimately uplifting account of his experiences as a young boy in denial about his sexuality. Becoming the first person from his school to attend Oxford University, new experiences and encounters lead him on a path to self discovery, opening the door to live every part of his identity. Rachel Holmes, judge for the 2021 Polari First Book Prize, said of the book: ‘In these days of deliberately-stoked culture wars Mohsin Zaidi deftly engages us with the harsh, hilarious and inherently human realities of multiple identity. With painful honesty, he shows how no community of class, race, faith or queerness is immune from suspicion and occasional hatred of otherness, nor mercifully from love, laughter and acceptance.’

No Modernism Without Lesbians by renowned biographer Diana Souhami, is a bold, fresh new look

at the early twentieth century cultural canon through the lens of four lesbians: Sylvia Beach, Bryher, Natalie Barney, and Gertrude Stein. A trailblazing publisher, a patron of artists, a society hostess, and a groundbreaking writer, their lives and work became central to fostering the Modernist movement

in interwar Paris. Praising the winner, judge and CEO of the National Centre for Writing, Chris Gribble described the book as ‘richly researched, entertaining and hugely enjoyable’ offering ‘insight into the lives, passions and legacies of a group of outstanding women who together helped change the course of their culture. Souhami is a brilliant guide and this book a celebration, corrective and fillip all in one.’




Established in 2011, The Polari First Book Prize is awarded annually for a first book which explores the LGBTQ+ experience.

Established in 2019, The Polari Prize is awarded annually for a book by a a non-debut writer.

Our 2020 winners are Amrou Al-Kadhi and Kate Davies, who helped to judge this year’s prizes.

The remaining judges were Angela Chadwick, Rachel Holmes and Keith Jarrett (Polari First Book Prize) and Suzi Feay, Chris Gribble and VG Lee (Polari Prize)

Both panels are chaired by author, journalist and prize founder Paul Burston. 

The Polari First Book Prize is sponsored by award-winning arts communications company FMcM Associates, with the winner receiving a cheque for £1,000. The submission fee is £15.

The Polari Prize is sponsored by D H H Literary Agency, with the winner receiving a cheque for £2,000. The submission fee is £25.

Writers must be born or based in the UK and Ireland and books published in the 12 months up to Feb 1, 2021.

Terms and Conditions


Any eligible book that is entered for the Prize shall not qualify unless its publisher/author agrees:

a. that in the case of The Polari Prize, the publisher/author will contribute a submission fee of £25 per title. That in the case of The Polari First Book Prize, the publisher/author will contribute a submission fee of £15 per title. This payment is to be made by BACS or PayPal.

b. to provide a short bio and high resolution author photo for each book submitted - no later than May 31, 2021.

c. to invite longlisted authors to the planned public shortlist event in July at the Southbank Centre and shortlisted authors to the planned award ceremony at the London Literature Festival in October, also at the Southbank Centre (dates TBC).

Publishers/authors will be responsible for travel costs and should do their best to ensure attendance.

d. that if an entered book should be longlisted, the publisher/author will provide recorded interviews/readings with the author to be used by the Polari Prize on either web or mobile platforms to promote the Prize.

e. that if an entered book should be shortlisted, the publisher will do their best to ensure the author’s attendance at the Prize award ceremony.




a. Any full length novel, graphic novel, novella, biography, short story collection, memoir, non-fiction work or book of poetry written in English by a writer born or based in the UK and Ireland is eligible.

b. Writers must either identify as LGBTQ+ or explore LGBTQ+ themes and characters in the work submitted. In the case of The Polari First Book Prize, priority will be given to books exploring LGBTQ+ themes and characters. Writers working in all genres are actively encouraged.  

c. All entries must be submitted in print form. Where books exist only in e-book format, a bound printed copy will be accepted. E-books or PDFs will not be accepted.

d. All entries must be first in the United Kingdom or Ireland between February 2, 2020 and February 1, 2021, but may have been previously published outside the UK. Titles with simultaneous UK and US publications within this timeframe are eligible.

e. Self-published books are eligible for the Prize. Submissions must include a covering letter explaining why the work was self-published.

f. Authors / publishers are reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure that all submitted titles meet all other requirements for the prize.

Entry of Books


There is no limit on the number of eligible titles entered by any one publisher / author.


The following steps should be taken for titles to be considered:


a. By April 12, 2021, Publishers should contact the chair of judges via email expressing their intention to submit.

The relevant submission fee of £25 per title or £15 per title (First Book Prize) should then be sent via BACS or PayPal.

The judges’ addresses will then be forwarded for submission.

b. By April 26, 2021, Publishers should ensure that all books have been received by the judges.

For further information, please email paulburston@btinternet.com with 'Polari Prize' as the subject.

The Polari First Book Prize 2021 shortlist


Swimming In The Dark - Tomas Jedrowski

Charred - Andreena Leeanne


Forced Out - Kevin Maxwell


Rainbow Milk - Paul Mendez

Shuggie Bain - Douglas Stuart 

A Dutiful Boy - Mohsin Zaidi

The Polari Prize 2021 shortlist

Dragman - Steven Appleby


The Air Year - Caroline Bird


The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle - Neil Blackmore

What Girls Do In The Dark - Rosie Garland

The Ministry of Guidance - Golnoosh Nour

No Modernism Without Lesbians - Diana Souhami


About the Polari First Book Prize

• The Polari First Book Prize was launched in 2011.

• Previous winners include –

Amrou Al-Kadhi (Life As A Unicorn)

Angela Chadwick (XX)

Fiona Mozley (Elmet)

Saleem Haddad (Guapa)

Paul McVeigh (The Good Son)

Kirsty Logan (The Rental Heart)

Diriye Osman (Fairytales for Lost Children)

Mari Hannah (The Murder Wall)

John McCullough (The Frost Fairs)

James Maker (Autofellatio)

About the Polari Prize

• The Polari Prize was established in 2019 and awards an overall Book of the Year. It is open to writers at any stage of their career (except debuts).


• The 2019 prize was won by Andrew McMillan (Playtime).


• The 2020 prize was won by Kate Davies (In At The Deep End)

• The Polari Prize is sponsored by D H H Literary Agency, with the winner receiving a cheque for £2,000.

For all media enquiries please contact Ashton Bainbridge at FMcM Associates - 0207 405 7422 / ashtonb@fmcm.co.uk




Queer Intentions: A Personal Journey through LGBTQ+ Culture - Amelia Abraham

Life As A Unicorn - A Journey From Shame to Pride and Everything In Between - Amrou 

Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide - Kate Charlesworth

Tell Me I’m Forgiven: The Story of Forgotten Stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney - 
Alison Child  

The Confessions of Frannie Langton - Sara Collins 

The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney - Okechukwu Nzelu 


Mama’s Boy: A Story from Our Americas - Dustin Lance Black

In At The Deep End - Kate Davies


This Brutal House - Niven Govinden


Blue Wallpaper - Robert Hamberger


Things We Say In The Dark - Kirsty Logan


Trans Power - Juno Roche  






XX - Angela Chadwick 


The House on Half Moon Street - Alex Reeve 

The Unexpected Love Objects of Dunya Noor - Rana Haddad  


Soho - Richard Scott  


Attend - West Camel







Playtime - Andrew McMillan


Take Nothing With You - Patrick Gale 


A Simple Scale - David Llewellyn


Prodigal - Charles Lambert


Ghost Wall - Sarah Moss







Elmet - Fiona Mozley 


Mussolini’s Island - Sarah Day 


Little Gold - Allie Rogers 


Trans Mission - Alex Bertie 


Pansy Boy - Paul Harfleet


Carnivore - Jonathan Lyon 



Guapa - Saleem Haddad 


We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire - Jules Grant 


Straight Jacket - Matthew Todd


Jerusalem Ablaze - Orlando Ortega-Medina 

Expecting - Chitra Ramaswamy


Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise - Crystal Jeans




The Good Son - Paul McVeigh 


Physical - Andrew McMillan


Blood Relatives - Stevan Alcock

Trans - Juliet Jacques


Different for Girls -  Jacquie Lawrence


Sugar and Snails - Anne Goodwin 



The Rental Heart - Kirsty Logan 


Self Portrait with The Happiness - David Tait


Straight Expectations - Julie Bindel 


Everything Must Go - LaJohn Joseph 


The Informant - Susan Wilkins


The Gift of Looking Closely - Al Brooks  




Fairytales for Lost Children -  Diriye Osman 


The Rubbish Lesbian - Sarah Westwood 


Petite Mort - Beatrice Hitchman 

God's Other Children - Vernal W. Scott


I Am Nobody's Nigger - Dean Atta




The Murder Wall - Mari Hannah 


The Tale of Raw Head & Bloody Bones - Jack Wolf 


Catching Bullets - Memoirs of a Bond Fan - Mark O’Connell


Tony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma -  Kerry Hudson 


The Sitar - Rebecca Idris 





The Frost Fairs - John McCullogh 


Becoming Nancy - Terry Ronald 


Exit Through The Wound - North Morgan  


Modern Love - Max Wallis 


Grrl Alex - Alex Drummond





Autofellatio - James Maker 


Love, Hope & High Heels - Clare Campbell 


Homo Jihad - Timothy Graves 


Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar - DJ Connell 


London Triptych - Jonathan Kemp