PolarI BOOK prize

This year’s shortlists announced at Polari In Heaven

Polari First Book Prize shortlist IG.jpg
Polari Prize shortlist IG.jpg


Books that explore the meeting points of class, race and sexuality dominate the two 6-book shortlists for both the 2021 Polari Prizes, the UK’s only literary awards for LGBTQ+ literature.


Shortlisted for Polari First Book Prize, Paul Mendez’s novel Rainbow Milk explores the intersection of class, race, sexuality and religion across different generations, while Forced Out by Kevin Maxwell recounts the author’s experience of working in the police force as a gay black man from a working-class background. These are joined by barrister Mohsin Zaidi’s memoir of growing up in a strict Muslim family (A Dutiful Boy), alongside Tomasz Jędrowski’s Soviet Union-set novel Swimming

in the Dark, Douglas Stuart’s Booker Prize winning novel Shuggie Bain, and Andreena Leeanne’s cathartic poetry collection Charred.

In the Polari Prize shortlist (which awards an overall Book of the Year, excluding debuts) the intersection of sexuality and religion is also explored in Iranian author Golnoosh Nour’s collection The Ministry of Guidance and Other Stories. This sits alongside Steven Appleby’s graphic novel Dragman, as well as poetry from Caroline Bird (The Air Year) and Rosie Garland (What Girls Do In The Dark), while Neil Blackmore’s novel The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle and Diana Souhami’s study No Modernism Without Lesbians makes up the rest of the Polari Prize shortlist.

Author, Polari Prize founder and Chair of Judges, Paul Burston said: “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. As is tradition, both writers feature in the judging panels for the 2021 awards, and are joined by Angela Chadwick, Rachel Holmes and Keith Jarrett (Polari First Book Prize) and Suzi Feay, Chris Gribble and VG Lee (Polari Prize).

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

The winner of the 2021 Polari Prizes will be announced at an in-person ticketed event at the Southbank Centre on 30 October.


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 current winners are Amrou Al-Kadhi and Kate Davies, who are helping to judge this year’s prizes.

The remaining judges are 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.

The deadline for submissions was Monday April 26, 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 2020 shortlist


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 

The Polari Prize 2020 shortlist

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 

Trans Power: Own Your Gender - Juno Roche 


Things We Say in the Dark - Kirsty Logan 



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







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