Books by Sara Collins, Okechukwu Nzelu and Dustin Lance Black and Kirsty Logan have been shortlisted for this year's Polari Prizes, celebrating LGBTQ+ literature.
In the running for the £1,000 Polari First Book Prize 2020, Collins (pictured) is recognised for The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Viking). Set in early 19th-century London, the book's plot follows Frannie, a slave-turned-servant who travels with her owner from a Jamaican plantation to 1800s London, where she finds herself accused of the brutal murder of her master and mistress. TV rights to the book have been snapped up at auction by Drama Republic.
Nzelu is shortlisted for The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney (Dialogue Books), his debut that made the final three competitors for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020 earlier this year. It tells the story of a half-Nigerian teenager, Nnenna, living in modern-day Manchester with her white single mother, Joanie, as approaching womanhood she begins to question her identity, seeking to connect with her Igbo-Nigerian heritage.
British-Iraqi writer and filmmaker Amrou Al-Kadhi is shortlisted for Life As A Unicorn: A Journey From Shame to Pride and Everything In Between (Fourth Estate), following a god-fearing Muslim boy as he transforms into a queer drag queen, and Amelia Abraham, a journalist and features editor at Dazed, is shortlisted for Queer Intentions: A Personal Journey through LGBTQ+ Culture (Picador), her debut exploring the mainstreaming of queer culture across the West.
Outside of the larger publishing hourses, a graphic novel guide to LGBTQ+ cultural history, Sensible Footwear: A Girl’s Guide by Kate Charlesworth (Myriad Editions), competes alongside a book about a female musical comedy double act, Tell Me I’m Forgiven: The Story of Forgotten Stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney by Alison Child (Tollington).
Among those vying for the £2,000 Polari Prize 2020 meanwhile is screenwriter Dustin Lance Black–known for winning an Oscar for his screenplay for "Milk" and his activism fighting for marriage equality in California—with Mama’s Boy: A Story from Our Americas (John Murray), a memoir exploring his relationship with his mother, and how they found a way forward after he came out as gay and left the Mormon church.
Dialogue Books has a second bite of the cherry with a book also in the running for the Polari Prize 2020: This Brutal House by Niven Govinden (Dialogue Books). A book about protest, voguing, church and the erasure of queer lives, at the time it was acquired, Govinden said he knew he needed "an imprint with balls" and a "visionary outlook" to take it on.
Scottish novelist Kirsty Logan is shortlisted for her collection of dark, feminist tales Things We Say in the Dark (Harvill Secker); writer Juno Roche, who was nominated last year for the Polari First Book Prize for Queer Sex, is on the shortlist for Trans Power: Own Your Gender (Jessica Kingsley Publishers); and Robert Hamberger is recognised for his fourth colllection, Blue Wallpaper (Waterloo Press), exploring among other things the limits of masculinity, developing a queer identity and moving to the sea.
The last book in contention for the prize is In At The Deep End by Kate Davies (The Borough Press), a lesbian rom-com and coming-of-age adventure, which the author has previously described as semi-autobiographical.
Paul Burston, Polari Prize founder, said: “Faced with such strong longlists, the judges had a hard time deciding on this year’s shortlists. Many discussions were had and tough decisions made. But eventually we agreed on the books which we felt best represented the aims of the prize and the quality and diversity of the entries. These are books with the power to entertain, educate and inspire, and we’re confident that readers will love them just as much as we do.”
Judges for the First Book Prize are Angela Chadwick, who won in 2019 for her dystopian thriller XX (Dialogue Books), alongside Rachel Holmes, Cerys Evans, and Keith Jarrett. Judges for the Polari Prize are inaugural prize winner Andrew McMillan, who won the 2019 award for his intimate poetry collection Playtime (Jonathan Cape), alongside Suzi Feay, Chris Gribble, and V G Lee.
The winning books from both shortlists will be announced in October in association with the Southbank Centre.