Indies dominate 'strong' Polari longlist

Indies dominate 'strong' Polari longlist

Independent publishers including Cloud Lodge Books, Burning Eye and Honno dominate the Polari First Book Prize longlist, which only features one non-independently published book.

The 12-strong longlist brings together an “exceptional” collection of drama, poetry, memoir and fiction, according to the judges.

Straight Jacket, a "ground-breaking" investigation of contemporary gay culture by Matthew Todd (Bantam), is the only non-independently published book of the dozen.

Joining Todd’s book from independent publishers are coming-of-age novel The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise by Crystal Jeans (Honno); Guapa, a depiction of gay life in a post-Arab Spring dictatorship by Saleem Haddad (Europa Editions UK); Expecting, a pregnancy memoir by Chitra Ramaswamy (Saraband); Love Both Ways by Martin Patrick (Austin Macauley), about two Italian and Black British fathers who meet and fall in love; and We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire, a "pacey female gang thriller" by barrister-turned-author Jules Grant (Myriad).

Also longlisted and from independent publishers are Jerusalem Ablaze, a short story collection which explores the imperfections of life and the unpredictability of death by Orlando Ortega-Medina (Cloud Lodge); The Chemsex Monologues, an "explicit, funny and touching" playscript by Patrick Cash (Oberon Books); Letters I Never Sent You, a collection of poetry and prose exploring connection and disconnection with places and people by Paula Varjack (Burning Eye); A Monster by Violet by Laura Wake (Urbane Publications); Rufius, a novel set in 4th Century Alexandria, where the world’s great library is in peril by Sarah Walton (Barbican Press); and Threads, a collaboration of poetry and bespoke photography from Nathan Evans and Justin David (Incandescent).

The longlist for the Polari First Book Prize was announced on Tuesday night (6th June) at the Polari Literary Salon in London’s Southbank Centre. Now in its seventh year, the prize is awarded annually to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction.

Chair of judges Paul Burston praised the "really strong" and "diverse" longlist. "From novels and short stories to memoir, monologues, poetry and political calls to arms, it demonstrates the wealth of literary talent our community continues to produce and reflects the many challenges LGBT people still face in today’s society", he said. "As we approach the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in UK, it is an important reminder of the role literature has to play in championing voices from the community and new work exploring the LGBT experience.”

Joining Burston on the judging panel are Rachel Holmes, author and former head of literature & spoken word at the Southbank; literary critic, Suzi Feay; author and comedian, VG Lee; and playwright, actor and producer, Alexis Gregory.

The shortlist of up to six titles will be announced on 31st July 2017 at a special Polari Literary Salon hosted at the Southbank Centre. This will coincide with a series of events organised by the salon, as it celebrates 10 years of championing LGBT voices in literature, with the "largest ever" LGBT literary tour undertaken in the UK. The 16-date tour will start at Bradford Literature Festival on 7th July and will move on to a special event at Hull Pride/City of Culture on 27th July, marking the 50th anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967.

W H Smith Travel is currently running a promotion of gay literature in several of its latgest stores to mark the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England.