Meet the women in the running for the the Polari Prize and the Polari First Book Prize


Diana Souhami, Caroline Bird, Rosie Garland, Golnoosh Nour and Andreena Leeanne are among the names in the running for the 2021 Polari Prizes, the UK’s only literary awards for LGBTQIA+ literature.

This year’s shortlists, announced this evening (Wednesday 28 July 2021) at London’s Heaven, are the most diverse yet, and are dominated by books exploring the intersections of class, race, sexuality and religion. 

Described as “a poignant barring of the soul”, Andreena Leeanne’s cathartic poetry collection Charred, shortlisted for the First Book Prize, faces heavy competition from the likes of Booker-Prize winning Shuggie Bain, written by Douglas Stuart.

Meanwhile, in the Polari Prize category, the legendary Diana Souhami and her book No Modernism Without Lesbians are up against poet and playwright Caroline Bird for her sixth poetry collection The Air Year, Rosie Garland, who has been described by Val McDermid as “one of the most compelling LGBT writers today” and Golnoosh Nour, for her “elegant and subversive” collection of short stories, The Ministry Of Guidance. 

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.” 

Now in its 10th year, previous winners of the Polari First Book Prize include Kirsty Logan, Mari Hannah, Amrou Al-Kadhi and Angela Chadwick. The Polari Prize, which debuted in 2019, was won by Andrew McMillan in its inaugural year, and by Kate Davies in 2020, for In At The Deep End.

The winners of the 2021 Polari Prizes will be announced on 30 October. See the full shortlists below. 

The Polari First Book Prize 2021

Swimming In The Dark – Tomasz Jędrowski

Charred – Andreena Leeanne (Team Angelica)

Forced Out – Kevin Maxwell (Granta)

Rainbow Milk – Paul Mendez (Dialogue Books)

Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (Picador)

A Dutiful Boy – Mohsin Zaidi (Square Peg)

The Polari Prize 2021

Dragman – Steven Appleby (Vintage)

The Air Year – Caroline Bird (Carcanet)

The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle – Neil Blackmore (Windmill)

What Girls Do In The Dark – Rosie Garland (Nine Arches Press)

The Ministry of Guidance – Golnoosh Nour (Muswell Press)

No Modernism Without Lesbians – Diana Souhami (Head of Zeus)

DIVA magazine celebrates 27 years in print in 2021. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

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