Kuwait-born, London-based Haddad has been named the 2017 winner of the
Polari First Book Prize for his novel Guapa (Europa Editions UK).

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.

Saleem Haddad2_C-Sami-Haddad (2).jpg
Chair of judges Paul Burston, said:

“Guapa offers an intimate, complex portrait of gay life in the Arab world -
a subject rarely explored in fiction. It’s poetic, politically daring, beautifully written and marks the arrival of an exciting new voice.”

Haddad’s debut emerged victorious from a strong shortlist which included Expecting by Chitra Ramaswamy (Saraband), We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire by Jules Grant (Myriad), Straight Jacket by Matthew Todd (Bantam), The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise by Crystal Jeans (Honno) and Jerusalem Ablaze by Orlando Ortega-Medina (Cloud Lodge).

Saleem Haddad was born in Kuwait City to a Lebanese-Palestinian father and an Iraqi-German mother, and was educated in Jordan, Canada and the United Kingdom. He has worked as an aid worker in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Iraq. His writing has appeared in Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books and The Daily Beast, among other publications. He currently lives in London.

Judges for the 2017 prize include author, journalist and host of Polari Literary Salon, chair Paul Burston; Rachel Holmes, author and former Head of Literature & Spoken Word at the Southbank Centre; literary critic, Suzi Feay; author and comedian, VG Lee; and playwright, actor and producer, Alexis Gregory.

Polari First Book Prize partners with WH Smiths Travel, with shortlisted books displayed in Travel outlets nationwide. The Prize is sponsored by FMcM Associates, an award winning arts communications company.


Praise for Guapa

‘[A] vibrant, wrenching debut novel…sensuous and caustic, full of smoke and blood.’  New Yorker
‘This immensely readable novel is fluent, passionate and emotionally honest. Equally astute in its analysis of Arab and American mores, the book’s characters are nuanced and dynamic; it gives fresh life to the maxim “the personal is political”.’ Guardian
‘Family, identity, and politics collide in Haddad’s debut…The topic of gay life in the arab world is richly complex, and Haddad’s cinematic, evocative prose rises to meet the sensitive subject matter.’ Publisher’s Weekly
‘Haddad writes like an Arab Tennessee Williams, fuelled equally by rage and compassion.’ 
Nick Seeley, author of Cambodia Noir
‘A freewheeling and incendiary first novel…’ London Review of Books

The winner announcement coincides with a bumper series of events as the Polari Salon celebrates 10 years of championing LGBT voices, with the largest ever LBGT literary tour undertaken in the UK. Running July to December, the tour will showcase over 80 writers, including Val McDermid, Matthew Todd, Emma Flint, Neil Bartlett and Paul Flynn. Remaining dates include:

20 October – Marlborough Theatre, Brighton
22 October – Bloomsbury Festival
24 November – 10th Birthday Party at Being a Man Festival, Southbank Centre
2 December – City Library, Newcastle

About the Polari First Book Prize

•    The Polari First Book Prize was launched in 2011 and previous winners include Paul         McVeigh, Kirsty Logan, Diriye Osman, James Maker and Mari Hannah. 
•    Polari First Book Prize partners with WH Smiths Travel, with shortlisted books dis            played in Travel outlets nationwide.
•    Polari Frist Book Prize is sponsored by FMcM Associates, an award winning Arts             Communications company representing some of the most inspiring organisations             and individuals in the arts today. For more information:

About Polari Literary Salon

•    Polari Literary Salon began in 2007 in the upstairs room of a bar in Soho. Events are         now held monthly at the Southbank Centre and regularly sell out.
•    In 2013, Polari was named ‘LGBT Cultural Event of the Year’ in the Co-op Respect Loved By You Awards.
•    This year Polari Literary Salon will celebrate its 10th year championing LGBT voices in literature with the largest ever LGBT literary tour in the UK. The 16-date tour will kick off at Bradford Literature Festival on July 7 before moving on to Hull on July.
    27 for a special event at Hull Pride/City of Culture marking the anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967.  
•    The tour will showcase over 80 writers from across the UK. Amongst the many names appearing include Val McDermid, Neil Bartlett, Jonathan Harvey, Stella Duffy, Dean Atta, Jake Arnott, Paul Flynn, James Maker, Karen McLeod aka Barbara Brownskirt, John McCullough, Gerry Potter, Matthew Todd, James Wharton, David McAlmont, Rosie Garland and Kirsty Logan. 

About Paul Burston

Paul Burston is journalist, author and founder of the Polari Literary Salon and Polari First Book Prize. A founding editor of Attitude magazine, he has written for many publications including the Guardian, Time Out, The Times and The Sunday Times. He is the author of five books including The Black Path (2016), long listed for the Guardian’s Not The Booker prize. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating 33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world.