The shortlist for the Polari First Book Prize was announced at the Polari Literary Salon in London’s Southbank Centre on 24 July, 2018. Now in its eighth year, the Prize is awarded annually to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction.
The Polari First Book shortlist 2018 is:
Trans Mission – Alex Bertie (Wren & Rook)
Mussolini’s Island – Sarah Day (Tinder Press)
Pansy Boy – Paul Harfleet (Barbican)
Carnivore – Jonathan Lyon (HQ)
Elmet – Fiona Mozley (John Murray)
Little Gold- Allie Rogers (Legend Press)
This year’s shortlist includes a ground-breaking memoir from 23 year old transgender YouTuber Alex Bertie; an illustrated picture book by artist Paul Harfleet; and a controversial literary thriller by Jonathan Lyon, inspired by the author’s own chronic illness. Novels include Fiona’s Mozley’s Man Booker shortlisted Elmet; Allie Rogers’ Little Gold; and Sarah Day’s Mussolini’s Island, based on the true story of gay and bisexual men imprisoned in Italy during the Second World War.
Chair of judges Paul Burston, said: ‘Faced with such a strong, diverse long list, the judges had a difficult time deciding on this year’s shortlist. But in the end we agreed on these six books, which we feel reflect the aims of the prize and the range and quality of submissions. In what has been a great year for new LGBT+ writing, this is a shortlist we can all be proud of.’
Judges for the 2018 prize are author, journalist and host of Polari Literary Salon, chair Paul Burston; author and former Head of Literature & Spoken Word at the Southbank, Rachel Holmes; author, performer and writing coach Karen McLeod; author and comedian, VG Lee; and playwright, actor and producer, Alexis Gregory.
The overall winner will be revealed at the London Literature Festival on 20th October at the Southbank Centre.
Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie (Wren & Rook)
- A brave and ground-breaking first-hand account of the life, struggles and victories of a young transgender man.
- Alex Bertie is a 21-year-old transgender YouTuber from rural Dorset. While attending school aged 14, he started making videos on sexuality and gender identity, continuing to do so with weekly uploads. His YouTube channel, TheRealAlexBertie, now has almost 300,000 subscribers, he has 72,000 Instagram followers and 47,000 Twitter followers.
Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day (Tinder Press)
- In 1939, a group of gay and bisexual men were rounded up and imprisoned on a tiny Italian island, their lives changed forever. Based on a true story in 1930s Italy, Mussolini’s Island is a powerful exploration of wartime life and the desperate acts committed by individuals when fighting for their lives.
- Sarah Day lives in London, where she works as a science communicator at the Geological Society. She has written columns for a variety of publications, including The Guardian and Vagenda. After graduating with a Masters in the History and Philosophy of Science from Durham University, she studied Science Communication at Imperial College London. Mussolini’s Island is her first novel.
Pansy Boy by Paul Harfleet (Barbican)
- Pansy Boy is a picture book written and illustrated by artist Paul Harfleet. Rhyming couplets tell the story of a boy who revels in the joys of summer, exploring the flora and fauna around him. Reluctantly he returns to school where he is subjected to incessant bullying. Intelligent and bright, he is driven to create a plan to reclaim his school. Pansy Boy is a creative extension of Paul Harfleet’s ongoing artwork, The Pansy Project. The artist has been planting pansies at the site of homophobic abuse since 2005.
Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon (HQ)
- Meet Leander: lover, fighter, liar. He learnt a long time ago that nothing is as intoxicating as blood. But whether it’s his or someone else’s doesn’t matter any more. Up to now, it’s been his secret. But it’s hard to remain invisible when you leave a trail of destruction everywhere you go. So, when he comes to the attention of one of London’s most infamous criminals, Leander decides to put his appetite for violence to the ultimate test.
- Born in the UK, Jonathan Lyon lives between London and Berlin and works as a writer and musician. He has had a chronic illness for over a decade.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (John Murray)
- A lyrical commentary on contemporary English society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an exploration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.
- Fiona Mozley was born in Hackney but grew up in York and studied at Cambridge before moving to Buenos Aires for a year- without speaking any Spanish. After briefly working at a literary agency in London, she moved back to York to complete a PhD in Medieval Studies. She also has a weekend job at The Little Apple Bookshop in York. Elmet is her first novel and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.
Little Gold by Allie Rogers (Legend Press)
- The heat is oppressive and storms are brewing in Brighton in the summer of 1982. Little Gold, a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, is struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos. Into her fractured life steps elderly neighbour, Peggy Baxter. The connection between the two is instant, but just when it seems that Little Gold has found solace, outsiders appear who seek to take advantage of her frail family in the worst way possible.
- Allie Rogers was born and raised in Brighton. Her short fiction has been published in several magazines and anthologies including Bare Fiction, Queer in Brighton and The Salt Anthology of New Writing. She has performed at local live literature events including the Charleston Small Wonder Flash Fiction Slam, which she won in 2014.
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, Mari Hannah, Saleem Haddad and John McCullough.
- Polari First Book Prize partners with WH Smith Travel and last year’s shortlisted books were displayed in Travel outlets nationwide.
- The Polari First Book Prize accepts books published in English by a writer born or resident in the UK and Ireland. Books must have been published in the 12 months up to 1 February 2018. Self-published works in both print and digital formats are eligible.
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. Polari recently completed a 16 date tour, funded by Arts Council England and including dates in Edinburgh, Brighton, Birmingham, Hull, Newcastle and Dublin.
- Tour dates for the remaining half of 2018 include The London Science Museum, Bradford Literature Festival, Milton Keynes Literature Festival and The Printworks in Hastings.
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 three books including Lovers and Losers, shortlisted for the Stonewall Award. 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.