Founded by journalist and author Paul Burston, the Polari First Book Prize is awarded annually to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction, or non-fiction.
This year the prize was awarded to Mohsin Zaidi for his coming-of-age memoir A Dutiful Boy: A Memoir of a Gay Muslim’s Journey to Acceptance.
Rachel Holmes, judge for the 2021 Polari First Book Prize, said of the book: “In these days of deliberately-stoked culture wars Mohsin Zaidi deftly engages us with the harsh, hilarious and inherently human realities of multiple identity. With painful honesty, he shows how no community of class, race, faith or queerness is immune from suspicion and occasional hatred of otherness, nor mercifully from love, laughter and acceptance.”
A Dutiful Boy: A Memoir of a Gay Muslim’s Journey to Acceptance by Mohsin Zaidi
Mohsin Zaidi grew up in a poor pocket of east London, in a devout shia Muslim community. His family were close-knit and religiously conservative. From a young age, Mohsin felt different but in a home where being gay was inconceivable he also felt very alone. Outside of home Mohsin went to a failing inner city school where gang violence was a fact of life. As he grew up life didn’t seem to offer teenage Mohsin any choices: he was disenfranchised from opportunity and isolated from his family as a closet gay Muslim. But Mohsin had incredible drive and became the first person from his school to go to Oxford University. At university came the newfound freedom to become the man his parents never wanted him to be. But when he was confronted by his father and a witch doctor invited to ‘cure’ him Mohsin had to make a difficult choice. Mohsin’s story takes harrowing turns but it is full of life and humour, and, ultimately, it is an inspiring story about breaking through life’s barriers.