A couple of weeks ago, the shortlist for the Polari First Book Prize was announced at the Polari Literary Salon at London’s Southbank Centre. Founded by journalist and author Paul Burston, the Prize is awarded annually to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction.
The winner will be announced on October 20th.
Pansy Boy by Paul Harfleet
In this graphic novel in rhymed couplets, a young boy tackles homophobia in school by planting pansies at the site of homophobic attacks, taking strength from the flowers he loves. The power of his actions empowers his school to value what is delicate and different. The book comes to life in vivid graphic art and comes complete with a personal field guide to the flowers and birds included in its pages.
Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon
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. There’s a mysterious pain in every muscle of his body – and it’s got so bad that he’ll do anything to escape it. 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. Let the villain win.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
The family thought the little house they had made themselves in Elmet, a corner of Yorkshire, was theirs, that their peaceful, self-sufficient life was safe. Cathy and Daniel roamed the woods freely, occasionally visiting a local woman for some schooling, living outside all conventions. Their father built things and hunted, working with his hands; sometimes he would disappear, forced to do secret, brutal work for money, but to them he was a gentle protector.
When a local landowner shows up on their doorstep, their precarious existence is threatened, their innocence lost. Daddy and Cathy, both of them fierce, strong, and unyielding, set out to protect themselves and their neighbors, putting into motion a chain of events that can only end in violence.
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Little Gold by Allie Rogers
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. Her only refuge is the tree at the end of her garden.
Into her fractured life steps 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. In an era when so much is hard to speak aloud, can Little Gold share enough of her life to avert disaster? And can Peggy Baxter, a woman running out of time and with her own secrets to bear, recognise the danger before it’s too late?
Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie
Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He’s also transgender, and was born female. He’s been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.
Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day
When Francesco is rounded up with a group of young men and herded into a camp on the island of San Domino, he realizes that someone has handed a list of names to the fascist police; everyone is suspicious of one another. His former lover Emilio is constantly agitating for revolution. His old friend Gio jealously watches their relationship rekindle. Locked in spartan dormitories, resentment and bitterness between the men grows each day.
Elena, an island girl, is drawn to the handsome Francesco yet fails to understand why her family try to keep her away from him. By day, she floats her paper birds, willing them to fly from the island, just as she wants to herself. Sometimes, she is given a message to pass on. She’s not sure who they are from; she knows simply that Francesco is hiding something. When Elena discovers the truth about the group of prisoners, the fine line between love and hate pulls her towards an act that can only have terrible consequences for all.