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Memoir about growing up gay in devout Muslim community wins LGBT literary prize

Mohsin Zaidi has won an LGBT literary prize for his memoir about growing up gay in a devout Muslim community (Polari Prize/PA)
Mohsin Zaidi has won an LGBT literary prize for his memoir about growing up gay in a devout Muslim community (Polari Prize/PA)

A memoir about growing up gay in a devout Muslim community and a biography of lesbian literary figures were the winners of the 2021 Polari Prizes.

The awards, which recognise literature exploring the LGBT experience, were handed out at a ceremony at the Southbank Centre for the London Literature Festival.

Mohsin Zaidi, a barrister, won the Polari first book prize for his coming-of-age  title A Dutiful Boy: A Memoir.

Polari Prize winner Diana Souhami
Polari Prize winner Diana Souhami was recognised for her biography of lesbian literary figures (Polari Prize/PA)

The book charts Zaidi’s upbringing in a devout Shia Muslim community in east London.

Diana Souhami scooped the overall Polari Prize for non-debut talent for her biography No Modernism Without Lesbians.

It explores the impact of Sylvia Beach, Natalie Barney, Gertrude Stein and Annie Winifred Ellerman, whose pen name was Bryher.

Praising Zaidi’s work, Rachel Holmes, judge for the first book prize, said: “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.”

Chris Gribble, judge on the overall award and CEO of the National Centre for Writing, described Souhami’s book as “richly researched, entertaining and hugely enjoyable” offering “insight into the lives, passions and legacies of a group of outstanding women who together helped change the course of their culture”.

Zaidi received a £1,000 cash prize while Souhami, 81, won £2,000.

Both prize panels are chaired by founder, journalist and author Paul Burston.

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