Saleem Haddad has been awarded the Polari First Book Prize 2017 as part of the London Literature Festival.
The prize is awarded annually to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction.
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 beat out the likes of 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.
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