Julia Armfield and Jon Ransom are awarded the Polari prizes for their LGBTQ+ literature.
Julia Armfield and Jon Ransom are the recipients of this year’s Polari awards for literature that delves into the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community, with both authors focusing on themes of water and the ocean in their respective novels.
Ransom was awarded the £1,000 Polari first book prize for his work, The Whale Tattoo. Meanwhile, Armfield’s Our Wives Under the Sea was declared the winner of the grand prize, which includes a cash prize of £2,000.
Ransom and Armfield were declared the recipients during a ceremony held at the British Library on Friday evening. Paul Burston, who founded the prize and served as chair of judges for both categories, stated, “In their own unique approaches, both of this year’s winning books broaden our perceptions of what LGBTQ+ literature can and should encompass.”
“These books not only entertain and captivate us, but also stimulate our minds,” he stated. “They transport us to different realities and encourage us to expand our horizons. They are also filled with potential. I am eagerly anticipating the future works of this year’s winning authors.”
In The Whale Tattoo, protagonist Joe Gunner navigates difficult memories as he returns to his Norfolk fishing town and renegotiates his relationships with those he left. “Jon Ransom’s novel is suffused with salt air and gay longing,” said judge Adam Zmith, who won last year’s prize for Deep Sniff, a history of poppers.
“He transported me to a different life, one that is not mine, yet I saw myself within it. Ransom beautifully portrays the harsh settings and captures the essence of love and vitality,” he stated.
Some other titles in the running with Ransom’s were None of the Above by Travis Alabanza, Rising of the Black Sheep by Livia Kojo Alour, The New Life by Tom Crewe, A Visible Man by Edward Enninful, and Love from the Pink Palace by Jill Nalder.
Our Wives Under the Sea tells the story of Leah, who unexpectedly returns from a disastrous deep-sea dive, and her wife, Miri, who grapples with the ways Leah changed while under water. The novel “opens up what we believe is possible from queer writing,” said judge Joelle Taylor, who won last year’s prize for C+nto & Othered Poems, which explores butch lesbian counterculture in London. “It is a strange, speculative, poetic and thrilling novel – a heart turner as much as a page turner.”
Armfield’s book emerged as the winner among five other finalists, including Seán Hewitt’s All Down Darkness Wide, Okechukwu Nzelu’s Here Again Now, Jack Parlett’s Fire Island, Douglas Stuart’s Young Mungo, and Sophie Ward’s The Schoolhouse.