A former University of Oxford student has won the First Book Prize for the 2021 Polari Book Award for his personal coming of age memoir.

Mohsin Zaidi, an award-winning author, commentator, and lawyer, has received recognition from the 2021 Polari Book Awards for his work entitled A Dutiful Boy. Zaidi’s memoir recounts his struggles growing up gay in a devout Muslim family, attempting to navigate the weight of his identities in young adulthood.

The piece addresses the complexities of race, class, sexuality, and mental health in “a simple yet sophisticated manner.” The Times called the book one that will save many lives.

Growing up in a disadvantaged part of London, Zaidi was the first person in his school to attend the University of Oxford where he describes his confrontation with “the broken parts of his identity and seeks a way to reconcile seemingly irreconcilable worlds.”

After Zaidi left Oxford, he became a criminal barrister with the firm Linklaters and now serves at one of the top chambers in England.

The Polari Book Awards, launched in 2011, are the United Kingdom’s first and largest LGBTQ+ book award, aiming to explore the LGBTQ+ experience and amplify diverse voices. It awards the Polari Book Prize and the Polari First Book Prize to two nominated authors yearly.

Rachel Holmes, judge of the Polari First Book Prize, stated, “With painful honesty, [Zaidi] 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.”

Five other authors and their pieces were nominated for the prestigious award in 2021: Tomasz Jędrowski for Swimming in the Dark, Kevin Maxwell for Forced Out, Paul Mendez for Rainbow Milk, Douglas Stuart for Shuggie Bain, and Andreena Leeanne for Charre.

The awards were announced on 30th October. The Polari Book Prize went to Diana Souhami for her work No Modernism without Lesbians and Mohsin Zaidi taking the First Book Prize for A Dutiful Boy.

A Dutiful Boy has also received acclaim from other sources. GQ, The Guardian, and New Statesman named the memoir their Book of the Year. It has also been awarded the prestigious Lambda Literary Award.

Outside of his writing and legal career, Zaidi serves as an advocate for LGBTQ rights and representation and The Financial Times has named him as a top future LGBT leader. Attitude Magazine has recognized him as one of the top trailblazers to change the world.

Image credit: Tom Hermans via Unsplash


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