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Saleem Haddad crowned Polari First Book Prize winner for Guapa

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The aid worker’s novel explores gay life in the Arab world.

The prize will be awarded during a ceremony at London’s Southbank Centre (Andy Butterton/PA)

Saleem Haddad has been crowned winner of the Polari First Book Prize for his debut novel exploring gay life in the Arab world.

Guapa tells the story of a gay man struggling with politics and shame as he grows up in a post-Arab Spring dictatorship – a story that the aid worker has previously said was partly based on his own background.

The Kuwait-born writer, now based in London, will be presented with his prize during a ceremony at London’s Southbank Centre as part of the London Literature Festival.

The organisation’s 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 beat a shortlist of five other writers to the award, including Chitra Ramaswamy’s Expecting, Crystal Jeans’s The Vegetarian Tigers Of Paradise, Jules Grant’s We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire, Matthew Todd’s Straight Jacket, and Orlando Ortega-Medina’s Jerusalem Ablaze.

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