What is the Polari Prize?
The Polari Prize is the UK’s only LGBTQ+ book prize. This year, I was delighted to be contacted to be offered books from the shortlist to review. There is a childrens and YA category as well as a first book prize along with the main prize. Founded in 2011, this year is the award’s eleventh year. Founded by author and activist Paul Burston, the awards celebrate LGBTQ+ books, fiction and non-fiction. This year, the awards will take place at the British Library on the 15th November.
So many queer books start with wishes that the author had queer experiences as they were growing up. Adam Zmith’s Deep Sniff: A History of Poppers and Queer Futures is no different. Amyl Nitrates have been available for decades, sold as a heart medication, but have been used by the gay community since they were available from chemists over the counter. They were given the name poppers after the popping noise made as the vials were broken open to release the liquid’s vapours.
It’s funny that some people are wary of inhaling poppers, because we’re already full of poisons. I’m not talking about the microplastics we ingest when we eat fish. I mean the ideas we absorb that make us hate ourselves.
We first have to deal with these poisons when we’re teenagers.
This book is not just a history of a drug used by gay men in sex. It is a commentary on that community and, like All The Things She Said, is a blend of non-fiction and personal reflection, making the writing very engaging.
Academic or personal?
You came for a history, but I’d rather you leave with a future.
This book is not just a history of poppers. It is not just a history of gay sex and the gay community. It is a writing that is hopeful and that suggests that as a community we might be able to move towards greater lives, not just with more rights and equality, but lives filled with pleasure and fantasy.
Would I read more?
Because of timings and editing work, I simply don’t have time to review, in depth, all of the books on the shortlist. Maybe, in time, I will but by reading a short section, I thought I would be able to ask myself if I would want to read more of this book.
Like All The Things She Said, Zmith’s writing is so easy, almost conversational, that it’s difficult not to want to read more. I flicked backwards and forwards while writing this brief review, bookmarking lots that I wanted to return to so I can easily see myself reading more very soon.
I like queer history. It’s not told enough so anything like this definitely makes it on to my TBR pile!
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