Polari Prize: Lessons in Love by Elizabeth Chakrabarty

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.

Lessons in Love and Other Crimes

There are some books that seem to blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction. Every author, of course, uses their lived experiences in their writing but this felt very real. Elizabeth Chakrabarty’s description of growing up and experiencing racism in a provincial English town felt very powerful.

Afterwards I look at the website, see who’s got the job. usually it’s a white man, or a white woman; it’s really a man or a woman whose skin colour looks like mine. I learn to move on; keep applying.

The cover of Lessons in Love and Other Crimes by Elizabeth Chakrabarty

It’s hard to feel where the author’s personal notes end and when the story begins. 

The story explores queer love and race. As Tesya escapes to London after being forced out of a job by her attacker, she meets Holly and they start dating. But it’s not over for Tesya.

Mixing and matching, love and hate

It took me a moment or two to realise how much the author’s own experiences and reflections are weaved into the story. I have to admit that I was sometimes confused (some would say it doesn’t take much…) but I’m sure that if I was reading this book a little more thoroughly, it would all make sense!

Like a lot of the books on this year’s shortlist, there is a hopefulness about the story. Life might be grim for Tesya, who experiences much hatred as a queer brown person, but that doesn’t mean life is over for her.

women hugging each other
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

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.

As I said, I’d need to read this book carefully. It’s all beautifully laid out and clear for the reader and I can sense a real exciting story is hiding among the pages of Lessons in Love. Would I read more? Yes! This book is added to by, growing, TBR pile. 

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor and proofreader specialising in LGBTQ+ writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

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