the green carnation prize

The Green Carnation Prize celebrates the best of LGBT+ literature in the UK. Now in its seventh year, the prize is supported by Foyles bookshop in the hopes of championing high quality LGBT+ writing. The winner will be announced on the 22nd May.

Here is the shortlist!

In August 1912, three friends set out on an adventure. Two of them come home.

Tom, Jimmy and Itzhak have grown up together in the crowded slums of Walworth. They are used to narrow streets, the bustle of East Lane market, extended families weaving in and out of each other’s lives. All three boys are expected to follow their father’s trades and stay close to home. But Tom has wider dreams. So when he hears of a scouting trip, sailing from Waterloo to Sheppey and the mouth of the Thames – he is determined to go. And Itzhak and Jimmy go with him.

Inspired by real events, this is the story of three friends, and a tragedy that will change them for ever. It is also a song of south London, of working class families with hidden histories, of a bright and complex world long neglected. London Lies Beneath is a powerful and compelling novel, rich with life and full of wisdom.

A riveting, powerful telling of the story of the grassroots movement of activists, many of them in a life-or-death struggle, who seized upon scientific research to help develop the drugs that turned HIV from a mostly fatal infection to a manageable disease. Ignored by public officials, religious leaders, and the nation at large, and confronted with shame and hatred, this small group of men and women chose to fight for their right to live by educating themselves and demanding to become full partners in the race for effective treatments. Around the globe, 16 million people are alive today thanks to their efforts.

Expansive yet richly detailed, this is an insider’s account of a pivotal moment in the history of American civil rights. Powerful, heart-wrenching, and finally exhilarating, How to Survive a Plague is destined to become an essential part of the literature of AIDS.

On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want.

In their tiny, sea-beaten cottage on the north coast of Scotland, Liska and Ruth await the birth of their first child. They spend their time telling stories to the unborn baby, trying to pass on the lessons they’ve learned: tales of circuses and stargazing, selkie fishermen and domestic werewolves, child-eating witches and broken-toothed dragons. But each must keep their storytelling a secret from the other, as they’ve agreed to only ever tell the plain truth. Ruth tells her stories when Liska is at work, to a background of shrieking seabirds; Liska tells hers when Ruth is asleep, with the lighthouse sweeping its steady beam through the window. As their tales build and grow along with their child, Liska and Ruth realise that the truth lives in their stories, and they cannot hide from one another. A Portable Shelter is a beautifully produced collection of elegant, haunting short stories from one of Britain’s most exciting new talents.

  • Augustown, Kei Miller (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Ma Taffy may be blind but she sees everything. So when her great-nephew Kaia comes home from school in tears, what she senses sends a deep fear running through her. While they wait for his mama to come home from work, Ma Taffy recalls the story of the flying preacherman and a great thing that did not happen. A poor suburban sprawl in the Jamaican heartland, Augustown is a place where many things that should happen don’t, and plenty of things that shouldn’t happen do. For the story of Kaia leads back to another momentous day in Jamaican history, the birth of the Rastafari and the desire for a better life.

I’ve not read any of these, but the two that sound the most interesting to me are A Portable Shelter (because I ADORE short stories) and Augustown, which has been on my TBR for a while. I wish I could read all of the shortlisted books before the end of May, but unfortunately this is not to be. I will almost certainly read the book that wins, though!

Have you read any of these? Are there any other LGBT+ prizes I should know about? Let me know!


4 thoughts on “the green carnation prize

  1. Alex says:

    I read and liked What Belongs to You. It’s one of those books that sticks in your head once you’re done with it.

    I started How to Survive a Plague but it was so depressing I ended up just skimming it.

    I haven’t read any of the others, but I just read a novel by Kirsty Logan last week, The Gracekeepers, which is also queer fiction. The writing style was very captivating. I don’t usually read short stories but I might have to look for A Portable Shelter.


    • whatthelog says:

      For some reason I assumed that What Belongs To You would be a really stereotyped portrayal of queerness (probably has something to do with the prostitution) – did you find that?
      And yeah, I can totally imagine How to Survive a Plague being depressing. If I can find it on sale I might get it, but otherwise I’ll probably give it a skip.
      And cool, I didn’t realise that The Gracekeepers was queer! If you liked her writing style in that you’ll probably like it in the short stories – I always find that authors are more ambitious in short stories than they are with novels. 🙂


      • Alex says:

        I suppose some aspects of it did play on stereotypes, but because a lot of it was based around the author’s own experiences with cruising, I think it was handled well; it didn’t feel one-dimensional. There are also long stretches of the book where Mirko isn’t present at all, he sort of drops in and out of the narrator’s life. It’s not all about their relationship.

        My library system doesn’t have any of Logan’s short story collections 😦 I will have to expand my search!

        Liked by 1 person

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