Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Pulpaliciously Lesbian

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | September 09, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: lesbian pulp, pulp fiction

These 50s/60s-era pulp fiction covers would be truly hilarious if they weren't also so agonizingly clueless. Here's four fabulously kitschy pulp covers about lesbians and bi women.

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I cringe, remembering some of the tawdry "lavender" books I covertly bought back in the 1960s. Nowadays they're collectors items!

What I missed growing up in repressed Catholic Ireland and then in just post Franco Spain where such books would have been banned and burned.

I really want a copy of The Troubled Sex just so I can learn the secret lesbian symbols and signs.

So do I! Is there a secret handshake?

Sigh, so many new things to learn!

I actually have some of Paula Christian"s books as well as Ann Bannon's and had the good fortune to meet Ann Bannon at a reading in LA years ago.

The pulps put lurid covers on everything from high literature to low.

At a time when small town LGBT/T kids thought they were the only one these books showed there were others. Often time they were amateurishly wtitten but they still were straight forward about the same sex love in a way that authors like James Baldwin and others were not.

We wanted to read about others like ourselves not dig for subtexts and minor characters.

The covers may have been lurid, but most covers were...in those days!

Today lesbian pulp fiction is recognized as a pioneering genre...the roots of future lesbian literature. The same for mass-market paperbacks aimed at gay men in those closety days. As long ago as the 1950s, the publishing business recognized that there was a demographic of non-straight readers out there who were looking for stories about themselves. Some of the writing was actually excellent, and prefigured trends and sensibilities of the Sixties and Seventies.

Today there is serious scholarship on the genre. Interested readers can find two good books that are both available at Amazon.com. There is "Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Sexually Intrepid World of Lesbian Paperback Novels 1950-1965," by Katherine Forrest. And "Strange Sisters: The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction 1949-1969" by Jaye Zimet and Ann Bannon.

My friend Ann Bannon, whose "Odd Girl Out" I read under the covers in my Catholic school dormitory in the mid-1950s, is one of the pillars of the genre, and has been writing ever since then. She has an entertaining NPR interview on the subject at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1407161

I have a collection of more than 100 lesbian pulp books. I love them! You can see some of the covers in this photo gallery I made: