When the class went to The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, there was something that stuck out to me, which was the selection of lesbian pulp http://www.annbannon.com/about.html book covers from the Lesbian Herstory Archives (http://www.lesbianherstoryarchives.org/tourcoll.html). At first I thought they were some type of retro artwork because I could not believe these existed in the mid-twentieth century. History is a subject that I often obsess over, so finding out lesbian pulp fiction originated during that time period blew my mind. This weekend I looked up some authors of lesbian pulp fiction to get a better understanding of the motivations for this phenomenon and their own personal lives.

One author I found particularly interesting was Ann Bannon, who wrote several novels. She was married with children when she had published her first book (http://www.annbannon.com/about.html). I immediately thought of something my great-aunt had said, who is around the age of Ann Bannon and whom other family members had speculated was a lesbian. She said, during one of those typical big family dinners, that most people back then who were gay got married anyways because it was expected of them. You never knew who was gay because no one ever addressed it.

It made me think of the societal pressures that people felt in that time period, so much moreso than today, where a lot of people had to repress their sexuality just to fit a mold. Bannon had an outlet for her to express the part of her that had been in denial, with her marriage and family life, and this was through the writing of these books.

One time while driving with my ninety-year-old grandpa across the country, he talked about my great-aunt being engaged several times but always calling it quits at the last minute. I asked why this was, and he responded by talking about how she had an out lesbian friend who she’d visit out in Colorado in the 50’s. He said, “Of course then everyone thought she was lesbian, but it’s probably not true”. Right after that he was quick to deny he had said any of it. I asked my mom if she ever thought about if my great-aunt was a lesbian, and she at first rejected the thought entirely, but then I could see the gears grinding in her mind, and then all she said was, “Well, she had a lot of unmarried female friends”.

It just hit me how secretive and “swept under the rug” homosexuality was back then. My mom had grown up in one big house shared by her parents, her aunt (my great-aunt), and her grandparents. People seemed to look the other way when these things happened, which in my mind it makes sense why lesbian pulp fiction first came about. There needed to be some place for homosexuality to exist since a lot of people could not be themselves, and in this case it was allowed to exist in paperbacks.

-Bailey Cook

 

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