Ann Bannon

Ann Bannon

Infobox Writer
name = Ann Bannon

imagesize = 200 px
caption = Ann Bannon in 1983
a photo taken by Tee Corrine
pseudonym = Ann Bannon
birthname = Ann Weldy
birthdate = Birth date and age|mf=yes|1932|9|15|mf=y
birthplace = Joliet, Illinois, United States
occupation = Writer, Professor, Associate dean
nationality = American
period = 1957–present
genre = Lesbian pulp fiction
LGBT history
notableworks = "Odd Girl Out", "I Am a Woman", "Women in the Shadows", "Journey to a Woman", "Beebo Brinker"
influences = Radclyffe Hall
Vin Packer
influenced = Audre Lorde [Lorde, Audre (1982). "Zami:A New Spelling of my Name"; Crossing Press, ISBN 0895941228]
Katherine V. Forrest
Kate Millett
website =

Ann Bannon (pseudonym of Ann Weldy) (born September 15, 1932) is an American writer who wrote six lesbian pulp fiction novels from 1957 to 1962 known as "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles". The books' enduring popularity and impact on lesbian identity has earned her the title "Queen of Lesbian Pulp Fiction". [cite news|author=Costello, Becca|url=|title=Pulp friction|work=Sacramento News & Review|date=2002-06-20|accessdate=2007-12-02] Bannon was a young housewife trying to address her own issues of sexuality when she was inspired to write her first novel. Her subsequent books featured four characters who reappeared throughout the series, including her titular heroine, Beebo Brinker, who came to embody the archetype of a butch lesbian. The majority of her characters mirrored people she knew, but their stories reflected a life she did not feel she was able to live. Despite her traditional upbringing and role in married life, her novels defied conventions for romance stories and depictions of lesbians, by addressing complex homosexual relationships positively during the morally repressive era of the 1950s and 1960s.

Although her books shaped lesbian identity for lesbians and heterosexuals alike, Bannon was unaware of their impact. She stopped writing in 1962 and later earned a doctorate in linguistics and became an academic. She endured a difficult marriage for 27 years and as she separated from her husband in the 1980s, her books were republished and she was stunned to learn of their influence on society. They were released again in 2001, and have been adapted as an award-winning Off-Broadway production. They are taught in Women's and LGBT studies courses, and Bannon has been given numerous awards for pioneering lesbian and gay literature. She has been described as "the premier fictional representation of US lesbian life in the fifties and sixties", [Nealon, Christopher (1995). "Invert-History: The ambivalence of Lesbian Pulp Fiction." "New Literary History" 31 (4): 745–64.] and that her books, "rest on the bookshelf of nearly every even faintly literate Lesbian". [Damon, Gene (1969). "The lesbian paperback." "The Ladder" 13 (9/10): 18–23.]

Early life

Ann Bannon was born Ann Weldy in Joliet, Illinois in 1932. She grew up in nearby Hinsdale with her mother and stepfather, and had the responsibility of taking care of four siblings due to the family's financial problems. A rich fantasy life came to be a comfort for her during this time and she found solace in writing. She grew up in a house filled with music, particularly jazz. Her family would host musicians giving small recitals for friends and neighbors, one of which became a character in her books: a perennial bachelor named Jack who slung jokes and witticisms at the audiences. She attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and belonged to Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority where she befriended a beautiful older sorority sister, "the prettiest I had ever seen", quite popular with men and with women, and witnessed a younger sorority sister's unabashed infatuation with the older sister. She recalls it was an awkward situation, even though the older sorority sister was "unfailingly gracious" to the younger one. In recognizing the younger woman's attractions, she began to suspect her own sexuality.Forrest, Katherine 2002). "cite web|url=|title="Ann Bannon". "Lambda Book Report". Retrieved on December 2, 2007.] She said, "I saw a lot of it happening and I didn't know what to make of it. I don't even know how to put it—I was absolutely consumed with it, it was an extraordinary thing." Another sorority sister was physically remarkable, very tall—almost convert|6|ft|m, with a husky voice and boyish nickname, that Bannon imagined was a blend of Johnny Weissmuller and Ingrid Bergman. She recalled entering the communal restroom and seeing the sister, "both of us in underwear, and experienc(ing) a sort of electric shock", and trying not to stare at her. In 1954, she graduated with a degree in French and soon married an engineer whose job made them relocate frequently.Elliott, Mary (2005). "Ann Bannon." "Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History in America".]

Bannon was 22 years old when she began writing her first pulp novel. She was influenced by the only lesbian novels she had read, "The Well of Loneliness" by Radclyffe Hall from 1928 and Vin Packer's "Spring Fire" from 1952, albeit in two different ways: she was unable to relate to the dismal tones in Hall's novel,Lovisi, Gary (2003). "On writing Lesbian Pulp Fiction: An interview with Ann Bannon." "Paperback Parade". 59 20–39.] but as a sorority girl was more familiar with the plot and circumstances of "Spring Fire". Bannon said, "Both books completely obsessed me for the better part of two years."Dean, William (2002). cite web|url=|title=Beyond Beebo and the odd girl: An interview With Ann Bannon. The Erotica Readers and Writers Association. Retrieved on December 2, 2007.] Although recently married and on her way to having two children, she found the books struck a chord in her life and recognized emotions in herself that compelled her to write about them. In the beginning of her marriage she was left alone quite a lot and said, "I was kind of desperate to get some of the things that had been consuming me for a long time down on paper".

Writing career


In 1950, Gold Medal Books published a fictionalized account of Tereska Torres' experience serving in the Free French Forces called "Women's Barracks", in paperback form. The book described a lesbian relationship the author witnessed, ending in the suicide of one of the women. It sold 4.5 million copies, and Gold Medal Books' editors were "thrilled". [Server, Lee (2002). "Tereska Torres." "Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers: The Essential Guide to More than 200 Pulp Pioneers and Mass-Market Masters". Checkmark Books ISBN 0816045771.] Its success earned it a mention in the House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials in 1952. [cite web|url=|title="Women's Barracks" by Tereska Torres Retrieved on December 2, 2007.] Gold Medal Books was a branch of Fawcett Publications that focused on paperback books. Paperbacks at the time were printed on very cheap paper, not designed to last for more than a year, sold for 25 cents in drug stores, train and bus stations, and newsstand kiosks all over the United States. The books made for cheap, easy reading that could be discarded at the end of a trip for very little cost to the customer. Because of the low quality of production, they earned the name pulp fiction.

Gold Medal Books quickly followed "Women's Barracks" with "Spring Fire", eager to cash in on the unprecedented sales, and it sold almost 1.5 million copies in 1952. Vin Packer, whose real name is Marijane Meaker, and Gold Medal Books were overwhelmed with mail from women who identified with the lesbian characters.Keller, Yvonne (2005). "Was it right to love her brother's wife so passionately? Lesbian pulp novels and U.S. lesbian identity, 1950–1965." "American Quarterly" 57 (2), 385–410 .]

One of the letters was from Bannon, asking for professional assistance in getting published. On writing to Meaker, she said, "To this day I have no idea why she responded to me out of the thousands of letters she was getting at that time. Thank God she did. I was both thrilled and terrified." [cite news|first=Nikola|last=Luksic|title=Authors look back at the heyday of lesbian pulp|url=|work= XTra! (Toronto)|publisher=Pink Triangle Press|date=August 4, 2005|accessdate=2007-12-02 ] Bannon visited Meaker and was introduced to Greenwich Village, making a significant impression on Bannon who called it, "Emerald City, Wonderland, and Brigadoon combined—a place where gay people could walk the crooked streets hand in hand." Meaker set up a meeting with Gold Medal Books editor Dick Carroll, who read Bannon's initial 600-page manuscript. It was a story about the women in her sorority whom she admired, with a subplot consisting of two sorority sisters who had fallen in love with each other. Carroll told her to take it back and focus on the two characters who had an affair. Bannon claims she went back and told their story, delivered the draft to Carroll and it was published without a single word changed.Bannon, Ann (2001). cite web|url=|title=Introduction"Odd Girl Out". Retrieved on December 2, 2007.] While raising two young children, Bannon lived in Philadelphia and took trips into New York City to visit Greenwich Village and stayed with friends. She said of the women she saw in Greenwich Village, "I wanted to be one of them, to speak to other women, if only in print. And so I made a beginning—and that beginning was the story that became "Odd Girl Out"."Forrest, Katherine (February, 2002) "Acts of individual valor." "Lambda Book Report" 10 (7) 6–10.]

"The Beebo Brinker Chronicles"

"Odd Girl Out"

"The Beebo Brinker Chronicle"s were six books in all first published between 1957 and 1962. They featured four characters who appeared in at least three of the books in a chronological saga of coming to terms with their homosexuality and navigating their ways through gay and lesbian relationships. The first in the series, "Odd Girl Out", was published by Gold Medal Books in 1957. Based on Bannon's own experiences, the plot involved a lesbian relationship between two sorority sisters in a fictional sorority at a fictional midwestern university. As was custom with pulp fiction novels, neither the cover art nor the title was under the control of the author. Both were approved by the publisher in order to be as suggestive and lurid as possible. The main character is Laura Landon, who realizes that she's in love with Beth, her older, more experienced roommate, a leader in the sorority.

Lesbians depicted in literature were relatively rare in the 1950s. It was the publisher's policy in any novel involving lesbianism that the characters would never receive any satisfaction from the relationship. One or both usually ended up committing suicide, going insane, or leaving the relationship.Packer, Vin. "Introduction" "Spring Fire". Cleis Press, 2004. ISBN 9781573441872] Marijane Meaker discusses this in the 2004 foreword of "Spring Fire": she was told by editor Dick Carroll that postal inspectors would send the books back to the publisher if homosexuality was depicted positively. The Postal Service relaxed their censorship after the obscenity trial of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" in 1956, which gave Bannon a modicum of freedom in her plots.Garland, David. Interview with Ann Bannon. "Spinning on Air." WNYC. November 26, 2006.] Although the ending to "Odd Girl Out" did not veer too far from the unsatisfactory resolution formula of "Spring Fire", "Women's Barracks", and "The Well of Loneliness", it examined Laura's internal struggle in the realization that despite her femininity, she was deeply in love with another woman, and at the end she embraced it, which was rare in lesbian fiction.

Fantasies and fears

The characters and their stories served as an extension of the fantasy life Bannon developed as a child. They became her "fantasy friends" whose loves and lives she witnessed and through which she lived her own life vicariously, helping her through a difficult marriage, and a longing for a life she did not feel she was free to live.Brandt, Kate (2003). "Ann Bannon: A 1950s icon rediscovered." "Paperback Parade" 59 39–45.] "I realized very early that I should not marry, but I was going to make the best of a bad thing, and I was going to make it a good thing," she remembered.Lootens, Tricia (December 31, 1983). "Ann Bannon: A writer of lost lesbian fiction finds herself and her public." "Off Our Backs." 13 (11) p. 12.] Having no practical experience in a lesbian relationship while writing "Odd Girl Out", she set out to gain what she termed "fieldwork experience" in her trips Greenwich Village, and was successful enough to introduce those experiences into the next book in the series before relocating once more to Southern California. But she explained her fears about staying in Greenwich Village, saying

I would sit there (in a gay bar) in the evenings thinking, 'What if (a police raid) happens tonight and I get hauled off to the slam with all these other women?' I had been extremely low profile, very proper, very Victorian wife. I know that sounds crazy in the 60s, but I was raised by my mother and grandmother, who really came out of that era, and talk about a rigid role-playing crowd! I couldn't imagine living through it. I just couldn't. I thought, 'Well, that would do it. I'd have to go jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.' As easy as it might be if you were a young woman in today's generation to think that was exaggerating, it wasn't. It was terrifying.

"I Am a Woman"

Bannon followed "Odd Girl Out" with "I Am A Woman" "(In Love With A Woman Must Society Reject Me?)" in 1959. "I Am A Woman" (the working and common title) featured Laura after her affair with Beth, as she finds herself in New York City's Greenwich Village, and meets a wisecracking gay man named Jack, and becomes his best friend. Laura has to choose between a straight woman with a wild and curious streak, and a fascinating new character that proved to be her most popular of the series, Beebo Brinker, who came to embody the description of a thoroughly butch lesbian. Beebo was smart, handsome, chivalrous, and virile. Once again based on what she knew, Beebo was nearly convert|6|ft|m tall with a husky voice and a formidable physique. The personality however, Bannon says, was drawn out of her sheer need for Beebo to exist. After spending time in Greenwich Village and not finding anyone like her, Bannon instead created her. She remembered, "I put Beebo together just as I wanted her, in my heart and mind...She was just, quite literally, the butch of my dreams." The resolution to "I Am A Woman" completely flouted the trends of miserable lesbian fiction endings, which made Ann Bannon a hero to many lesbians.Strang, Lennox (1959). "I Am a Woman" (book review); "The Ladder" 3 (5) 16–17.]

Readers' reactions

Letters began to pour in for her from all over the country. There were mostly propositions from men, but the letters from women thanked her profusely and begged her for reassurance that they would be all right. Bannon described the impact her books had from the letters she received from people who were isolated in small towns: "The most important things they learned (from the books) were that 1) they weren't unique and doomed to lifelong isolation, 2) ...they weren't "abnormal," and 3) there was hope for a happy life. They wrote to me in thousands, asking me to confirm these wonderful things, which I gladly did—even though I felt only marginally better informed than they were." [Dean, William (January 8, 2003). "cite web|url=|title=Out of the shadows: An interview with Ann Bannon. Retrieved on December 2, 2007.] The books were even translated into other languages, which was also quite rare for the brief lives of pulp novels.Summers, Claude (2002). "Ann Bannon." "The gay & lesbian literary heritage: A reader's companion to the writers and their works from antiquity to present". Routledge. ISBN 0415929261] Bannon received international and domestic mail from women, saying, "This is the only book (and they would say this about all of them) that I've read where the women really love each other, where its OK for them to love each other, and they don't have to kill themselves afterwards."Tilchen, Maida (January 8, 1983). "Ann Bannon: The mystery solved!" "Gay Community News". 10 (25) 8.]

"Women in the Shadows"

Although her husband was aware of the books she was writing, he showed no interest in the subject. He was interested enough in the money she made from them, however, but had forbidden her to use her married surname, not wishing to see it on a book cover with art of questionable taste.Server, Lee (2002). "Ann Bannon." "Encyclopedia of pulp fiction writers: The essential guide to more than 200 pulp pioneers and mass-market masters". Checkmark Books. ISBN 0816045771] She took the name "Bannon" from a list of his customers and liked it because it contained her own name in it. She continued to experience difficulty in her marriage, however, and in realizing that "not all lesbians were nice people,"Bannon, Ann (August 25, 2003). Interview. "Fresh Air" from WHYY. NPR.] she took these frustrations out on her characters. "I couldn't stand some of what was happening to me–but Beebo could take it. Beebo really, in a way, had my nervous breakdown for me ... I think I was overwhelmed with grief and anger that I was not able to express," she recalled later. "Women In The Shadows" was also published in 1959 and proved very unpopular with Bannon's readers. The book examined interracial relationships, self-loathing in matters of sexuality and race, alcoholism, jealousy, violence, and as Laura marries Jack in a very atypical marriage for the 1950s, also explored the intricate details of what it was like to pass as heterosexual in an attempt to live some semblance of what was considered a normal life at the time.

"Journey to a Woman"

Again drawing parallels between Bannon's own life and her plots, with her fourth book in the series, "Journey To A Woman" in 1960, Beth, of Laura's affair in "Odd Girl Out", is living with her husband and children in Southern California. She tries to find Laura again nine years after college, and escapes a deranged woman who has a fixation on her, that reflected a relationship Bannon had with a beautiful, but "very bewildered and unstable person." Beth writes to an author of lesbian books in New York, and goes to meet her in hope of finding Laura. They have a brief relationship, after which Beth finds Laura married to Jack and with a child, then discovers Beebo as well. A fifth book, "The Marriage", that was also published in 1960, again addressed issues of love outside the realm of socially acceptable relationships, although not primarily homosexuality. Jack and Laura are friends with a young married couple who discover they are brother and sister, and must decide if they will stay with each other or conform to societal standards.

"Beebo Brinker"

Returning to the character she fantasized about the most, the last book in the series, "Beebo Brinker" in 1962, was Bannon's prequel to "Odd Girl Out". It follows Beebo around Greenwich Village ten years prior to her meeting Laura in "I Am A Woman", as Beebo literally gets off the bus from her rural hometown into New York City to find a waiting friend in Jack, and discover herself. She begins an affair with a famous and fading movie star, and follows her to California, only to return to be more honest about what she wants in her life.

Bannon also contributed several articles to "ONE, Inc.", the magazine of the Mattachine Society, in 1961 and 1962. One of them was a chapter cut from the final draft of "Women in the Shadows". [Bannon, Ann (July 1961). "Secrets of the Gay Novel." ONE, 9(7) 6–12.] [Bannon, Ann (January 1961). "The Nice Kid." ONE, 9 (1) 22.] [Bannon, Ann (April 1962). "Scene From: The Story of Beebo Brinker: Beebo and Paula." ONE, 10 (4) 14.] She was invited to speak to the Mattachine Society in the early 1960s, but her husband's stern disapproval of her activities began to take its toll. She stated later, "It began to be very painful. So every time I would start to reach out (to the lesbian/gay community), I would get struck down ... In my own life, I couldn't operationalize (my feeling that gays should end the secrecy and take more pride in themselves and their lives). I couldn't find a way."Cain, Paul (2007). "Ann Bannon." "Leading the parade: Conversations with America's most influential lesbians and gay men". Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 155–163. ISBN 0810859130]


Post 1960s

After "Beebo Brinker", Bannon said the energy to write about the characters left her, but she got so good at her "obsessive fantasies" that even after the books were written she continued to live internally, and suspected it affected her subsequent relationships. "I realize now that I was in a sort of "holding pattern," a way of keeping my sanity intact while waiting for my children to grow up and the freedom door to open," she recalled."Forbidden Love: Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives". Dir. Fernie, L., Weissman. Videocassette. Women Make Movies Home Video, 1994.] Parks, Joy (Summer, 2003) . "Sleaze Trash and Miracles: How Ann Bannon changed lesbian fiction by writing about the butch of her dreams." "Velvet Park"; 42-43.] Returning to school, Bannon completed her master’s degree at Sacramento State University and her doctorate in linguistics at Stanford University. She was an English professor at Sacramento State and later became the University’s associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and later the College of Arts and Letters. [cite news|first=Kel|last=Munger |title=Paperback writer.|url=|title |publisher=Chico Community Publishing, Inc.|date=April 7, 2005|accessdate=2007-12-02 .]

econd and third lives of the books

Ann Bannon's books began to fade away from publishing memory after initial publication, especially after Gold Medal Books went out of business. In 1975, however, Bannon was asked to include four of her books in Arno Press' library edition of "Homosexuality: Lesbians and Gay Men in Society, History and Literature". Then in 1983, Barbara Grier, of lesbian publishing company Naiad Press actively tracked Bannon down, and reissued the books in new covers. Grier discussed the novels, answering the question of who among lesbian paperback authors should be highlighted, "Ann Bannon. Without even a discussion ... In terms of actual influence, sales, everything, Bannon."

Reacting to the renewed interest in the books, Bannon was shocked to find out that her characters were not only remembered, but that they were archetypes among the lesbian community. With the books released again, Bannon did not advertise it outwardly in her department at Sacramento State. Not being tenured, she was unsure how the information would be received. However, word got out: "I was jet-propelled out of the closet. People stared at me around campus, and the PE majors all waved. My chairman told me to put the books into my promotion file, and one of my colleagues told me my file was the only one that was any fun."Irvine, Janice, et al (January 14, 1984), "Community Voices." "Gay Community News". 11 (25) 4.] She often received small recognitions from students and faculty who were pleased and surprised, once getting a bouquet of flowers from a student. She said of the rediscovery, "I was so ready for something fresh and exciting in my life. It had seemed to me, up to that point, that not only had the books and the characters died, so had Ann Bannon."

However, following a bitter divorce, and just as the Naiad Press editions of her books were released, Bannon endured a bout with chronic fatigue syndrome, that she connects to repressing herself for so long. "You've got to think that it's connected, somehow. At the time I denied it fiercely, but I really think I beat myself up horribly, in ways I'll never know."

Bannon's books were featured in the documentary "Before Stonewall" in 1984 about how gay men and lesbians lived prior to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, where one woman remembered her picking up one of Bannon's books for the first time: "I picked up this paperback and I opened it up...and it sent a shiver of excitement in my whole body that I had never felt before.""Before Stonewall". Dir. John Scagliotti. Videocassette. Before Stonewall, Inc. 1984.] She was featured in the Canadian documentary "" in 1992 recounting women's personal stories living as lesbians from the 1940s to 1960s. The books were selected for the Quality Paperback Book Club in 1995. Bannon also provided the foreword text for "Strange Sisters: The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction 1949–1969" in 1999, discussing her reaction to the art on her own books and the other lesbian pulp fiction books she bought and read. Five of "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles" were reissued by Cleis Press again in 2001, excluding "The Marriage", with autobiographical forewords that described Bannon's experiences of writing the books and her reaction to their popularity, causing another wave of interest.


In the US, only a handful of books were published with lesbianism as a subject before the 1950s, and even fewer during that period and until 1969 that were not considered pulp novels. [Smith, Martha. "cite web|url=|title=American Literature: Lesbian, 1900-1969." Retrieved on October 18, 2007.] In describing how iconic Bannon's books have become over time, one writer said of the republication of her books, "It not only recovers the historical value of the texts, it recovers an idea of authorship not especially valued by the pulps...(I)t imagines book and artifact in the same horizon, and its foregrounding of the books' importance for lesbian readers in particular imagines these pulps as part of the lesbian literary tradition." [Foote, Stephanie (August 2005). "Deviant Classics: Pulps and the Making of Lesbian Print Culture." "Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society" 31 (1) 169–190.]

Her books are remarkable for portraying homosexual relationships relatively accurately.Weinstein, Jeff (October 1983). "In Praise of Pulp: Bannon's Lusty Lesbians," "Voice Literary Supplement", 8–9.] The continuity of characters in the series also gave her books a unique quality, especially when most lesbian characters during this time were one-dimensional stereotypes who met punishment for their desires. Bannon's characters have been called "accessibly human", and still engrossing by contemporary standards compared to being "revolutionary" when first released.cite news|first=Mark|last=Blankenship|title=Sapphic Pulp Fiction, life onstage in the New York Times|url=|work=New York Times|publisher=New York Times|date=September 30, 2007|accessdate=2007-12-02 ] Pulp historian Susan Stryker described the relationships between Bannon's characters as mostly positive, satisfactory, and at times complex depictions of lesbian and gay relationships, [Stryker, p. 61.] which Bannon attributed to not letting go of the hope that she could "salvage (her) own life." One retrospective of lesbian pulp fiction remarked on the reasons why Bannon's books in particular were popular is because they were so different from anything else being published at the time: "Bannon was implicitly challenging the prevailing belief that homosexual life was brief, episodic, and more often than not resulted in death ...Bannon insisted on the continuity of lesbian love, while everything in her culture was speaking of its quick and ugly demise."Walters, Suzanne (Fall-Winter 1989). "Her Hand Crept Slowly Up Her Thigh." "Social Text", 23 83–101.]

Bannon set her stories in and among gay bars in the 1950s and 1960s. These were secret clubs and bars: as described in "Beebo Brinker", one had to knock on the door and be recognized before being let in. In reality, women were not allowed to wear pants in some bars in New York City. Police raided bars and arrested everyone within regularly; [Lyon, Phyllis (1956). "San Francisco Police raid reveals lack of knowledge of citizens rights" "The Ladder". 1 (2) 5.] [Martin, Del (1959). "The gay bar: Whose problem is it?" "The Ladder", 4 (3) 1–13, 24–25.] it was a raid on a gay bar that prompted the seminal Stonewall Riots in 1969. Because of the atmosphere of secrecy and shame, little has been recorded about what it was like to be gay during this time, and Bannon unwittingly recorded history from her own visits to Greenwich Village. In 2007, one of the writers who adapted three of the books into a play said of Bannon's work, "I think she rises above the pulp. She wasn’t trying to write trash. There wasn’t any place for a woman to be writing this kind of material...But I just think the writing’s transcended its time and its era and its market." [cite news|first=Kia|last=Corthron|title=Lesbian Pulp Fiction: The Beebo Brinker Chronicles|url=|work=The Brooklyn Rail|publisher=The Brooklyn Rail|date=September, 2007|accessdate=2007-12-02 ]



Since so little information was available about lesbians and lesbianism at the time, Bannon's books, through their far-reaching distribution and popularity served to form a part of a lesbian identity. Bannon's depictions of lesbians served not only the heterosexual population at large, but lesbians themselves. Lesbian author Joan Nestle called the books "survival literature", [cite web
title = Queer Covers: Lesbian Survival Literature
publisher = Lesbian Herstory Archives
date = 2008
] explaining: "In whatever towns or cities these books were read, they were spreading the information that meant a new hope for trapped and isolated women".Nestle, Joan (1983). "Desire So Big It Had to Be Brave", Lesbian Herstory Archives.] One retrospective writer noted, " [U] ntil the late 1960s, when the sexual revolution was emerging, the pulps provided a cultural space that helped to forge a queer identity".Nakao, Annie (August 8, 2002). [ "Steamy gay pulp has shown staying power"] , Retrieved July 10, 2008.]

Scholar Andrea Loewenstein published the first in-depth review of Bannon's books in 1980, and notes that they were "exceptionally good pulp" that caused unexpected strong feelings of sadness or anger among lesbians when they were read twenty years after being published. Bannon depicts strict roles of butch and femme, and gays and lesbians as self-destructive, closeted, paranoid, and alcoholic; Loewenstein remarks that readers in 1980 had a tendency to reject that kind of reality in Bannon's stories. "Since much of our past is so bitter, [we] ... pretend away our most recent history".Loewenstein, Andrea (May 24, 1980). "Sad Stories: A Reflection on the Fiction of Ann Bannon," "Gay Community News" 7 (43) 8–12.] Loewenstein suggests the struggles Bannon's characters endured were ones that Bannon must have faced herself. When Laura declares her joy in her love for Beth in "Odd Girl Out" while simultaneously questioning if it is right, Loewenstein states "one hears quite clearly the voice of Ann Bannon, questioning her own right to happiness". Similarly, remarking on Bannon's treatment of Beebo in "Women in the Shadows" by making her violent, alcoholic and self-destructive, Loewenstein notes, "she needs to humiliate Beebo so badly that she makes her disappear". Loewenstein remarks Bannon's characters are deeply conflicted by enjoying relationships they feel are morally wrong, and they are acting out cycles of self-hatred, though what remains at the end is "surprisingly ... passionate, tender, and erotic".

Writer Diane Hamer attests that Bannon's books and characters represent a part of identity where women are unsure if they are gay or straight, man or woman, ashamed or accepting of who they are. In receiving no clear answers from Bannon herself, women were left to try to figure these questions out for themselves. Hamer writes, "What Bannon did was to provide a "range" of possible trajectories to lesbianism ... Bannon, by constructing fictional biographies for her lesbian characters, produced a new knowledge about how one arrives at a lesbian identity."Hamer, Diane (1990). "I Am a Woman: Ann Bannon and the Writing of Lesbian Identity in the 1950s." "Lesbian and Gay Writing", Mark Lilly, ed. Temple University Press. ISBN 0877227063]

Bannon also addresses the issue of race in "Women in the Shadows" when Laura begins an affair with a woman representing herself as Eastern Indian, but who is actually a lighter skinned African American. The duality of their relationship is expressed not only in skin color but through their personalities. Laura, blond and passionate, contrasts with Tris, who is dark but emotionally detached. Race, in this instance, is a "metaphor for the opposition between inside and outside that govern Bannon's sense of what a lesbian is". [Nealon, p. 165.]

The concept of a lesbian identity is also explored throughout "Journey to a Woman", as Beth leaves her husband and children to find Laura. Beth is followed by Vega, a deeply scarred woman—both emotionally and physically—with whom she had an affair, and who shoots herself at the end of the story. Scholar Christopher Nealon suggests that Vega's scars and emotional pain represent the anguish of self-hatred and the self-destructive phases Bannon imposed upon her characters in "Women in the Shadows". Because Laura has grown from the complete adoration of Beth in "Odd Girl Out" and is unable to give Beth the same devotion when Beth finds her again, Nealon writes that Bannon makes the point that it is impossible to sustain "a lesbian identity that always returns to the moment of self-discovery".Nealon, p. 168.] Beth, instead, finds Beebo, now older and much calmer, who gives her hope and the promise of love, which Nealon equates to a final identity for Bannon's characters. [Nealon, p. 170.]

Bannon addressed the criticisms of her characters as self-destructive in limiting roles, in the new forewords to the Cleis Press editions, explaining that she simply depicted what she knew and felt at the time.cite web|author=Bannon, Ann|date=2002|url=|title= Introduction: The Beebo Brinker Chronicles: I Am A Woman||accessdate=2007-12-02] cite web|author=Bannon, Ann|date=2003|url=|title=Introduction to Cleis Press Edition: The Beebo Brinker Chronicles: Women In The Shadows||accessdate=2007-12-02] [cite web|author=Bannon, Ann|date=2003|url=|title= Introduction: The Beebo Brinker Chronicles: Journey to a Woman||accessdate=2007-12-02] Bannon has said she knows the concerns of the women who are uncomfortable with the themes of her books. She said, "I can understand that; they weren't there. To them some of it looks negative and some of it looks depressing. Although I didn't feel that way. I always felt excited when I was writing them."


All five books of "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles" depict characters trying to come to terms with their ostracism from heterosexual society. Christopher Nealon adds that the characters are also trying to "understand the relationship between their bodies and their desires". The continuing appeal of the novels, Nealon states, is due to the characters being "beautifully misembodied". [Nealon, p. 160.] Laura Landon's resistance in "Odd Girl Out", to the idea that she may be homosexual, lies in her own concept of femininity:

... [S] he looked down at herself, and nothing seemed wrong. She had breasts and full hips like other girls. She wore lipstick and curled her hair. Her brow, the crook in her arms, the fit of her legs—everything was feminine. She held her fists to her cheeks and stared out the window in the gathering night and begged God for an answer.

She thought that homosexual women were great strong creatures in slacks with brush cuts and deep voices; unhappy things, standouts in a crowd. She looked back at herself, hugging her bosom as if to comfort herself, and she thought, 'I don't want to be a boy. I don't want to be like them. I'm a "girl". I "am" a girl. That's what I want to be. But if I'm a girl, why do I love a girl? What's wrong with me? There must be something wrong with me.' [Bannon, "Odd Girl Out", p. 68–69.]

In "I Am a Woman", the second book in the series, Beebo's butch appearance "seems to alternately terrify and attract Laura", leading to a very erotic physical relationship. However, when Laura lashes out a Beebo in a moment of self-pity, it is her masculinity that is attacked: "Grow up, Beebo. You'll never be a little boy. Or a big boy. You haven't got what it takes." [Bannon, "I Am a Woman", p. 180.] With these words, Laura invalidates Beebo's uniqueness and the core of her desirability violently. [Nealon, p. 166.] In the book that exhibits the most self-destruction in the series, "Women in the Shadows", Laura expresses shame when accompanying Beebo outside of Greenwich Village, fearing Beebo will be arrested and jailed. [Bannon, "Women in the Shadows", p. 28–29.] Facing the end of their relationship, Beebo expresses the desire to be a man, if only to be able to marry Laura to give her a normal life.

Bannon's last book, "Beebo Brinker", which takes place before the others, when Beebo is eighteen years old, focuses on Beebo's realization not only that she is gay, but that she is also a masculine woman. Beebo's story is told to her new friend Jack

'I was kicked out of school, she said hesitantly, 'because I looked so much like a boy, they thought I must be acting like one ...My father tried to teach me not to hate myself because I looked like hell in gingham frills', she said. 'But when you see people turn away and laugh behind their hands... It makes you wonder what you really are ...Jack, long before I knew anything about sex, I knew I wanted to be tall and strong and wear pants and ride horses and have a career...and never marry a man or learn to cook or raise babies. Never.' [Bannon, "Beebo Brinker", p.50–51.]

Nealon writes that Bannon's exploration of Beebo's masculinity is not to give excuses for her desires, but "to get at the source of specialness, the sources of her claim to be treated with dignity". By connecting her characters' bodies with their desires, Bannon allows further understanding of self as normal, and that homosexuality is acceptable. [Nealon, p. 162.]


Bannon's books, like most pulp fiction novels, were not reviewed by newspapers or magazines when they were originally published between 1957 and 1962. However, they have been the subject of analyses since their release, that offer differing opinions of Bannon's books as a reflection of the moral standards of the decade, a subtle defiance of those morals, or a combination of both. Andrea Loewenstein notes Bannon's use of cliché, suggesting that it reflected Bannon's own belief in the culturally repressive ideas of the 1950s. Conversely, writer Jeff Weinstein remarks that Bannon's pulp novels, which he terms "potboilers", are an expression of freedom because they address issues mainstream fiction did not in the 1950s. Instead of cliché, Weinstein writes that her characters become more realistic as she exploits the dramatic plots, because they "are influenced by the melodramatic conventions of the culture that excludes them".

Diane Hamer likens Bannon's work to the Mills and Boon of lesbian literature, but unlike conventional romance novels, her stories never really have neat and tidy conclusions. Hamer also takes note of Bannon's use of Freudian symbolism: in "I Am a Woman", Jack frequently mentions that he is being psychoanalyzed, and his friends react with interest; Jack labels Laura "Mother" and continues to refer to this nickname instead of her real name throughout the series, as though Bannon—through Jack—is vaguely mocking Freud and the ideas that have framed the construction of sexuality in the 1950s. Scholar Michele Barale remarks that Bannon's literary devices in "Beebo Brinker" defy the expectations of the audience for whom the novel was specifically marketed: heterosexual males. Bannon chooses the first character, an "everyman" named, significantly, Jack Mann, with whom the male audience identifies, only to divulge that he is gay and has maternal instincts. His interest turns to Beebo, whom he finds "handsome" and lost, and he takes her home, gets her drunk, and becomes asexually intimate with her. Barale writes that Bannon manipulates male readers to become interested in the story, then turns them into voyeurs and imposes homosexual desires upon them, though eventually places them in a safe position to understand a gay story from a heterosexual point of view.

The erotic nature of the books has been noted. Loewenstein remarks on the intensity of Laura's passion: "The presentation of a woman as a joyfully aggressive person is, in itself, a rare achievement in 1957". While a 2002 retrospective of Bannon's books claims "there were more explicit and nuanced representations of sexuality in those paperbacks than could be found almost anywhere else". Author Suzana Danuta Walters represents the eroticism in Bannon's books as a form of rebellion, writing "it is precisely in Bannon's smuttiness and pulp sensibility that the subversiveness is located". In the "Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review", Jenifer Levin wrote, "Know this: "Beebo lives". From the midst of a repressive era, from the pen of a very proper, scholarly, "seemingly" conforming wife and mother, came this astonishingly open queer figment of fictional being, like molten material from some volcano of the lesbian soul." [Levin, Jenifer (Spring 1995). "Beebo Lives." "Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review" 2(1) p. 53.]

Her books have, with the benefit of time, been described in vastly different terms, from "literary works" among pulp contemporaries,Barale, Michele (Autumn, 1992). "When Jack Blinks: Si(gh)ting Gay Desire in Ann Bannon's "Beebo Brinker" "Feminist Studies" 18 (3) 533–549 ] to "libidinised trash." [Weir, Angela, Wilson, E. (1992) "The Greyhound Bus Station in the Evolution of Lesbian Popular Culture." In "New Lesbian Criticism". Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231080182] However disparate Bannon's books are described in feminist and lesbian literary retrospectives, almost every mention accedes the significance of "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles". One retrospective writer called Bannon's books "titillating trash, but indispensable reading to the nation's lesbians."Rutledge, Leigh (2002). "The Gay Decades". Alyson Publications. ISBN 0452268109.]


Bannon's characters in literature

References to Bannon's characters were used in later works by Joan Nestle. Kate Millett recalled how she loved her Ann Bannon collection because, "They were the only books where one woman kisses another."Szymczak, Jerome (1997). "Ann Bannon." "Gay & Lesbian Biography": St James Press. ISBN 1558622373] Audre Lorde also references Bannon in her 1983 book ', as the narrator wandered Greenwich Village wondering if she would run into Beebo Brinker. Lana Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane, in her 1988 autobiography "Detour: A Hollywood Story" described her experiences as a teenager coming across "Odd Girl Out" in a drug store and how she identified with Laura (Crane also considered using "Laura" as an alias when she did not want to be recognized). Crane's grandmother eventually burned the book. [ Crane, Cheryl and Jahr, C (1988). "Detour: A Hollywood Story". Arbor House Publishing Co, ISBN 0877959382.] Lesbian author Radclyffe described the impact "Beebo Brinker" had on her at 12 years old, "I found "Beebo Brinker" by accident but recognized myself within its pages immediately."Moore, Lisa (Jan - Mar 2005). "Life Affirmation: Radclyffe Gets Serious About Love." "Lambda Book Report" 13"'(6–8) 6–9.]

Quote box2|width=40%|align=right|bgcolor=Cornsilk|quote=

"Overwhelming need led me to walk a gauntlet of fear up to the cash register. Fear so intense that I remember nothing more, only that I stumbled out of the store in possession of what I knew I must have, a book as necessary to me as air... I found it when I was eighteen years old. It opened the door to my soul and told me who I was."|source=Katherine V. Forrest, 2005

Author Katherine V. Forrest claimed Bannon and her books, "are in a class by themselves," and described purchasing and reading "Odd Girl Out": "Overwhelming need led me to walk a gauntlet of fear up to the cash register. Fear so intense that I remember nothing more, only that I stumbled out of the store in possession of what I knew I must have, a book as necessary to me as air... I found it when I was eighteen years old. It opened the door to my soul and told me who I was." Forrest also credits Bannon, quite frankly, with saving her life.Forrest, Katherine (2005). Introduction. "Lesbian Pulp Fiction."By Forrest. Cleis Press. ISBN 1573442100]

Bannon's books are frequently on required reading lists for women's and LGBT studies college courses. The person most surprised by this was Bannon herself, who explained she had no such aspirations when she was writing "Odd Girl Out", but regarding the longevity of the book, "If I "had" known, it might well have resulted in a much more polished product, but one that would have been so cautious and self-conscious as to be entirely forgettable. It would never–my best guess–have had the vibrant life it has now."

tage adaptations

In 2007, "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles" were adapted as a play by an off-off-Broadway cohort called The Hourglass Group in a production that ran for a month. The writers adapted material from "I Am a Woman", "Women in the Shadows" and "Journey to a Woman" to predominantly positive reviews. It was successful enough to be moved Off Broadway for another ten-week run. [cite web|url=|title=The Beebo Brinker Chronicles The Hourglass Group website. Retrieved on December 27, 2007.] The play's writers commented on the difficulty of lesbian-themed works finding financial success. They were tempted to make it more appealing by turning to camp for comedy. However, one of the writers said, "I just felt like, how can you turn these people into a joke? I mean, these people are real people! Why would I direct a play where I held the characters in some sort of contempt or felt that they were ridiculous? We are allowed to do something else besides camp." [Williams, D. (February 17, 2008). cite web|url=|title="Beebo Brinker" Comes to Off Broadway Retrieved on February 19, 2008.] The stage adaptation of "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles" was produced by Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, [Robertson, Campbell (February 19, 2008). cite web|url=|title=‘Black Watch’ Returns "The New York Times" website. Retrieved on February 19, 2008.] and it won the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Award for "fair, accurate, and inclusive" portrayals of gay and lesbian people in New York Theater. [cite web|url=|title=Beebo and Bash'd Win GLAAD Media Awards "Playbill" website. Retrieved on March 22, 2008.] In April 2008, Bannon appeared with the Seattle Women's Chorus in a performance called "Vixen Fiction". Bannon read excerpts of her work and discussed the effects of her writing on her own life and the lives of her readers. [cite web|url=|title=Vixen Fiction/Siren Song Seattle Women's Chorus website. Retrieved on April 10, 2008]


In 1997, Bannon's work was included in a collection of authors who had made the deepest impact on the lives and identities of gays and lesbians, titled "Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers".Giard, Robert (1997). "Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers". MIT Press. ISBN 0262071800.] In 2000, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors awarded Bannon a Certificate of Honor "for breaking new ground with works like "Odd Girl Out" and "Women in the Shadows" and for "voic(ing) lesbian experiences at a time when explicit lesbian subject matter was silenced by government and communities." In 2004, Bannon was elected into the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival Hall of Fame. Bannon received the Sacramento State Alumni Association’s Distinguished Faculty Award for 2005. [cite news|first=Nicholas|last=Fricke|title=Author receives faculty award|url=|work=Sacramento State University State Hornet|publisher=The State Hornet|date=April 20, 2005|accessdate=2007-12-02 ] Bannon received the Trailblazer Award from the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2005, and was honored by having an award named for her, the Ann Bannon GCLS Popular Choice Award. [cite web|url=|title="Golden Crown Literary Society" Retrieved on December 2, 2007.] She was the recipient of the Alice B Award in 2008, that goes to authors whose careers have been distinguished by consistently well-written stories about lesbians. [cite web|url=|title=2008 Award Winners Alice B Awards. Retrieved on February 7, 2008.] In May 2008, Bannon was given the Pioneer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation. [cite web|url=|title=Ann Bannon, Malcolm Boyd, & Mark Thompson To Receive Pioneer Awards Lambda Literary Foundation. Retrieved June 2, 2008.] 1990s Queercore band Team Dresch recorded a tribute titled "Song for Ann Bannon." [cite web|url=|title="Lyrics to Song for Ann Bannon" Retrieved on October 18, 2007] A UK band named Venus Bogardus [cite web|url=|title="Venus Bogardus" Retrieved on October 18, 2007.] takes its name from a character in the last book in the series, "Beebo Brinker".

In retirement

Ann Bannon retired from teaching in 1997, [cite news|title=Best Sacramento legend to (finally) take the stage|url=|work=Sacramento News & Review|publisher=Chico Community Publishing, Inc|date=September 27, 2007|accessdate=2007-12-02 ] but tours the country visiting paperback-collecting conventions and speaking at colleges and universities about her writings and experiences. She has recently been a guest of National Public Radio’s Peabody Award-winning talk show “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross. She is also featured in Gross’ recent book, "All I Did Was Ask", a collection of transcripts from the show. She also speaks at gay-themed events around the country and is working on her memoirs.

In a recent editorial written by Bannon in "Curve", she discussed how her books survived despite criticisms by censors, Victorian moralists, and purveyors of literary "snobbery" in writing, "To the persistent surprise of many of us, and of the critics who found us such an easy target years ago, the books by, of and for women found a life of their own. They–and we–may still not be regarded as conventionally acceptable 'nice' literature, as it were–but I have come to value that historical judgment. We wrote the stories no one else could tell. And in so doing, we captured a slice of life in a particular time and place that still resonates for members of our community." [Bannon, Ann (August, 2002). "The story behind the classic lesbian pulp." "Curve Magazine" 12 (5) 48–50.]



* Bannon, Ann (2001), "Beebo Brinker", Cleis Press. ISBN 1573441252
* Bannon, Ann (2001), "Odd Girl Out", Cleis Press. ISBN 1573441287
* Bannon, Ann (2002), "I Am a Woman", Cleis Press. ISBN 1573441457
* Nealon, Christopher (2001). "Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion Before Stonewall", Duke University Press. ISBN 0822380617
* Stryker, Susan (2001). "Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback". Chronicle Books. ISBN 0811830209

External links

* [,Classics Cleis Press]
* [ "In the Life" episode of April, 2006 does a report on Bannon and lesbian pulp fiction]
* [ "Before Stonewall" at]
* [ "Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives" at]
* [ The Hourglass Group, with links to reviews of the Off-Broadway production]
* [ Playbill announcement for "The Beebo Brinker Chronicles"]
* [ A 2006 review of "Odd Girl Out" and "Beebo Brinker" from]

NAME = Bannon, Ann
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Weldy, Ann; Thayer, Ann
DATE OF BIRTH = September 15, 1932
PLACE OF BIRTH = Joliet, Illinois, United States

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