Lesbian Pulp Fiction

Introduction to the Lesbian Pulp Fiction Collection
at the Mount Saint Vincent University Library


Spring fire

What is Lesbian Pulp Fiction?

The year is 1952. Imagine yourself in a small town. The internet, cell phones and mobile devices will not exist for several decades. Lesbian, gay, transgendered, queer and other sexual minorities (LGBTQ+) issues are seldom discussed in public, but when they are, they appear in a negative context usually related to the purges taking place in the civil service, military, and public schools. Under Canada's criminal law, homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. This law will not be struck down until 1969. Yet, as you browse the wire rack of paperbacks at the convenience store, you pick up a slender book with two women on the cover and read the blurb on its opening pages:

Her silky black hair. Her low-cut gown. Her sparkling sorority pin. It’s autumn rush in the Tri Epsilon house, and the new pledge, Susan Mitchell – “Mitch” to her friends – shivers as the fastest girl on campus, the lovely Leda Taylor, crosses the room toward her for a dance. Will Leda corrupt Mitch? Or will the strong and silent Mitch draw the queen of Tri Ep in to the forbidden world of Lesbian Love?

Spring Fire was (one of) the first lesbian paperback novels and sold an incredible 1.5 million copies when it first appeared in 1952. The story ends sadly for Mitch and Leda (as these stories often did), but lesbian pulp fiction provided one of the very few sources of lesbian representation (both positive and negative) in popular culture until the rise of LGBTQ+ rights movements at the end of the 1960s.

Sources

Davis, Kenneth C. Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America. Houghton Mifflin, 1984.

Keller, Y. (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.

Rabinowitz, Paula. American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street. Princeton University Press, 2014.

Lesbian Pulp Fiction