Ann Bannon in 1955, black and white headshotAnn Weldy (born September 15, 1932), better known by her pen name Ann Bannon, is an American author who, from 1957 to 1962, wrote six lesbian pulp fiction novels 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".[2] Tereska Torres is named by literary scholar Yvonne Keller as one of a small group of writers whose work formed the subgenre of "pro-lesbian" pulp fiction; others include Ann Bannon, Sloane Britain, Paula Christian, Joan Ellis, March Hastings, Marjorie Lee, Della Martin, Rea Michaels, Claire Morgan, Vin Packer, Randy Salem, Artemis Smith, Valerie Taylor, and Shirley Verel.

Ann Bannon was born Ann Weldy in Joliet, Illinois, in 1932. She was the only child of her mother's first marriage.[5] Her mother married again and had a son with her second husband.[5] Her mother married a third time and had four more sons.[5] Bannon 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. She took comfort in a vibrant imaginary life during this time and found solace in writing.[1] Growing up, she was surrounded by music, particularly jazz, as her family hosted small recitals for friends and neighbors. One became a character in her books: a perennial bachelor named Jack who slung jokes and witticisms at the audiences.[6]

At the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign she belonged to Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority[7] where she befriended a beautiful older sorority sister, "the prettiest I had ever seen", quite popular with men and with women. Bannon 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.[8] 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."[9] Another sorority sister was physically remarkable, very tall—almost 6 feet (1.8 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.[6][8] In 1954, she graduated with a degree in French and soon married an engineer thirteen years older whose job made them relocate frequently.[1][5] 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,[10] 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."[11] 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."[9] In 1956, after having sent her first manuscript to Marijane Meaker (Packer's real name), Meaker invited her to New York to discuss the manuscript with Meaker's editor at Gold Medal Books; Bannon said her husband "only let [her] go because [she'd] discovered that there was a women’s hotel called the Barbizon.” [5]

by Robert Giard

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 eponymous 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. Her books shaped lesbian identity for lesbians and heterosexuals alike, but Bannon was mostly unaware of their impact. She stopped writing in 1962. Later, she 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; she was stunned to learn of their influence on society. They were released again between 2001 and 2003 and were adapted as an award-winning Off-Broadway production. They are taught in women's and LGBT studies courses, and Bannon has received 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",[3] and it has been said that her books "rest on the bookshelf of nearly every even faintly literate Lesbian".[4]

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