• Public and Private
  • Barbara Grier
  • Pulp Paperbacks
  • Poets & Artists
  • Harry Hay
  • Periodicals
  • Personal Into the Political
  • Gay Games

Cover of
Kay Addams
Warped Desire
New York: Beacon, 1952
Following World War II, inexpensive paperback novels began flooding American newsstands and drugstore racks. Many of these books were sensational, not written for literary audiences, but others were well written. Many dealt with lesbian and male homosexuality. The writers—male, female, straight, gay—often used pseudonyms, and their actual readership diverged from the intended audience. With provocative titles, sexually explicit covers, lurid descriptions, and frequently tragic endings, these pulp paperbacks might be viewed as stereotypic, negative, and exploitative. However, they are probably the largest body of overtly gay writings of the time, providing information and encouragement to thousands of isolated homosexuals across the country, at least until the late 1960s, when the gay liberation movement made overt what had formerly existed underground.

These books, printed on cheap paper and disposable, were instead saved and collected by many readers. Barbara Grier’s collection became an early cornerstone of the Hormel Center's collection and has been supplemented with other fragile volumes given by a wide variety of donors. Many of the Hormel Center’s pulp paperbacks have been featured in exhibitions at the library, including: Strange Sisters: The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction and Lost on Twilight Road: The Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps. The center has also hosted public programs featuring original pulp authors Victor J. Banis and Ann Bannon, historians Susan Stryker and Michael Bronski, and artists such as F. Allen Sawyer and his Hot Pants Homo Players, who re-imagine pulps in a new context. These fanciful and subversive artifacts offer a window into an important aspect of LGBT history.

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