Ann Weldy, better known by her pen name ANN BANNON, born on this date, 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”. 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 at the New York Theater Workshop. 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”, and it has been said that her books “rest on the bookshelf of nearly every even faintly literate Lesbian”
Ann Bannon retired from teaching and college administration at California State University, Sacramento, in 1997, but tours the country visiting paperback-collecting conventions and speaking at colleges and universities about her writings and experiences. She was a guest of National Public Radio’s Peabody Award-winning talk show “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross, and has also been featured in Gross’s book, All I Did Was Ask, a collection of transcripts from the show. Bannon 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.