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Author Info (Aldrich)

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 3 months ago

Ann Aldrich (Marijane Meaker)


Starting in 1952-?, "Ann Aldrich" wrote a series of 5 very widely distributed non-fiction pb originals providing a supposed insider's scoop on lesbianism in American by  "a member of the sisterhood". While controversial to the gay liberation movement for their stereotyping and negative tone, what is most significant is her contribution: she dared to identify herself to a publisher, and the books got published, were available everywhere, and were the first and only readily available paperbacks on this previously unnamed and unmentionable subject which gave isolated lesbians and women with these longings they couldnt even put a name to, someone to write to and the knowledge that they were not alone despite their isolation across America; there were others like themselves to be found, gathering places in big cities and reciprocated love was a possibility. 


 "Carol in a Thousand Cities" contains reader letters.  This title is taken from a last line in 1952 lesbian novel "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith (pseud Claire Morgan) with whom Meaker had a 3 yr love relationship started in 1959, detailed in Meaker's fascinating tell-all memoir  "Highsmith" (2005).


In 1952-? Meaker wrote "Spring Fire" a very successful lesbian pulp pb for the same publisher, Fawcett Crest Gold Medal. She went on to write suspense, then award winning adolescent literature. 


Add'l bio info, anecdotal or otherwise welcome.... 




Responses to the Ann Aldrich non-fiction series





It is very difficult to imagine how  her contemporaries, lesbians of the time, felt about Aldrich's books. The Daughters of Bilitis reviewed her works in The Ladder, and in her later books, she herself includes letters that were written to her in response to her books, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, for me to know if her books are really as bad as they read now. The DOBs were certainly not happy with them (in fact there was an ongoing fued between them and Aldrich with both sides claiming to have the inside track on how best to represent lesbians to the world). I understand the DOBs desire to show that lesbians can be well adjusted members of society even if I am not a big fan of assimilation. I do not understand where Aldrich was coming from or what she was trying to achieve with her books, unless it was a matter of negative press being better than no press. However, Meaker herself says that her publishers did NOT impose a negative representation of lesbianism upon her, so her sarcastic stereotyping was of her own choice. Additionaly, the books don't seem to be about some kind of internalized homophobia or self-hatred, as it is very clear that, although she says she lives in the world about which she writes, that her books are also not about self-deprecation, as she does not ever identify herself in this world.


A 2nd opinion from another reader: she was openly a "member of the sisterhood" as it says on the back cover of one of this non-fiction series. The books were sensationalizing and hype because that helped them sell and yes they do probably reflect Meaker's own internalized homophobia of the time, playing out in her cynicism and criticisms as did her later, but still a long time ago,  book  "Shockproof Sydney 

Skate"(1972)  where the selfish lesbian mother steals her young tender teenaged son's girlfriend with the story told from the pt of view of the young trying to be accepting, but hurting son.


As an award winning writer of young adult books (most under M. E. Kerr), she has a great feel for the hurts of adolescence but as a lesbian writing about lesbianism, her own internalized scorn for her homosexuality and her own kind  in those times was evident, but also reflective of the time and culture in which she herself came out. Note that the first of the series came out in 1952, so she was out before then even and there was a big difference in lesbians' attitudes towards themselves between even pre-1952 and the DOB stance of the late 1950's, post-McCarthyism. DOB's quest  for assimilation and acceptance (we are well-adjusted) was initiated much later than Aldrich's first book or the years in which Meaker would have been formed by society's attitudes twds her and her struggles with that.  In addition, publishers demanded condemnation of this perverse lifestyle, else the book would be banned from being printed.  If one wants  to understand her perspective on herself from that time , the tone,  publishers demands, etc, someone should probably interview her for she is very candid, accessible, articulate (note her 2005 memoir "Highsmith" on their 3 yr love affair\coupledom) and lives in NY... or perhaps we will be fortunate enough that she will weigh in here herself which would be most illuminating.


What I said above bears repeating: most significant is her contribution. She dared to identify herself and  the books were published and available everywhere, and were the first and only books out there which gave isolated lesbians and women with these longings they couldnt even give a name to, someone to write to and the knowledge that they were not alone; there were others like them to be found and gathering places and reciprocated love was even possible somewhere. 



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