15 Lesbian Pulp Fiction Novels You Can Judge by the Covers

I know we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers. But it’s really hard not to when the covers are from 1950s and ’60s lesbian pulp fiction.

These cheaply printed little novels have a pretty fascinating history: they were aimed at a largely male readership (though queer women were able to access them, too!) before the sexual revolution of the 1960s loosened up America’s ideas about sexuality. The authors  were usually men, but some queer female authors, including Ann Bannon and Patricia Highsmith, published, too. And the women on the covers buck the norm of the times with their sexual freedom and pursuits of pleasures and relationships outside of heterosexuality — while still being mostly if not exclusively white, femme-presenting, able-bodied, and cis, with a side of butch- and transphobia.

But while in the pages the ladies may enjoy each other in scandalous ways, the books typically end with everyone straight, dead or institutionalized. Sometimes all three!

That aside? The titles are ridiculously great, the blurbs are pure poetry, and the covers are hilarious. Many came from original oil paintings, and seem to be more about setting the tone of the books than about anything to do with the actual content. Which means they could be about anything.

To that end, here are 15 such novels, with their covers reinterpreted for the modern era.

1. Queer Patterns

“A delicate theme, treated honestly and candidly.”

Plaid is the fabric of our lives, and this extremely important history book tells the story of how it came to be.

2. Gutter Star

“She was a Hollywood star, but her home was the gutter.”

Who among us?

Look, it’s expensive to live in Hollywood, and everyone is a star. Plus, this place is practically the Ritz – did you see the bedroom has a door that closes? I doubt they’re even roommates, she can probably afford that place on her own. Ugh. Rent. Why.

3. Her Private Hell

“LESBIAN LOVE: Can a hunger so strong be so wrong?”

That’s the door to the kitchen and she knows she left an amazing vegan wrap with tempeh bacon and avocado in the fridge but doesn’t want to pull her dress back on because it’s been A Day and can’t she just lie down? But she can’t go out there naked because her roommate is home he’s been acting weird and now it’s just easier to lean against her reflection? Been there.

4. Return to Lesbos

“The finest in adult reading.”

Traveling with your girlfriend, especially internationally, can be rough. This guide explains to how much sleep to get to fight off jet lag and to be sure to drink a lot of water because Lesbos is in Greece and it’s warm there! As you can see, one of their suitcases got lost and they have to share the meager pieces of clothing they do have and they’re totally doing fine, it’s not weird at all, they love it, no this wasn’t a mistake, are we really on this island for another six days oh god.

5. Dyke Farm

“A hired hand, a courting beau, and two women who would take on one of them… or each other”

After a long day working on the lesbian farm, a lady just wants to roll around in various soft pieces of fabric and with her pal, okay?! God. It’s hard enough to grow lesbians from seeds, they take so much water (so thirsty!) and you have to keep talking to them, like, constantly, or they don’t process and grow properly.

Also, on this farm, unless you’re pulling a lesbian fully formed from the dirt, you’re never allowed to have your hands below your head, sorry, them’s the rules. Hands high, dykes in the dirt, can’t lose.

6. My Mother Was A Lesbian

“An actual-factual story told as it is by the person who lived through it. Plus other case histories.”

Pretty sure the word they’re looking for is “Mommi.”

7. Gay Girl

“Eve was so beautiful and open to love – but she chose to seek satisfaction inside her own sex.”

A guide to all things Cool Lesbian You Want To Talk To At The Party But She’s So Aloof And Beautiful That Making Eye Contact Might Make Your Stomach Explode Out Of Your Toes.

Never happened to you before? Just me? Okay!

8. The Path Between

“The bizarre world of the outcast sex — women who seek their pleasures with other women!”

This is about the path between your house and your girlfriend’s house, and deciding if you have enough food in your fridge for dinner or if you’re really going to need to go back to her place to grab those crackers and that cheese.

“It’s just on my counter, I know exactly where the box is.”

“Uh, can you run there? I don’t have shoes on.”

“You’re wearing a dress though! I’m not even wearing a shirt!”

“UGH… fine.”

9. Labor of Love

“Even as the statue took on shape and texture… so did a relationship she never dreamed possible”

HELLO. IS IT ME YOU’RE LOOKING FOR? ‘Cause I wonder where you are, and I wonder what you do. Are you somewhere feeling lonely? Or is someone loving you? Also I’m pretty sure this is where the movie “Ghost” got its pottery scene, so enjoy some Unchained Melody while you read.

10. Don’t Ever Love Me

“She was Lovable, Kissable… and Killable”

Cover of my memoir.

11. Three Women

“An intimate picture of women in love… with each other!”

One of Hannah’s girlfriends just found out about her Tinder account and she is Not. Pleased. Hannah realizes she left her phone open on the table and is just about to launch into the pros and cons of polyamory, but will try taking off her shirt as a distraction first.

12. Carla

To the world – a ‘les’
To her lovers – ‘Butch’
To herself – ‘Tramp’

This is a self-help book all about knowing yourself, and also making other people call you by names that you are picking out for yourself. If you want to say you’re a tramp, great. If you want your lovers to call you Butch, go for it. The world may say you are one thing, but you are the one who defines you.

13. Odd Girl Out

“A shocking confession of love – as shocking and honest – as SPRING FIRE”

One can only make the shocking confession of love of this caliber within the Lady Cave of Mother Nature herself.

14. Satan Was A Lesbian

“Adults only”

A hot take on the creation story of lesbians, but it’s nice to see a genderfluid presentation of a lesbian on the cover – you can have facial hair and still be a lesbian! Also, this is big if true, because if Satan really was a lesbian, the Adam and Eve story would make a LOT more sense. Who gives up supposed utopia for an apple? Please. Satan was a total babe and Eve was like, “Adam we need to talk.”

15. Lesbian Gym

“The story of a virgin who was seduced into the wrong kind of loving!”

She asked if you could spot her; you said you spotted her the moment she walked in.

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Molly Priddy

Molly Priddy is a writer and editor in Northwest Montana. Follow her on Twitter: @mollypriddy

Molly has written 50 articles for us.


  1. I read a lot of modern lesbian romance and it’s sad that the cover art today isn’t as good as it was back in the 1950s and 60s.

  2. Also, where were all these temptress lesbians when I was younger?

    Wow could I have figured things out a lot earlier….

  3. #9 is literally the plot to every lesbian romance ever written.
    #12 same
    #15 is not my local Y. Obviously I would dump the Y for a lesbian gym in a heartbeat.

  4. “Also, on this farm, unless you’re pulling a lesbian fully formed from the dirt, you’re never allowed to have your hands below your head, sorry, them’s the rules. Hands high, dykes in the dirt, can’t lose.”

    “She asked if you could spot her; you said you spotted her the moment she walked in.”

    ? I literally laughed out loud – well done! This article was a great way to start my morning.

    I also now want to read some modern satirical/subversive lesbian-pulp-style stories. This genre seems ripe playful deconstruction. Anyone know of something like this?


    Jokes aside tho, Odd Girl Out wasn’t that pulpy, it was pretty good!

    • Agreed! Odd Girl Out is probably my favorite out of the few pulp fiction books I’ve read.

  6. i’d like to curate a gallery space devoted entirely to these original paintings and run a monthly book group out of it.

    • Seriously though, where are these original oil paintings kept now? And how can I get one for my living room?

  7. Return to Lesbos by Ann Toward (ann-to-ward, untoward). What a name. Shame the others didn’t follow her punning example.
    Or maybe it’s her real name and I’m being awful, in which case sorry Ann.

  8. Everything here is genius, but this part of the blurb for “Dyke Farm” was especially inspired, OMG!!!

    “It’s hard enough to grow lesbians from seeds, they take so much water (so thirsty!) and you have to keep talking to them, like, constantly, or they don’t process and grow properly.”

  9. “Hands high, dykes in the dirt, can’t lose” well thank you for my new mantra I’m saying this to myself every morning when I stretch and I also would like to know how to get a job on the dyke farm

  10. This article is awesome. Also I’d like to read modern queer fiction. Any recommendations?

    • if you can’t see a topic that covers what you’re looking for, I’m always taking new questions to answer in the “Ask Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbrarian” column. You can message me here or email at stepaniukcasey [at] gmail.com.

  11. Great article! Thanks for highlight this fantastic and fascinating genre. I have a very good collection of these novels including a few my March Hastings, “Spring Fire” by Vin Packer. But my best acquisition is a recent one: “The Price of Salt” by Claire Morgan, AKA, Patrician Highsmith. I can barely read them because the pages are so delicate, but the covers are incredible.

    • That’s fantastic that you have original pulps! Reprints are as close as I’ve gotten. The type of paper they mass produced them with makes it even more amazing that any copies managed to survive to present-day :O

  12. LOVED your annotations! xD If anyone out there wants a great book on pulp fiction, I highly recommend Jaye Zimet’s “Strange Sisters: The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction, 1949-1969” (it also has a foreword by Ann Bannon!)! The only thing that would make that book better is if all of the covers had Molly’s awesome blurbs to go along with them.

  13. Male objectification of lesbians and bisexual women have been around for a while, I see. At least ‘lesbian’ porn nowadays doesn’t end with all the women dying? (I think?)

  14. Does anyone know if any of these covers are available as prints? I want so badly to put a few of these on my wall. Someone needs to make a poster with all these covers stat.

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