Originally published in 1950, this account of life among female Free French soldiers in a London barracks during World War II sold four million copies in the United States alone, and many more millions worldwide. Women's Barracks is based on the real-life experiences of the author, Tereska Torres, who escaped from occupied France, arrived as a refugee in London, and joined other exiled Frenchwomen enlisting in Charles DeGaulle’s army, then stationed in Britain awaiting an invasion of their homeland by Allied forces.
But Women’s Barracks is no ordinary war story. The grim setting of an urban military barracks—with its freezing dorms, rationed food, and unbecoming regulation underwear—became the setting for one of the steamiest novels of its time. Leaving “normal” civilian life behind, the women enter an all-female realm, where passionate attachments soon form—between older experienced women and young innocents, between butch officer types and their femmes subordinates. And for those with more traditional leanings, there was a city full of soldiers to be had—sometimes two or three at a time.
Despite a tone that is frank rather than lurid, Women’s Barracks was banned for obscenity in several states. It was also denounced by the House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials in 1952 as an example of how the paperback industry was “promoting moral degeneracy”; not one of the committee members could even bring himself to read the offending passages aloud for the Congressional record. But the novel became a record-breaking bestseller, and inspired a whole new genre: lesbian pulp.
Tereska Torres (1920 - 2012, NYT obituary) is the author of Women's Barracks, which is widely considered to be the first lesbian pulp novel, and has sold over four million copies.
"This special edition of Women's Barracks makes possible a rich new cultural discussion. Many of the themes of our present-day queer and feminist debates are here—the body, desire, questions of innocence and engagement with the world. As a lesbian historian, as a citizen of a war-torn world, simply as a reader, I found this 1950 novel, considered obscene in its own time, moving, arousing, and deeply interesting."
"Tereska Torres's story speaks in powerful counterpoint to 1950s contemporaries like Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, and James Jones about sexuality, providing a much-needed woman's point of view on contentious matters. It's also a great read."
"Women's Barracks stands not only as a classic in our literary heritage, but as a fascinating view of the intensity and resilience of the lesbian spirit."