Tereska Torrès

Tereska Torrès was born on September 3, 1923 in Paris, France. In 1940, she fled from invading Nazi German forces during World War II, joining other French refugees in England. Drawing on her wartime experiences, Torrès wrote a fictionalized account of her service in London in a book titled, “Women’s Barracks.” Torrès, who married the American writer Meyer Levin, encouraged Torrès to translate her work from French to English so that it would be acquired by Gold Medal, expanding her audience. After being published in 1950, Torrès sold over four million copies in the United States. Based on the taboo lesbian affairs she had experienced in the London barracks, Torrès offered a narrative of women’s sexual experiences few writers had dared to explore, much less publish. In 1952, the United States House Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials denounced “Women’s Barracks”, claiming that it promoted moral degeneracy. Though the book was banned in several states, Torrès’ bravery paved the way for other writers to embark on the new genre known as Lesbian Pulp and open lines of communication to discuss the complexity behind sexuality. Following her death in September of 2012, The New York Times reported Torrès memory of the scandal as a function of sexual provincialism. “I thought I had written a very innocent book,” she said. “I thought, these Americans, they are easily shocked.”

Archival material on Torrès is preserved in the Meyer Levin Papers, Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center, Boston Univeristy, Boston MA.