20 LGBTQIA+ stories with upbeat endings

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11. The Price of Salt/Carol

When they weren’t busy working themselves into a panic over communists, Senator Joseph McCarthy and others were also anxious about the so-called “lavender scare.” Supposedly, gay people working for the government were a security risk, being susceptible to blackmail by communist agents.

Of course, that doesn’t mean mid-century America wasn’t a hotbed of homophobia. In 1950, Republican National Chairman Guy George Gabrielson referred to “sexual perverts who have infiltrated our government in recent years” being “perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists.”

Fiction was hardly kinder to LGBTQIA+ people. If they weren’t being featured as cardboard villains, queer figures were doomed to unrequited love and tragic endings. Much of the fiction featuring lesbian characters had the additional drawback of a voyeuristic male gaze. Even women writing within the deeply closeted subgenre of lesbian pulp fiction often felt pressured by editors and readers to conform to the downbeat tropes described above.

That didn’t stop Patricia Highsmith, however. Highsmith, who was as talented as she was irritable and uncompromising, set out to write a story that didn’t turn away from the rampant homophobia of the 1950s. It also offered a hopeful, even happy ending. Thus, she wrote The Price of Salt (also published as Carol), published in 1952. It was eventually adapted into a pretty fantastic film in 2016, too.


Even Highsmith wasn’t willing to publish her novel under her own name, though. She had already established herself as a successful thriller writer with Strangers on A Train (1950). She’d gain even more acclaim with the publication of The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1955. She published The Price of Salt as “Claire Morgan” in an attempt to bring her work to the public without compromising her literary career.

The Price of Salt follows Therese Belivet, an aspiring theater set designer who takes a holiday job in an NYC department store. While working the counter in the toy section, she crosses paths with a mesmerizing older woman. That woman, Carol, is buying a doll for her young daughter. Though this strongly implies that Carol is married and likely heterosexual (or at least trying to appear so), Therese can’t help herself. She strikes up a relationship with Carol that grows increasingly intense and romantic.

It turns out that Carol is married — kind of. She’s getting a divorce, but her husband Harge thinks Carol is leaving for more than one reason. He grows suspicious when he meets Therese and has the burgeoning couple followed. Carol and Therese both are in for some serious trials, but, without giving too much away, they have a chance at a practically revolutionary happy ending.