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Warren, Patricia Nell (b. 1936)  
 
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Winner of the 1978 Walt Whitman Award for Excellence in Gay Literature, Patricia Nell Warren is the author of successful novels about American gay culture that exemplify post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS, popular adult mainstream fiction.

Warren's well-crafted narratives center on stalwart gay protagonists who must deal with the personal and political ramifications of mid-1970s American society confronting a burgeoning gay liberation movement. Downplaying graphic sex and exoticism in favor of challenging stereotypes and demystifying gay lifestyles, Warren's gay-affirmative novels held appeal for both gay and nongay readers.

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In The Front Runner (1974), Warren explores the often-denied issue of the presence of gays in athletics. Primarily the story of a love that develops between a closeted ex-Marine track coach and an "out" gay college distance runner who has set his sights on participation in the Olympic Games, The Front Runner documents the characters' struggles and victories in the parallel challenges encountered while training for and participating in Olympic competition and building and maintaining a gay partnership.

In addition to calling attention to heterosexist politics dominant in amateur athletics and resistance to intergenerational gay relationships, Warren foreshadows contemporary issues of gay parenting, media "outing," gay marriages, tabloid journalism, and legal battles to attain gay civil rights.

Warren extends her foray into the explication of same-sex love in The Fancy Dancer (1976). Set in Warren's native Montana, The Fancy Dancer charts the complications that arise when a young Catholic priest and a troubled but freewheeling biracial mechanic residing among the priest's parishioners seduce and mentor each other.

By tracing the process of the pair's discovery, acknowledgment, and acceptance of their gayness, Warren is able to address the clash between gay identity and spirituality and the restrictiveness of church dogma and small-town conservatism. Simultaneously, however, she fosters an appreciation for cultural differences and celebrates the diversity of urban and rural gay lifestyles.

An Anita Bryant-like born-again political crusader running on an antigay platform is the strong antagonistic force in The Beauty Queen (1978). In this work, Warren tackles the impact of antigay political rhetoric as well as continues her exploration of religious fervor and the backlash against demands for gay civil rights.

Warren creates a trio of diverse gay characters standing in opposition to the ex-beauty queen turned state senator, including two gay police officers who are her first major lesbian character and first major gay exotic character. Told from four points of view, The Beauty Queen also addresses issues of gay-bashing, gay political activism, discrimination in employment and housing, and the psychological strains of closetedness.

As an independent author, Warren published eight books (five under the pseudonym Patricia Kilina) while working for twenty-two years as a book editor for Reader's Digest. Now a full-time free-lance writer and artist, she contributes to periodicals, and in 1991, published One Is the Sun, a novel about the courage, determination, and spirituality of Native-American and European-immigrant women.

[Warren, who was born in Helena, Montana on June 15, 1936, grew up on her family's ranch. She was educated at Stephens College and at Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart. She was married to George Tarnawsky from 1957 to 1973. She acknowledged her lesbianism soon after publishing The Front Runner in 1974.

An avid sportswoman, Warren's own experience as a long-distance runner and athlete influenced her writing in The Front Runner and about sports generally.

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A portrait of Patricia Nell Warren by Greg Zabilski.
  
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