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Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Annie on My Mind (1982)

by Nancy Garden

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Of all of her works, Garden is best well known for her YA love story, Annie on My Mind, “The first teen novel with both a young lesbian (or gay) protagonist and a definitely happy ending,” (Annie 252).

The experiences of the characters in today's books about queer adolescents differ dramatically from those in Annie on my Mind (originally published 1982) where the only book to be found at home to speak to the character’s experience was the (woefully inadequate) dictionary! Modern readers may need to take time to understand how the world has changed in the decades since this book came out. The changes in culture that took place since 1982 can be seen not only through literature, but in our laws: sodomy laws were struck down by the US Supreme Court, challenges were made to queer members of the US military, and the right of same-sex couples to marry became recognized in a number of countries worldwide and some US states.

While the stories of lesbians are no longer so secret and invisible, there are still many teens who have experiences similar to Annie and Liza. Despite its age, the story may resonate with anyone who's had a relationship that was challenged by friends and school mates, and forbidden by parents. What’s so outrageous about love and finding one’s place in the world?

First published in 1982, Annie has celebrated more than 25 years in print, an attribute that becomes more rare as the publishing market struggles with slim profit margins. Translated into Chinese, Slovenian, Italian, and Korean, it has been included on several Best lists and won several awards for its quality writing and its subject matter. As controversial as the subject of LGBTQ youth is today, books with queer characters were even more rare in 1982, when Annie was published. Rarer still at the time were books with lesbian characters that had a happy ending. As a teen, when Garden turned to literature to explore the lives and experiences of people that reflected her own attraction to a female classmate, found the material lacking. Reading about gay and lesbian characters who were (exclusively) closeted, institutionalized, turned straight, or who died due to accidents, violence, or suicide, Garden vowed she would “someday write a book about my people with a happy ending,” (Annie 242-243). Garden explained to Kathleen Horning in an interview that the inspiration for the novel came from her “desire to tell the truth about gay people—that we’re not sick or evil; that we can and do fall in love and lead happy, healthy, productive lives (Annie 247).

The greatest challenge to the book came more than a decade after Annie was published. In 1993, after copies were donated to a number of schools in the Kansas City area, the Olathe, Kansas school board decided to remove it from the shelves for its lesbian content. The controversy, which lasted for years, culminated in the book being burned on the steps of the Kansas City School Board building. In response, Garden told interviewer Christine Jenkins, “I kept thinking on the way: Burned! I didn't think people burned books any more. Only Nazis burn books.” With the ACLU, several area families and a teacher sued the school district . . . and won . The federal district court, in Case v. Unified School District No. 233, found that the school had violated the students’s rights under the First Amendment, the Kansas State Constitution, and the school board’s own policies.
( )
  MCHBurke | Jul 7, 2014 |
Surprisingly contemporary for an early 80s novel, especially a YA novel about homosexuality. I wish I could say some I the moralizing and preening in the name of religion some of the antagonists do is anachronistic, but these days it's actually a political platform. Nevertheless, this novel also does a great job of foregrounding many of the challenges adolescents face gaining autonomy over their own bodies (not just sexually). Very well written (save the lack of clarity as to why the girls lose touch)--HIGHLY recommended. ( )
  JWarren42 | Oct 10, 2013 |
From Back Cover: A few months into her freshman year at MIT, Liza Withrop relives in reflective retrospect the past year, when she met and fell in love with Annie Kenyon ... A tender, bittersweet love story." [ALA Booklist].
  rschwed | Oct 5, 2013 |
I loved this book so much, I just couldn't put it down. It really resonated with me. ( )
  alyslinn | May 25, 2013 |
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden is number 42 on the list of the most banned / challenged books and according to the description on the 1992 reissue, it was even burned in Kansas City. For all of that publicity, it's an absolutely charming story of love.

The book opens with Liza in college writing a lengthy letter to Annie. The letter is the segue into a number of flashbacks about how Liza and Annie met. Just as Claudia (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg) finds herself through her adventures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Liza finds Annie.

Although both young ladies are in high school, they like to partake in roll playing and other childish behavior. While it may strike some readers as quaint or unrealistic, it struck a chord with me. My then boyfriend (now husband) once pretended to be Robin Hood to woo me. We were in college at the time — only a year or two removed from Liza and Annie.

As far as the romance goes, it's a pretty tame book. There's one mostly hinted at scene near the end. What is more shocking and saddening (because of its continued timeliness in some parts of the country) is the bigotry Liza faces at her private school.

I read the novel on a BART ride to and from San Francisco. It made an hour and a half round trip journey go by quickly. I plan to check out more of Nancy Garden's novels as I have time. ( )
1 vote pussreboots | May 3, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374400113, Paperback)

This groundbreaking book, first published in 1982, is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings.
Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, "Nancy Garden has the distinction of being the first author for young adults to create a lesbian love story with a positive ending. Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves."
The 25th Anniversary Edition features a full-length interview with the author by Kathleen T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children's Book Center. Ms. Garden answers such revealing questions as how she knew she was gay, why she wrote the book, censorship, and the book's impact on readers - then and now.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:05 -0400)

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Liza tries to put aside her feelings for Annie after the disaster at Foster Academy, but eventually she allows love to triumph over the ignorance of others.

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