So with the recent bullshit in Indiana and honestly because I just read it for the first time this week I think it’s time we dust out the primer lesbian YA Nancy Garden’s Annie On My Mind.
One of the things that made Annie on My Mind such a groundbreaking novel was that it portrayed a lesbian relationship with a happy ending. Up until then, we’re talking early 80’s here, the AIDS epidemic was just starting in the USA, the majority of books that featured homosexual characters had those characters basically punished for their affliction. Even if they were sympathetic portrayals, fiction didn’t hold happy endings for queers. While Annie and Liza (the narrator) face hardships surrounding their love, (as do other queer characters) in they end they all prevail.
“Bad things can always be overcome.” Ms. Widmer tells the girls and it’s true. As long as Annie and Liza turn to each other for support the reader knows they can be happy.
One of my favorite aspects of the story is that it reads like it could be set today. The moral are a little outdated for New York but it’s easy to imagine these girls in Indianan or Kansas, and that’s also the tragic part. This book is now a classic and we still haven’t progressed to the point where homosexuals are even legally equal let alone fully accepted in society. Which is also why we need books like this.
Acceptance comes from understanding and books like this are a lesson in empathy because if you’ve ever been in love you recognize the the emotions between the two girls. Garden always maintained that at it’s heart Annie on My Mind was a love story and it is. You root for these characters and you feel good doing it. They have challenges to overcome in order to be together but that is true of every romance novel, that’s actually a defining part of the genre.
It’s also still one of the most challenged books of all time. So the next time you’re trying to figure out what book to buy for the lit loving teen in your life, reach for Annie On My Mind. Remember you don’t need to be queer to enjoy this book you just have to enjoy a sweet romance.