Review: Annie on my Mind

Nancy Garden’s Annie on my Mind was a revolutionary book, and to this day remains a foundational work in YA gay and lesbian literature. Up to the time this book was published (1982) all books featuring a main character who was homosexual ended in that character’s death, or the death of their loved one and their ensuing depression and solace. This book changed all that – it gave the picture of two people who were scared of but willing to embrace their sexuality, and was one of the first books where the book ends happily for gay characters, although not all of them. But this, for me, wasn’t what made the book so phenomenal. It was the characters themselves, and the message the book taught about a love that transcends gender, religion, politics and judgment.

Liza meets Annie one day at a museum and immediately has a crush on her, although she doesn’t give that word to her feelings. But she can’t wait to be around, see, or talk to Annie, and before two long the two girls realize that the love they share goes beyond just friendship, and the two begin dating. They keep their love a secret from everyone, until one week when Liza and Annie are house-sitting for two teachers who work at Liza’s school and the two are discovered in a rather compromising situation. Making it even more complicated is the fact that the two teachers the girls are house-sitting for are also lesbians, and  that the girls are discovered by a third teacher, who is highly vengeful and homophobic. Liza and Annie are outed, and Liza is forced to face a disciplinary hearing as to whether or not she will be allowed to remain at her private school. Throughout the book Liza struggles with her feelings for Annie, knowing them to be true in her heart, but allowing so much of what society says to enter her head and cloud her reasoning. By the end of the book, though, this situation has changed and both girls find security and comfort in their love for one another. It’s a hopeful book, a beautiful book, and I’m so, so glad I read it.

The thing that surprised me most about the book was the supporting nature of most of the adults in the book. Annie’s family is accepting of her sexuality, and after a bit of a struggle, Liza’s family comes to be as well (Liza’s disapproval came largely from her mother). Even at the disciplinary hearing, other than the headmaster and the teacher who discovered Annie and Liza, all of the adults in the room realize how ludicrious it is to attempt to expel a smart and hardworking student based solely on her sexuality. It was refreshing to see two young lovers (gender aside) who were supported and defended in their love, and it provided a powerful model for the way things could be if everyone would just lay aside their hate and try to embrace their love – pure love, love without “ifs” and conditions.

This is a powerful book, especially if you have the feelings about homosexuality that I have. Some of the best friends I have in the entire world are gay, and their sexual orientation is no more an issue than the color of their eyes. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a choice, a sin, a sickness or deserving of religious or political persecution. I know these things to be untrue to the very core of my bones. There are many that would disagree with me, and I invite those people to do so. But, for me, love is love. Love is kindness and understanding and comfort and strength and protection and has nothing to do with what’s between a person’s legs. If you agree, or if you’re looking to see what a love like this looks like, please read Annie on my Mind. Even if you don’t, please read it anyway. Happy reading!

BookMaven

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