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Cameron Esparza
Cameron Esparza

The Legacy and Influence of Annie on My Mind - How Nancy Garden's Lesbian Novel Shaped LGBT Literature and Culture


Nancy Garden's Annie on My Mind: A Classic Lesbian Romance Novel




Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a lesbian teenager in the 1980s? Have you ever felt a connection with someone that transcended social norms and expectations? Have you ever read a book that made you cry, laugh, and think at the same time? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might want to check out Annie on My Mind, a groundbreaking novel by Nancy Garden that tells the story of two girls who fall in love in New York City.




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Introduction




Annie on My Mind is a young adult novel that was first published in 1982 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It is one of the first books to portray a lesbian relationship between two teenage girls in a positive and realistic way. The book follows Liza Winthrop, a senior at a prestigious private school, who meets Annie Kenyon, a singer at a public school, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The two girls develop a friendship that soon blossoms into romance, but they also have to deal with the pressures and prejudices of their families, friends, schools, and society.


The author of Annie on My Mind is Nancy Garden, who was born in 1938 in Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up loving books and writing stories, and she studied English literature at Columbia University. She worked as a teacher, editor, librarian, and journalist before becoming a full-time writer. She wrote over 35 books for children and young adults, many of them featuring LGBT characters and themes. She was also an active member of several organizations that advocated for LGBT rights and education.


Annie on My Mind was a landmark book in LGBT literature and history. It was one of the first books to show that lesbian love was not a disease or a sin, but a natural and beautiful expression of human emotion. It was also one of the first books to challenge the stereotypes and stigma that surrounded LGBT people at that time. It gave hope and courage to many LGBT readers who felt alone and misunderstood, and it opened the minds and hearts of many non-LGBT readers who learned to empathize and respect diversity. The book also sparked a lot of controversy and debate, as it faced censorship and criticism from conservative groups who tried to ban it from schools and libraries.


Summary of the Plot




The book begins with a prologue that shows Liza, now a freshman at MIT, receiving a package from Annie, who is studying music at Berkeley. The package contains a gold necklace with a pendant that says "Liza + Annie", and a note that says "Remember". Liza then recalls the events that led to their separation.


The story then flashes back to the previous year, when Liza and Annie met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Liza was there with her schoolmates for a class project, and Annie was there with her choir for a performance. They bumped into each other at the Egyptian wing, and they felt an instant attraction. They decided to spend the day together, exploring the museum and the city. They exchanged phone numbers and agreed to see each other again.


Liza and Annie soon became inseparable, spending every free moment together. They went to movies, concerts, parks, and restaurants. They shared their dreams, fears, hopes, and secrets. They also discovered their physical and emotional attraction for each other, and they kissed for the first time at the Statue of Liberty. They realized that they were in love, and they decided to be girlfriends.


However, their relationship was not without problems. Liza felt conflicted about her sexuality, as she had always assumed that she was straight and that she would marry a man someday. She also worried about how her parents, who were conservative and religious, would react if they found out. Annie was more comfortable with her sexuality, as she had known that she was gay since she was 12. She also had a more supportive family, as her parents were divorced and her mother was more liberal and understanding.


Liza and Annie also faced difficulties at school. Liza attended Foster Academy, a prestigious private school that had high expectations and strict rules for its students. She was a star student and a leader of several clubs and activities. She had a close friend named Sally, who was also her roommate at the school dormitory. She also had a boyfriend named Brad, who was handsome and popular, but whom she did not love. Annie attended Washington Irving High School, a public school that had a diverse and lively student body. She was a talented singer and a member of several musical groups. She had many friends who were supportive and fun-loving.


Their worlds collided when Liza invited Annie to Foster Academy for a school dance. Annie impressed everyone with her charm and talent, but she also attracted the attention of Ms. Stevenson, the principal of Foster Academy. Ms. Stevenson was a strict and homophobic woman who disapproved of Liza and Annie's relationship. She confronted them in the bathroom and accused them of being immoral and unnatural. She threatened to expel Liza from the school and to ruin her future.


Liza and Annie were shocked and scared by Ms. Stevenson's words, but they did not give up on their love. They decided to run away together for a weekend, hoping to escape from their troubles and to enjoy their time together. They went to Annie's grandmother's house in upstate New York, where they found peace and happiness. They made love for the first time in front of the fireplace, and they exchanged necklaces as symbols of their commitment.


However, their bliss was short-lived, as they were discovered by Ms. Stevenson, who had followed them to the house. She barged into the house with two policemen, who arrested Liza and Annie for trespassing and vandalism. They were taken back to New York City, where they faced the wrath of their parents and schools.


Liza's parents were furious and disappointed by Liza's actions. They refused to listen to Liza's explanations or feelings, and they sent her to a psychiatrist who tried to "cure" her of her homosexuality. They also forbade her from seeing or contacting Annie ever again. Annie's mother was more sympathetic and supportive of Annie's situation, but she also felt helpless and worried about Annie's future.


Liza was expelled from Foster Academy, while Annie was suspended from Washington Irving High School. They both lost their friends and reputations, as they became targets of gossip and ridicule. They also lost contact with each other, as their phones were taken away by their parents.


Analysis of the Characters




The main characters of Annie on My Mind are Liza Winthrop and Annie Kenyon, two teenage girls who fall in love with each other. They are both complex and realistic characters who have their own strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears.


Liza Winthrop is a smart, ambitious, and responsible girl who attends Foster Academy, a prestigious private school. She is a star student who excels in math and science, and she dreams of becoming an architect. She is also a leader of several clubs and activities, such as the student council and the yearbook committee. She is loyal to her friends and respectful to her teachers. She has a boyfriend named Brad, who is handsome and popular, but whom she does not love.


Liza is also a conflicted and insecure girl who struggles with her sexuality and identity. She has always assumed that she was straight and that she would marry a man someday. She has never questioned the norms and expectations of her conservative and religious family and society. She feels guilty and confused about her feelings for Annie, and she wonders if she is normal or sick. She is afraid of losing her parents' love and approval, and she is terrified of being rejected by her school and peers.


Annie Kenyon is a talented, creative, and adventurous girl who attends Washington Irving High School, a public school. She is a gifted singer who loves music and art, and she dreams of becoming a professional performer. She is also a member of several musical groups, such as the choir and the band. She has many friends who are supportive and fun-loving. She lives with her mother, who is divorced and liberal, in a small apartment.


Annie is also a confident and courageous girl who embraces her sexuality and identity. She has known that she was gay since she was 12 years old, and she has accepted herself as she is. She does not care about the stereotypes and stigma that surround LGBT people at that time. She feels proud and happy about her love for Liza, and she wants to share it with the world. She is not afraid of standing up for herself and her rights, and she is willing to fight for her happiness.


The secondary characters of Annie on My Mind are also important for the development of the plot and the themes. They include:



  • Foster: Liza's beloved dog who accompanies her everywhere. He symbolizes Liza's innocence and loyalty.



  • Sally: Liza's best friend and roommate at Foster Academy. She is a kind and supportive friend who tries to help Liza with her problems.



  • Brad: Liza's boyfriend at Foster Academy. He is a handsome and popular boy who likes Liza but does not understand her.



  • Ms. Stevenson: The principal of Foster Academy. She is a strict and homophobic woman who disapproves of Liza and Annie's relationship.



  • Liza's parents: Liza's conservative and religious parents who love Liza but do not accept her sexuality.



  • Annie's mother: Annie's liberal and understanding mother who supports Annie's sexuality.



  • Annie's grandmother: Annie's deceased grandmother who left Annie her house in upstate New York.



Themes and Symbols




Annie on My Mind explores various themes and symbols that relate to the experiences and challenges of LGBT people in a heteronormative and homophobic society. Some of the main themes and symbols are:


- ### Love - Love is the central theme of the book, as it shows the development and depth of Liza and Annie's relationship. The book portrays love as a natural and beautiful emotion that transcends gender, class, and social norms. The book also shows that love is not a disease or a sin, but a source of happiness and strength for LGBT people. The book challenges the stereotypes and stigma that surround LGBT love, and celebrates its diversity and validity. - Love is also symbolized by various objects and places in the book, such as: - The gold necklaces with pendants that say "Liza + Annie", which Liza and Annie exchange as tokens of their commitment. They wear them as reminders of their love, even when they are separated. - The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Liza and Annie meet for the first time and spend their first day together. The museum represents their shared interest in art and culture, as well as their curiosity and wonder about the world. - The Statue of Liberty, where Liza and Annie kiss for the first time. The statue represents their freedom and courage to express their love, as well as their hope for a better future. - ### Identity - Identity is another important theme of the book, as it shows the struggles and growth of Liza and Annie as they discover and accept their sexuality. The book portrays identity as a complex and dynamic concept that is influenced by various factors such as family, friends, school, society, and self. The book also shows that identity is not a fixed or predetermined label, but a personal and evolving choice that requires honesty and courage. - Identity is also symbolized by various objects and places in the book, such as: - The unicorn tapestry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which Liza admires for its beauty and mystery. The unicorn represents Liza's innocence and purity, as well as her naivety and confusion about her sexuality. It also represents her uniqueness and rarity, as well as her vulnerability and danger in a hostile world. - The story of Plato's Symposium, which Liza reads for her school project. The story tells how humans were originally pairs of people joined back to back, until they were split by Zeus. The story represents Liza's quest for her other half, who turns out to be Annie. It also represents her belief that love is not limited by gender or convention, but by spiritual connection. - The house of Annie's grandmother in upstate New York, where Liza and Annie run away for a weekend. The house represents their escape from their troubles and their exploration of their identity. It also represents their connection to their past and their heritage, as well as their potential for their future. - ### Acceptance - Acceptance is another crucial theme of the book, as it shows the challenges and opportunities that Liza and Annie face as they seek acceptance from themselves and others. The book portrays acceptance as a vital and difficult process that involves understanding, respect, empathy, and support. The book also shows that acceptance is not a one-time or universal event, but a continuous and diverse journey that requires patience and perseverance. - Acceptance is also symbolized by various objects and places in the book, such as: - The psychiatrist's office where Liza's parents send her to "cure" her of her homosexuality. The office represents the lack of acceptance that Liza faces from her parents and society, who view her sexuality as a problem or an illness. It also represents the harm and damage that such rejection can cause to LGBT people's mental health and well-being. - The airport where Liza and Annie reunite after nine months of separation. The airport represents the acceptance that Liza and Annie find in each other, who embrace their love despite everything that happened. It also represents the acceptance that they find in themselves, who overcome their fears and doubts about their sexuality. Reception and Controversy




Annie on My Mind received both acclaim and criticism for its portrayal of lesbian love. The book was praised by critics and readers for its honesty, sensitivity, and realism. The book also received several awards and honors, such as:


- The Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2003 from the American Library Association, recognizing the book's lifetime contribution to young adult literature. - The Lee Lynch Classic Award in 2014 from the Golden Crown Literary Society, recognizing the book's importance and influence in lesbian literature. - The Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom in 2001 from the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science, recognizing the book's defense of free expression and diversity. However, the book also faced censorship and backlash from conservative groups and individuals who tried to ban it from schools and libraries. The book was challenged and removed for various reasons, such as:


- Being inappropriate for young readers because of its sexual content and language. - Being immoral and unnatural because of its homosexual theme and message. - Being harmful and dangerous because of its potential to influence or confuse young readers about their sexuality. The most notorious case of censorship occurred in 1993 in Kansas City, Missouri, when a local minister publicly burned a copy of the book along with other books that he deemed offensive. He also led a campaign to remove the book from school libraries, claiming that it violated state law and moral standards. The book was eventually reinstated after a First Amendment lawsuit filed by students in 1995.


Nancy Garden responded to the controversy and defended her work by saying:



"I wrote it to give solace to young gay people, to let them know they were not alone, that they could be happy and well adjusted and also to let heterosexual kids know that we gay people aren't monsters."


She also said:



"I think books can be very important for young people who are trying to find out who they are."


Legacy and Influence




Annie on My Mind has left a lasting legacy and influence on LGBT literature and culture. The book has inspired and influenced many other LGBT authors and books, such as:


- David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy (2003), a young adult novel that depicts a utopian world where homosexuality is accepted and celebrated. - Malinda Lo's Ash (2009), a young adult novel that retells the fairy tale of Cinderella with a lesbian twist. - Nina LaCour's Everything Leads to You (2014), a young adult novel that follows a lesbian film set designer who falls in love with a mysterious girl. - Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (2015), a young adult novel that follows a gay boy who is blackmailed by his classmate over his online romance with another boy. The book has also resonated and empowered many LGBT readers and activists over the years, who have found solace and courage in Liza and Annie's story. The book has been praised for its realistic and positive portrayal of LGBT people and their struggles and joys. The book has also contributed to the visibility and representation of LGBT people in literature and media, as well as to the awareness and acceptance of LGBT issues and rights.


The book has also been adapted into other forms of media, such as:


- A musical theater production by Joan Sorkin and Janice Lowe in 1997, which premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival. - A radio drama by Sarah Daniels in 2000, which aired on BBC Radio 4. Conclusion




In conclusion, Annie on My Mind is a classic lesbian romance novel that tells the story of two girls who fall in love in New York City. The book explores various themes and symbols that relate to the experiences and challenges of LGBT people in a heteronormative and homophobic society. The book also shows the impact and importance of LGBT literature and history, as it has inspired and influenced many other authors and books, as well as resonated and empowered many readers and activists. The book also shows the relevance and meaning of LGBT love, as it portrays it as a natural and beautiful emotion that transcends gender, class, and social norms.


Annie on My Mind is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates a good love story, regardless of their sexual orientation or identity. It is a book that can also educate and enlighten anyone who wants to learn more about LGBT people and their lives, struggles, and joys. It is a book that can also inspire and encourage anyone who wants to follow their heart and be themselves, no matter what the world thinks or says.


If you are interested in reading Annie on My Mind, you can access and enjoy it in different formats, such as:


- A paperback edition that you can buy online or at your local bookstore. - An ebook edition that you can download to your device or read online. - An audiobook edition that you can listen to on your phone or computer. - A epub download that you can find on various websites or platforms. Whatever format you choose, I hope you will enjoy reading Annie on My Mind as much as I did writing this article about it.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about Annie on My Mind and their answers:


- Q: When was Annie on My Mind first published? - A: Annie on My Mind was first published in 1982 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. - Q: Who is the author of Annie on My Mind? - A: The author of Annie o


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