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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: nancy garden

“Every burned book enlightens the world.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden

Published in 1982, Annie On My Mind was an anomaly in children’s literature. With few children’s and teen books addressing homosexuality, the story of Liza and Annie, of course, encountered many opponents, due to its “alternative lifestyle” plotline.

Number 48 on the ALA Most Challenged Book list, the narrative addresses two teen lesbians, as well as the social repercussions of such a relationship.

The book is never gratuitous, and portrays the couple tenderly, but still comes under fire. Literally. In 1993, Kansas City witnessed a public burning of the novel. The following year, ironically, brought a public performance of the novel in another Kansas town.

The author notes in an interview with The School Library Journal the covers of the novel (the most recent pictured above) reflect the shifting attitude towards homosexuality in teen literature. Now, with Rainbow Boys, Keeping You a Secret and other titles commonplace in the TeenLit aisle, Annie On My Mind still remains a staple.

The cover situation has been incredible. I take those three covers and a couple of others sometimes when I talk to kids about Annie because I think that the changes in the cover designs also reflect the changes in attitude toward homosexuality over the years…. The very first cover [illustration], which was never actually used, shows Annie and Liza on the Esplanade in Brooklyn, overlooking the harbor. Annie is wearing a dark cloak—maybe black—her back is, as I remember, to the camera. Liza is standing some distance away from her and it really looks as if Annie is going to swoop down on Liza—almost like a vampire attacking. I took one look at that and said to Margaret Ferguson, my editor, “We can’t have that [cover],” and Margaret, thank goodness, agreed.

So then came the one on the ferry—the [1982] painting with all the orange. I think the heads are too big and I never liked the color. I like the picture on the back—the continuation of the picture on the front. I like the woman sitting on the bench—it’s a nice painting. But the kids aren’t looking at each other. They aren’t relating to each other. Then in the next one [in 1984], the cover on the first paperback, showing the kids at the Cloisters, Annie looks so much older than Liza that it looks like a teacher-student relationship. Liza has her chin in her hand, looking up at Annie, and that’s another gay stereotype—you know, the teacher-student/older-younger kind of thing. Then finally came the wonderful cover [in 1992] showing the two girls really relating to each other equally.

It is far easier to point out the opposition of the book, rather than the exact number of how many readers it helped cope with recognizing their sexuality in a positive light. The fact remains, however, Garden’s book helped put lesbian and gay relationships in the mainstream literature for youth.

Related Reading

Author interview with School Library Journal

Bri Meets Books – LGBT and Alternative Families Books for Teens and Children

After Ellen.com on Annie On My Mind