People all over the world were
heartbroken to hear of Nancy Garden’s death in June. The Golden
Crown Literary Society (GCLS) was only weeks from presenting her an
award for her beloved 1982 novel Annie On My Mind. Thousands
upon thousands of kids worldwide found understanding of themselves or
others by reading the classic young adult romance between two teenage
girls. Annie made a difference in adult lives too. I fell in love
with the book in my forties; what a comfort it would have been to
read it at age 15!
Nancy grew up in New England and New
York. She worked in publishing and wrote ten books before Annie,
thirty-five in all. Her lifelong partner, Sandra Scott, survives her.
Nancy has been honored by numerous awards. According to her website,
Annie On My Mind was banned by the Kansas City school system
in 1993 and burned in demonstrations. Courageous students brought a
First Amendment lawsuit in 1995 and won two years later. Not to be
deterred, Nancy began yet another career and became an avid speaker
on First Amendment rights.
Members of GCLS were slightly comforted
that she knew ahead of time about her award and her work continues to
be celebrated, and by lesbians. In her speech of thanks, she wrote
about the impact on her of Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel The Well of
Loneliness. She said, “[ The Well ] ends with an impassioned plea
for justice and understanding. That plea made me vow, at 16 or so, to
write a book one day for and about my people that told the truth
about who we are –and ended happily.”
That was my early story too; I found
the same ambition and inspiration from Hall’s book. I had the
opportunity to work with Nancy’s GCLS acceptance speech, inserting
her handwritten edits. There is no way to express how moved I was to
be trusted with the task, to handle her words. What an incredible
honor, experience and sad pleasure.
There were no Nancy Garden books when I
was 16, but “Annie” has been around for other lesbians for 30
plus years. I wondered what readers might say about the book today
and thought I’d let them speak for themselves here. Their Twitter
comments over the past few years attest to the amazing longevity and
power of Nancy Garden’s enchanting and enlighten storytelling.
>This is so dumb but i found a copy
of Annie On My Mind at the library in seventh grade and was
horrifascinated by the cover & stole it.
>I see why this book has been so
frequently challenged & I adore it all the more!
>Did you discover Annie On My
Mind as a teen at the public library, like me? Were you scared to
check it out, but did anyway?
>the reaction of Liza's friends, of
her family, or her teachers, of her school to the character being gay
...Garden made it so real, and I couldn't help but cry at how unjust
it was. Because even though this is a piece of fiction, it has
actually happened to so many people. It was awful, but Garden
captured that cruelty and misjudgment perfectly.
>Author Katherine Applegate, winner
of the Newbery Medal: "Free to a Good Mind": Left banned
book Annie On My Mind in an airport luggage cart.
>Annie on my Mind was the
second LGBTQ book I read & hid under my mattress.
>Author Karin Kallmaker: It's World
Book Day! I recommend a banned book - read something dangerous! Annie
on My Mind by Nancy Garden comes to mind. Lots of really
narrow-minded people have tried for decades to make sure you can't
read it. Screw 'em! Read it!
>I so loved selling Annie on My
Mind when I worked at a bookstore.
>Nancy Garden's Annie On My Mind
is One of the Most Important #LGBT Teen Novels Ever Written.
>I read tht buk wn I ws 12- It gave
a realty to something I was feeln.
>Author Lesléa Newman tweeted:
Paying homage to Nancy Garden by re-reading Annie On My Mind.
It's so good! No wonder it's a classic.
>Went to check-out Annie on my
Mind in celebration of a long lived life. All 3 copies were out
and I'm 7th hold. Love it!
>Writer Robin Talley tweeted: Annie
on My Mind, the groundbreaking YA lesbian romance novel published
in 1982 that made it possible for me to write the books I do.
>annie on my mind é tão
Last, a reader tweeted: Annie on My
Mind saved a part of my soul.
Thank you, Nancy Garden.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, Rafferty
Street, concludes her epic
Morton River Valley trilogy. You can reach Lynch at
Copyright 2014 Lee Lynch.