Farrar, Straus & Giroux
YA coming of age novels are my kryptonite. As much as I would not want to go back to those angst riddled years myself, I have no qualms about reading about others going through it. Lesbian coming of age stories are not as easy to come by though, so Annie on my Mind was new to me in that sense.
Liza Winthrop is a high school senior at a small, private school in Brooklyn Heights when she meets fellow teenager Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum or Art. Both girls are visiting the museum on their own and the quickly strike up a friendship. As teenage girls are wont to do, they become close, fast. Liza, the narrator, confuses her feelings for Annie at first as just being friendly, but both girls realize that they have developed romantic, sexual feelings for one another. Annie has suspected before that she was a lesbian, but the concept of being attracted to girls is new for Liza and she is terrified of acting on her feelings.
As the relationship grows between Annie and Liza, their reactions become more raw and believable. I have never been in the situation in which they were faced, but I could completely understand the tug of rope they were playing between what was accepted and expected of them and what their heart’s desired. Eventually, one day, they are caught in a compromising situation and the ramifications of their sexual orientations comes into play.
First off, can I just say, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual—whatever, the “situation” they were caught in made me so embarrassed for them. I think that is a testament to how well the book was written, because I was literally cringing as I read it. I would have been absolutely mortified had it happened to me, and it is not often that I will have such a reaction to a book. It is, after all, fiction and there are countless times where something happens to a character that is shameful or embarrassing. It just doesn’t usually give me the visceral reaction that I had to this particular instance.
The book takes place in the early eighties, so I would hope that the social climate would be more tolerant now. Liza’s school, Foster Academy , takes action against her once they find out about her proclivities, and she is forced to go in front of the school board to defend herself. Yes, I am serious! The “situation” that I mentioned before that was so embarrassing—well, imagine now recounting it in detail before the adults on your school board. I can’t even fathom how Liza was able to hold it together.
The edition of the book I had included a question and answer section with the author in the back. Once I finished the book, I was not surprised that Garden is a lesbian. The portrayal of the blossoming romance and Liza’s realization that she is a lesbian was so tangible to me that I couldn’t imagine that it had not been written by someone who had not gone through it herself. Annie on my Mind mentions a lot of lesbian fiction, none of which I have read, and Garden explained that her purpose in writing the book was so that girls in her situation would have a literary resource to turn to. I think that she accomplished what she set out to do in that aspect.
I was a little worried that the book would be a bit dated, being almost thirty years since it was written, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think Garden did a wonderful job creating a timeless book and I think it is a great book for teenagers of today to read, whether they are questioning their own sexuality or just to show them how imperative tolerance is.
I borrowed this book from my local library.
This book counts towards the GLBT challenge.