“I went downstairs to Dad’s encyclopedia and looked up HOMOSEXUALITY, but that didn’t tell me much about any of the things I felt. What struck me most, though, was that, in the whole long article, the word “love” wasn’t used even once. That made me mad; it was as if whoever wrote the article didn’t know that gay people actually love each other. The encyclopedia writers ought to talk to me, I thought as I went back to bed; I could tell them something about love.”
I’m not really good at book reviews so I opted to make it into “Book Thoughts” because I usually just say what I think about a book in a concise and short manner. But before going on about Annie On My Mind, I just want to tell a little background story:
Since discovering and embracing my sexuality, I decided to consume more LGBT stuff, something that will give me knowledge about being LGBT and to remind me and show me that what I am is not abnormal and to see more and good representation, a proof that we don’t have to hide anymore, that we are and can be free. So, I started on LGBT+ literature.
I love reading books ever since I was young but looking back, I haven’t read a single book that solely focuses on being LGBT+. I realized I have always been so immersed in heterosexual stories since that had been always the default and that’s what I’d always seen in bookstores (reading gay fanfic was a whole different story).
I discovered Annie On My Mind when I was reading a list of the best LGBT+ books. It was published in 1982 and it became one of the first lesbian stories that have a happy ending. What first drew me to it was its 1992 edition cover that was preferred by the author. There’s something intimate and raw about it.
Then there’s this description that made me curious too:
This groundbreaking book is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. The book has been banned from many school libraries and publicly burned in Kansas City.
Yep, there’s the banning and public book burning (you can read about it here.) but what really stood out to me was the part that they promised to be true to each other no matter what. Which sounds cliche, I know, but there’s really something about ‘against-all-odds’ LGBT+ couples for me.
I feel dejected though when I discovered this book was not available in my country, the Philippines. I could try asking my parents who live abroad to buy me this book but I wasn’t out to them yet at that time and I knew they will question me a lot if I did. It was months later when I was browsing a website named SulitBooks that I came across this book. I was ecstatic since the person selling this book, second hand was only selling it for 100 php! This person also became my constant seller of LGBT books, I think I purchased almost all her books. Too bad SulitBooks is not available anymore.
Anyway, on to my thoughts about Annie On My Mind.
I got this edition of the book which also looks so sweet:
Even before reading the whole novel, my breath was already taken away when I read the author’s dedication page.
It was like my heart was caressed by a warm loving hand, saying hey, it’s okay. Being you is okay. You are not alone. We are all out there.
Annie on My Mind is about the love story of Liza, a student body president who wants to go to MIT someday to study architecture and Annie, a dreamer who wants to be a singer; two 17-year-old girls who meet in the MET and get into different shenanigans and become close friends. It isn’t long before they realize they are falling in love. Liza, at first was in denial but of course, the heart gets what it wants.
There are honesty and rawness in the portrayal of their love story. From their first kiss and the realization and declaration of their love to the parts where their feelings for each other have gotten deeper and as they explore their sexuality, the moments are just so deeply moving and true.
Liza and Annie are also wonderful and beautiful characters. They have their own dreams, insecurities, and fears that makes them so real.
There are also two important characters in this story who became a big part of Annie and Liza’s lives: Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer. I don’t want to be too spoiler-y but these two opened the minds of Annie and Liza, especially Liza when their relationship was discovered and were being judged harshly, that what they have are special and that they should hold on to each other despite everything becoming awful.
Homophobia and intolerance were also explored in this book, when the girls were outed in an ugly way, which was the big reason why the characters’ lives have been shaken to the core, so beware since it might bring bad memories to you. This also points to some of the characters who just made my blood boil.
But it’s still a sweet, hopeful, happy ending.
Not gonna lie, but I cried when I finished this book (even now when I scanned through my favorite parts). These two girls deeply touched me with their love for each other.
I just cannot express how important this book is especially to the younger ones in our community who are struggling about their sexuality.
That’s why it made me so mad when this book was burned in the 90’s. There was nothing immoral in this, there was just love between two girls so sweet and pure and it angered me that those people who were against it wanted to erase and destroy it just because of it being gay.
But just what Ms. Stevenson said:
And so Annie On My Mind lives on and is still available today, inspiring every baby gays and gays out there.
There are a lot of quotes/messages from the book that will always stay with me aside from what was mentioned above and I want to share some of them with you all:
Reading the book, I wonder how much of Nancy Garden’s life bled through it. Just a snippet about the author: Nancy Garden is a lesbian author who also wrote other lesbian stories aside from Annie On My Mind. It was just too sad to discover that when I read Annie On My Mind, she was already dead for 2 years because of a heart attack. She left her partner of 45 years, Sandy and their two cats, and a dog named Loki.
That’s why I feel so lucky I got the version of the book where there is a section of an interview with her. I got to peek into her life as a young lesbian in the 50’s and as a lesbian author. I wish I could have written her a letter/email to tell her how much she became an inspiration and how her legacy of love and acceptance will live on.
If you want to buy a copy of the book at a cheap price, you can get ‘Annie On My Mind’ in the following online stores:
For local (Philippine residence):
Try asking Fully Booked. They can get it for you but it might be too expensive (especially if they don’t have it in their stores). I tried it when I asked for another LGBT+ book “The Lies My Girlfriend Told Me” by Julie Ann Peters (appropriate read back then because of an ex) but I need to pay around 1k+ php since they have to order it abroad.