”Have you ever felt really close to someone? So close that you can’t understand why you and the other person have two separate bodies, two separate skins?”
Oh my! This book hit me with so many different feels I didn’t even understand what was happening to me. I mean I knew ”Annie on My Mind” is an f/f romance and that it wasn’t only banned from school libraries but also publicly burned at some point. I knew this book was published about 36 years ago and that Nancy Garden is a lesbian. I knew all this and it intrigued me enough to give the book a decent shot.
What I certainly didn’t know, was how deeply this book would actually touch me. T_T
There is something honest about Garden’s writing style, some truth that’s in her words and wants to be heard. There is love in her writing, true love, the kind of love you only find once in a lifetime. And there is a rare ability to capture ordinary moments and to make them special somehow.
Annie held my hand, stroking it softly. “Don’t talk,” she said. “I won’t let you float away. You can’t go far with me holding on to you. I’ll keep you here, love, shh.”
I think what surprised me the most, was how relatable this story was. I mean this is a book that’s been published 36 years ago, yet there still were so many moments my head and my heart could relate to. I found myself in some of those lines and I also found other people I know, which is probably the reason why Nancy Garden wrote the book in the first place. She wanted us to identify with her characters and to understand them better and if you ask me she did a more than just decent job! ;-)
”There’s no need for us to pretend to be other people any more, ever again, is there, Liza?” Annie said softly. My eyes stung suddenly, and Annie touched the bottom lids with her finger, asking, “Why tears?”
I kissed her finger. “Because I’m happy,” I said. “Because your saying that right now makes me happier than almost anything else could. No – there’s no need to pretend.”
Liza and Annie. *sighs* Those two girls! They broke my heart. I loved them both and I could understand their fear to be discovered, their need to hide who they truly were, how they felt about each other. Was it horrible how their love was discovered? Boy, you bet your behind it was! But I think in some way it was also good. I mean it helped them to find themselves and what they wanted to be.
”We didn’t really talk much about being gay; most of the time we just talked about ourselves. We were what seemed important then, not some label.”
”She put her hand on mine, barely touching it. “It’s all right with me,” she whispered, “if it is with you.”
“I – I don’t know,” I said.
It was like a war inside me; I couldn’t even recognize all the sides. There was one that said, “No, this is wrong; you know it’s wrong and bad and sinful,” and there was another that said, “Nothing has ever felt so right and natural and true and good,” and another that said it was happening too fast, and another that just wanted to stop thinking altogether and fling my arms around Annie and hold her forever. There were other sides, too, but I couldn’t sort them out.
Jeez! Liza’s struggle felt so real and relatable!!! How often did I use the word “relatable” already? Must have been at least three times by now, but it’s true! Damn! This book! See, I can’t even write a decent review because I understand the main characters way too well. Nancy Garden might be no Oscar Wilde or Shakespeare but damn does she know how to convey her characters feelings! *lol* Which automatically brings me to the next topic! More than 30 years and teens and people all over the world still struggle with the same problems Liza and Annie had to face! Of course there changed a lot by now and our society is more open minded, to come out to your family and friends is still quite an issue though.
”What struck me the most, though, was that in that 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.”
Liza I feel you!!! This passage! I couldn’t agree more! Love, it’s all about love and no label, no lifestyle, it’s
a choice!!! You don’t choose to be gay! You are! It’s natural and normal, it’s who you are and how you feel and it’s not something that needs to be cured, it's nothing to be ashamed of! Did I already mention that I hated Mrs. Poindexter? I hated her with a fierce passion! This woman!! Her and Ms. Baxter! And Sally for that matter! They were all so wrong! There were moments I was so angry I had to put down the book in order to resist the temptation to throw it against a wall. XD
”But I have no choice, and someday you may even thank me. I sincerely hope so, not because I want thanks, but because I want to think that you will be – be healed, regain your moral sense, whatever is necessary to set you right again.”
”Gay,” Sally said softly. “Oh, Liza, what a sad word! What a terribly sad word. Ms. Baxter said that to me and she’s right. Even with drugs and liquor and other problems like that, most of the words are more honestly negative – stoned, drunk out of one’s mind …”
ARGH! All those prejudices! I can’t even! Makes me angry all over again. I hated how they all reacted to Liza’s and Annie’s relationship and I’m sure in some parts of the world, for some people it’s still the same. Even after 30 years, after all the sex education, after everything that happened, some people out there still have to face the same – excuse my crude language – bullshit! I mean just take Austria, my country. Is it accepted to be a part of the LGBTQ community? Yes, it is. It is allowed to marry? Yes, it is. Are people staring at you when you’re a girl and hold a girls hand and it’s obvious you’re in a relationship? Yes, they do! So for all the official and legal rights, people still frown upon LGBTQ relationships. I guess it’s because most of them still think like Liza’s father:
”Oh, look,” he said, “what difference does it make if a couple of teachers at Foster are lesbians? Those two are damn good teachers and good people, too, as far as I know. Ms. Widmer especially – look at the poems Chad’s written this year, look at how good Liza suddenly got in English. The hell with anything else. I don’t care about their private lives, about anyone’s, at least I …” He picked up his drink again and took a long swallow. “Liza, damn it, I always thought I was – well, okay about things like homosexuality. But now when I find out that my own daughter might be …”
It’s tolerated as long as it are the others, but god forbid it might be your own daughter or son who’s gay. I guess in many ways Austria is still a very conservative country and even though we just recently celebrated the pride parade (for the 23rd time I may add) there’s still a lot of work to be done. I guess if you consider other countries we’re doing pretty well though. Let’s just hope things will get even better in the future! =) There’s always hope, right?
”It’s not a problem,” I said. “It’s not negative. Don’t you know that it’s love you’re talking about? You’re talking about how I feel about another human being and how she feels about me, not about some kind of disease you have to save us from.”
This was so well said and I couldn’t agree more! Liza nailed it! I think I could go on and on about people’s rights but I’ll stop right here before it gets out of hand. *lol* You know me, I feel strongly about those things and I have an opinion about everything. ;-P Anyway, before I end this review I have to point out two important characters that have become my personal heroes: Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer! <333 They were AMAZING!!! I loved how they supported Annie and Liza and I think they are angels for trying to be there for them. Despite everything that happened they didn’t even hesitate to defend them and tried to help them as best as they could. The world needs more teachers like them and less teachers like Mrs. Poindexter and Ms. Baxter!
All told I can really recommend “Annie on My Mind” and I hope many people will read it and will not only be touched by it but also will find themselves between the pages of this special book! =) To say it with Ms. Stevenson’s words:
“Don’t let ignorance win,” said Ms. Stevenson. “Let love.”