Inspired by the Banned Books Blog Party, hosted by Hannah Givens.
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
I don’t recall how I found this book, but I do remember where I was when I finished reading the final page. I was sitting under a tree at college and there was snow on the ground. I had devoured that book in the span of a day, and as I sat there, with it clenched in my hands, I pressed it against my face and wept. Here was the affirmation I had long sought, and for the moments I spent in its pages, I felt alive and, most importantly, like I mattered. It’s a short and simple story of two girls falling in love during the last year of high school.
Annie and Liza gave me hope. Ms Widmer and Ms. Stevenson gave me courage.
“If you you two remember nothing else from all this,” Ms. Widmer said, “remember that. Please. Don’t—don’t punish yourselves for people’s ignorant reactions to what we all are.”
“Don’t let ignorance win,” said Ms. Stevenson. “Let love.”
Those words resonated within me. For years after, I’d come to this book and read it again and again. To walk with those characters as Annie and Liza met and fell in love. To see the ignorance and hate that threatened them and their two teachers, and most of all to reread the words of Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson. “Don’t let ignorance win. Let love.”
They gave me the courage to stand on my own two feet and live out those words. To let love win and to fight against the ignorance. To take away its power, to shed light upon it, so that the hatred can be seen for what it is—hate and not love. I had fought so hard to try to deny my sexuality and deny my gender identity, to try to live as others wanted me to be, but in doing so, I let ignorance win and it was killing me. This book gave me the courage to come out about my sexuality, and it gave me the courage to allow myself to be okay with my confusion about gender. And in allowing that, I was more receptive and more open to exploring gender. I wouldn’t have taken those steps if I hadn’t had this book at my side as a constant source of encouragement. And once I’d taken those steps, the people who affirmed my sexuality, who let me question my gender identity, started to appear. Love began to win out over the ignorance.
This book also gave me something else that I hold dear to my heart, even today. I spent a lot of my adult life wondering if I was defective, if I’d ever be loved or worthy of love. When those thoughts hit me, I would go to this book, to read yet again Annie and Liza journey. To hear of Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson’s lives, and be reminded yet again, that it is possible. Someday I will find someone like Annie or Liza. Someone who will see me as I am, and love me as I am. Where we will stand up against the world and let love win not hate and ignorance.
Annie on my Mind saved my life a thousand times over, and so, to see it on the banned book list breaks my heart a bit. For all the LGBTQ kids out there, these stories are solely needed, and this book is for them. To remind them that no matter how vicious the hate may seem, no matter how strong the ignorance, love does exist, and we can let it win. We just have to hold up our love and light the way, so that they may know they are not alone. They are not alone.
We all stand with you, even in your darkest hours. So thank you, Liza and Annie, Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson. Thank you for lighting my way through one of the darkest eras of my life.
Reblogged this on Things Matter and commented:
Exactly why people try to ban books, and exactly why they never should.
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Ironically, the things that lit my way were Star Trek and Doctor Who, which I was allowed to watch, and which contained no LGBT+ characters. So booyah, banners… Or something. Thank you for this post!
You’re welcome! I did love Star Trek and Doctor Who growing up, though I’ve only really ever watched the movies or whatever rerun they’d show late at night on Iowa Public Television. We really had only three channels for much of my childhood. I don’t think we got cable/satellite until I was in high school. And then once I went off to college, I never had cable again. Ha! I think that’s why I clung so tightly to certain books.
As an after thought, I really wish I had known about Babylon 5 when it first came out in the late 90s, because it had queer characters! Probably would have loved it.
We had PBS for Doctor Who and some kind of mail order subscription to Star Trek VHS tapes! I didn’t understand the concept of queerness for a long time, but long before that I’d internalized their messages of acceptance, especially from Trek. It tickles me to no end that Star Trek was parentally sanctioned viewing material but I learned such dastardly things from it. 😉
I’ve been meaning to watch Babylon 5 for ages, but I didn’t even know there were queer characters! I tend to associate queerness and books like Annie on My Mind (although I never read that specific one) with the late teenage years, so it’s a different mindset for me, but Babylon 5’s always looked cool from the outside…
That is awesome. We got all our movies from the library. Oh and a giant armful of books I could barely carry too. Such a book nerd I was… and still am.
Definitely watch Babylon 5 when you have the chance! It has one of the best writing I’ve ever seen in a television show. That writer had a backdoor for all the characters, and tied up plot holes extremely well. It’s all tight, succinct, and quite fascinating. I’d say probably one of the best SF out there — though Doctor Who will probably stay as number one in my heart.
Yes, same. 😀
Hey! Just stopping by to pin your post and tweet a link to it. I’m doing that today for everyone who joined in Hannah’s blog party this week. Thanks for this post! I’m not familiar with Annie on My Mind, so now I have a new book for my reading list 🙂
Thank you greatly! I wrote up something for Speak too for her party. I hope to do one more post before the week is done, but we’ll see.
Greatly appreciate the pin! Thanks. Yeah, Annie on my Mind is a young adult book, short but great!
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