Inspired by the Banned Books Blog Party, hosted by Hannah Givens.
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.