"Don’t let ignorance win. Let love…" or Annie on My Mind

An open letter to the gay community:

Dear Gay Community:

I love Annie on My Mind. I hope that’s OK with you guys. I don’t know how possessive you are over this book. Like is it OK with you that I’m straight* but I still really like it? I kind of feel like the white guy trying to break in to Hip-Hop, and God knows I sure don’t want to be Eminem. So please let me know if I’m encroaching on your territory.

Also, I bought this book when I was seventeen, but I hid it because I didn’t want anyone to think I was gay. And I really am sorry for that. Clearly I didn’t learn the very valuable lesson that was offered at the end of the book.

Yours in Solidarity,

Good book, this one. Told from the POV of Liza Winthrop, a high school senior whose ambition is to be an architecht. Liza is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on day when she runs in to a girl named Annie. They get to talking and the two become fast friends, and their friendship grows quickly, nearly to the point of exclusivity.

They go to different schools; Liza to a preppy private school in financial dire straights in Brooklyn Heights, and Annie at a failing public school in Manhattan. Liza, who is not popular but somehow got voted Senior Class President, gets in trouble at school over some ridiculous ear-piercing scandal. The school’s principal is extremely conservative, you see. Liza actually gets suspended for a few days….days which Liza spends with Annie at her school.

Things start to heat up and Liza has to confront her feelings for her best friend. Annie admits to being gay, a label which Liza is hesitant to use. As she thinks it over, she knows that she is. And she knows that she is in love with Annie.

Liza gets a job feeding the cats for two of her out of town teachers, Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson, who are…ahem….roommates. Yeah. But nobody knows anything, except that they are roommates. But even I, reading this at seventeen, knew what the real deal was. Well, finally after seeing some gay-related books, Liza and Annie figure it out. And they use that as an excuse to say it’s OK to use Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson’s house to have the sex.

BUT then they get caught by a fellow student and the principal from Liza’s school. (Liza missed a council meeting, and they came over to look for her). The principal is outraged, the fellow student is disgusted and then they both figure out that the two teachers are actually a lesbian couple.

Liza has to go before a disciplinary hearing, which is fucking ridiculous because she didn’t do anything wrong on school grounds. She gets off, and can return to school and the Presidency of the Student Council. The two teachers do get fired though 😡 But also, the principal gets fired because the Board of Trustees believes she over-reacted in this case, and in a few disciplinary cases in years prior. It’s pretty sad, because Liza and Annie know they’re responsible for the teachers getting fired, and they go over to Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson’s house to apologize. And the two teachers are so fucking nice about it. They say “Don’t punish yourselves for people’s ignorant reactions to what we all are.”

Then Liza goes off to MIT and Annie goes off to Berkeley.

  • Totally a sweet book about a first love. Gay or not, it’s just sweet.
  • It does kind of seem out-dated now though. It was published in 1982, which was before five (is it five now?) states recognized gay marriage, before Ellen hit the airwaves, before the LOGO network, before all colleges had GLBT clubs, etc. So yeah, it’s pretty impossible now to think that teachers, even at a private school (which was non-parochial) would get fired for being lesbians. Or am I living in la-la land, and it is still that bad?
  • Here is how you know Liza and Annie are in love: They make each other a better, more complete person. Annie opens Liza’s eyes to the world outside her somewhat sheltered life and Liza helps Annie gain self-confidence.
  • OK, and the dialog is really pretty cheesy. Annie and Liza still role play (not like that you pervs). More like pretending they are kinghts or whatever in medieval times, which is totally unbelievable and a little weird too. At least when the March sisters did it, it was the 1860’s and what the hell else were they going to do?
  • Totally jealous of Liza and Annie for growing up in New York. The author really did a good job of incorporating the city into the story, almost making New York another character. And yeah, when I read this when I was 17, the fact that they lived in NEW YORK was a lot more interesting and exotic to me than the fact that they were lesbians. And it still is! And they were more sophisticated than Stacey McGill….so put that in your pipe and smoke it, Ann M. Martin.
  • I feel like my blog has been suffering a dire lack of snark recently. I will have to fix that with my next book. When I’m starting with my #1 favorite of all time BSC book…..drumroll……Logan Likes Mary Anne! W00T!!!! Um….also the thing that’s sitting on top of my Netflix queue waiting to be recapped. I just need to watch one more episode of Freaks & Geeks OR get around to watching In Bruges before I get it.
  • Um also, something new in the sidebar. The Cunt Log. In all its glory. —->

*Unless Sarah Silverman ever approaches me. Because I’d totally switch teams for her. Bow-chicka-bow-bow.


About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Angst, gay, Nancy Garden, teen sex. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to "Don’t let ignorance win. Let love…" or Annie on My Mind

  1. Angel says:

    Aw, I loved this book. I went through a phase where I loved books about gay/lesbian teenagers, even though I wasn’t a lesbian. Go figure.Also, I’m in college now, but in the 4th grade I had a teacher that all the kids absolutely adored but who got fired midway through the year when the administration found out that he was a homosexual. A bunch of the parents were outraged that a gay man would dare to interact with their children, which was just ludicrous — he was a great guy, and a damn good teacher. I went to a really conservative Catholic school in the south, but still — this was only a little more than ten years ago. Life is sad sometimes.

  2. Sadako says:

    I loved this book, too! Oh, the memories! I don't remember it that well (been a while) but I did adore it.And I love F&G. And in Bruges.Hehe, snark is always good, and I remember loving Logan Likes Mary Anne. Famous cities skirt! Tigger! Alan Grey as Little Orphan Annie!

  3. Taren says:

    I’ve never read this one. I’ve seen it in the list of most frequently challenged books, but for some reason I thought it was about teenage pregnancy! It sounds like a typical early 80’s teenage romance, just with no boys. If you like this you’d probably like Just Friends by Norma Klein. It’s about a girl who’s in love with her best guy friend, but she and her best girl friend used to fool around years before.

  4. Sadako says:

    Taren, that one is awesome. I remember reading it a long time ago but I liked it. Norma Klein was just all around great, though.There was another book called Annie’s Baby about a pregnant teenager, written in diary form. It was supposed to be a real diary, written by the same woman who did Go Ask Alice–is that what you’re thinking of maybe?

  5. nikki says:

    I read a lot of Norma Klein too, Taren. I remember Just Friends. I just picked one up at the used book store, but am blanking on the title at the moment. (17 YO boy bangs his 22 YO neighbor is the basic plot….)

  6. Alexis says:

    How weird that Just Friends came up here, since I remembered only yesterday that I had read it at all and added it to my Goodreads list. I eagerly await your recap of Logan Likes Mary Anee and the secret thing on your Netflix list.I also wonder about the two teachers getting fired in this book. I’ve lived my whole life in NYC. My aunt lived in Alphabet City and used to babysit me a lot when I was a toddler. She had a lot of gay friends we were always visiting and hanging out with. But private schools can do whatever they want with regard to the teachers, so I can imagine that in 1982 they would have been fired. Maybe it would have been different if they were at public schools, and part of the union. Hard to say. I’ve had gay teachers but I also went to the Fame high school.

  7. nikki says:

    Alexis–you went to the Fame highschool??!?!? And you grew up along side the likes of Stacey McGills??!?!?! Totally jealous of your upbringing….My guidance counselor in high school was gay and got fired. But that had more to do with propositioning an undercover cop at a rest stop than him actually being gay.

  8. LiLu says:

    Is it bad that I never read this book but I kinda (read: REALLY) want to go find it now? And I don’t care who knows! We’re here! We’re… oh, wait. I’m straight too. Well, crap.

  9. I also loved reading Norma Klein as a teen- and I sooo want to read this book now- oh great movie about teenage lesbian love- ” 2 girls in love”- seriously it’s an awesome movie about a rich black girl and poor white girl who fall in love.

  10. Missy says:

    Nikki: I read this book; I loved it; and I am not gay. :)These types of stories are a refreshing change from what I normally read…so, that being said, I do manage to put more than a few on my nightstand. Now I want to re-read some of Norma Klein’s books from my youth…you’ve inspired me.Have a great weekend!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Just started reading your blog a couple of weeks ago, it’s very funny! I loved the last bit of your letter, and this is a great review of the book. I haven’t read it but I’ll have to now!

  12. Pingback: Good things happen in threes | Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki

  13. Sara says:

    I adore this book because it was the first gay lit I ever read, and I was beyond pleased that Annie and Liza got their happily ever after even with several bumps in the road. I HATED Ms. Poindexter, though, and applauded when she got let go at the end, and Mrs. Baxter being weepy and emotional over the whole thing and using that to manipulate people really pissed me off.

  14. GET ME THIS BOOK. Please, because my library doesn’t have it, and I’m running low on Amazon cash. Seriously, how can a fourteen year old get ahold of this book? And how did you find it, man?

    • nikkihb says:

      I’d send it to you, but I don’t have it anymore. I don’t think it’s in print, but when I bought it at a used book store, there were a few copies there!

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