Name of Book: Annie on My Mind
Author: Nancy Garden
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Audience: Age 14 up
Summary: In November of her senior year in high school, 17-year-old Liza meets Annie Kenyon in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though their worlds are full of contrasts – Liza goes to a private school, while Annie attends a terrible public high school; Liza is from a fairly wealthy family, and Annie’s parents and immigrant grandmother live in a shabby neighborhood – the girls become good friends and then lovers. The realization of her homosexuality shakes Liza to her core and causes severe repercussions in her family and school as well.
Literary elements at work in the story: Annie on My Mind is a series of letters that Liza begins to write to her friend Annie and then discards as she tries to process the relationship they had before both went off to college. Interspersed is Liza’s first-person narrative of their seven-month love affair and the subsequent calamity that befalls them when others find out about their relationship. The reader sees the whole story through the eyes of Liza, as she struggles to understand and then accept who she is and rejoice in her love for Annie.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Now nearly thirty years old, this novel portrays the prejudice that surrounds the topic of homosexuality in our culture. Some details are quite dated – smoking is more acceptable, high school seniors can legally buy wine, etc. – but the underlying theme of the power of love stands the test of time. Much is made of the rigid, small-minded moral code of Liza’s private high school, although it is not clear that the general population of the time was any more open in their dealings with gay teens.
Theological conversation partners: This novel would be a good book to use with teens in discussions of what it means to grow into the people whom God created us to be. It might also be instructive to look at the scripture passages used as weapons by one of Liza’s friends against her [Lev. 18:22, Romans 1:26] as a way of exploring the historical injunctions against homosexuality in the Bible. Juxtaposing that scene with the Pharisees’ use of the law against Jesus (particularly Matt 22:35-40) might give rise to interesting discussions about what place social, civil, and moral laws have in our lives.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What issues of trust were broken during the time that Annie and Liza were using the teachers’ home as a place to meet?
- How were the teachers, Ms. Widmer and Ms. Stevenson, influential at FosterAcademy?
- How did Liza’s friend Sally use scripture when Liza tried to explain her relationship with Annie?
- How was this use of scripture similar to/different than the way the Pharisees used it when Jesus healed on the Sabbath in John 5:5-16?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Beth Lyon-Suhring.
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 9 - 12 (Ages 14-17), Faith Questions For...., High School Students, Realistic Fiction, Young Adults Tagged: | high school, homosexuality, identity, love, Scripture, trust