tiistai 26. kesäkuuta 2012

Nancy Garden: Annie on My Mind

Cover art: Ali Smith
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."

Summer's here and Helsinki Pride is this week. And I can't be there. :( But in honour of the week, here's a short review of a novel that has become a classic in the world of LGBT fiction.

Annie on My Mind is one of the pioneers of LGBT books written for young adults. Originally published as early as 1982, it was one of the first novels about a lesbian relationship written for young adult readers. It was also one of the first books of its kind to portray homosexuality as a permanent, positive part of personal identity - not a phase, a fling or something that can be or should be changed.

It's not very surprising that the book caused some controversy when it was introduced to several high school libraries in the United States. The most famous incident is probably a public burning of the book, organized in Kansas in 1993...

Annie on My Mind was clearly written for a teenage audience. The main characters are two 17-year-old high school girls living in New York. The narrator, Liza, meets and becomes friends with Annie while visiting an art museum on a rainy day. Their close friendship soon develops into a romantic relationship, which is first confusing for both. They know that they have to keep the true nature of their relationship a secret, which causes additional pressure and challenges.

Although Nancy Garden breaks one taboo with the novel (portraying a same-sex relationship as a positive thing), she is careful not to break another: the description of sex in a novel for teen/young adult readers. The physical side of Liza and Annie's relationship is only described very vaguely and basically left to the reader's imagination. Even today, the portrayal of sex in YA books is frowned upon, but we have come a long, long way from Annie, as for instance last year's winner of the Finlandia Junior Prize shows. :)

Annie on My Mind was a bit dated and somehow very... American (the setting, the high school environment, the social classes etc.). The two girls act their age - seventeen - and not always in a good way. They are occasionally childish, melodramatic, irrational and naive. But the fact that they are not perfect heroines probably makes them easier to relate to and identify with, at least for young readers.

Nancy Garden: Annie on My Mind. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2007. 263 pages.

Wikipedia: Annie on My Mind

** So American -haasteen kategoriaan Modern Women Writers (3/5 suoritettu) **

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