Classic: Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden

Discussion in 'The Written Word' started by Progressive82, Sep 1, 2013.

  1. Progressive82

    Progressive82 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2013
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    0
    I found a thread for this when I visited the site a few months ago, but it doesn't seem to be here anymore. If it is, feel free to point it out to me.

    I tend to think many people frequenting this site will be familiar with the book: it's the love story of Liza Winthrop and Annie Kenyon, two high school seniors, 17 when they meet, from different schools, neighborhoods, and backgrounds, but with a shared love of museums and medieval culture. They meet at a museum, "connect" instantly, and realize before long that they are more than friends. The eventual public exposure of their relationship is humiliating, especially for Liza, whose prep school literally puts her on trial!

    It was reviewed in the AfterEllen book section several years ago; here is the summary from there:

    http://www.afterellen.com/across-the-page-young-adults/09/2007/ (see page 2)

    Another page I like for dissecting literature: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/AnnieOnMyMind?from=Main.AnnieOnMyMind

    I'll probably end up doing several replies to my own thread, to discuss different things about it, but I want to do a few "disclaimers" first.

    One, I'm an English major and a big literature geek; it just comes naturally to me to nit-pick books to death. Ever since I've read this one, I've really wanted to see what other people were saying about it on forums (even thought it also made me feel I should spend less time online, and you'll see in a minute why I say that.)

    Two, I firmly believe that it's normal (and beautiful) for two women to love each other that way. I say that as a "disclaimer" because I have a few things to say about the book that are less-than-positive and I don't want them to be taken as gay-bashing.

    The first thing I'll say is that, given that this is a novel published in 1982 dealing with prejudice, I was expecting to feel grateful to live in a different era when we've made some progress in this era.

    But in fact, the portrayal of teen life in the 1980s is very rose-tinted. Their world (as well as their friendship, even when it's just a friendship), seems beautiful and romantic, with all of their time together in parks in museums, and totally free of technology.

    The girls have practically none of the usual teen problems that we both read about in books and hear about in real life. There is no rivalry with other cliques of teens. Both girls are kind of loners to begin with, but both seem pretty comfortable with who they are overall. They acknowledge they don't fit in at their schools but aren't trying to change themselves to fit in better. There are no rival love interests; there are insecurities to do with the relationship but no fear of each other liking someone else better. Liza is in a field that seems like it would have been nontraditional for a girl then (architecture), and she's totally comfortable with it and never worries that it makes her uncool. Her dad encourages her completely in her career choice. She says she is not part of a clique and doesn't feel close to anyone at her school, but she's elected to Student Council by her peers, so they obviously respect her to begin with. There are no body image issues. Annie's family is poor, and she seems lonely, but she has aspirations to go to college and study music, and that's what she's focused on. She has gotten over her fear of the "bad" kids at her school, and didn't let the roughness of the school scare her into dropping out. There is a mention that some kids do drugs (quite a few at Annie's school), but it's not something teenagers find normal. And everyone isn't diagnosed as clinically depressed and medicated for that.

    Even the homophobes are not bad people. They are more baffled and ignorant, rather than hostile. They few being gay as a handicap or a mental illness that Liza should go to counseling for. That's wrong and ignorant, but it isn't their intention to be hateful. They THINK they are trying to help Liza. Even the teasing she gets doesn't seem that bad, compared to some of the bullying we see today.

    In fact, I came away feeling that I could take the prejudice if I could have the good things in these girls' lives (Liza's especially.)

    Often, in a book like this, one partner starts out really stuff or conformist, and the other one is a free spirit who changes them. Annie does get Liza to loosen up in some ways (they pretend to sword-fight in public) - but rather than go from conformist to not, Liza starts out, as I say, pretty comfortable with not fitting in, and able to stand up to unreasonable rules at her school, but later on actually cares MORE if her peers see her as weird, once the reason is that they know or suspect that she is gay.

    I think, if I had to sum up why I didn't enjoy the book as much as I was hoping, as much as many lesbians and LGBT advocates do, it's precisely BECAUSE I see same-sex relationships in a positive light, and in this book, I didn't see enough of Liza and Annie having positive feelings about the relationship, enjoying each other and being in love. Too much of what we see of them together focuses on the stress and anxiety that their feelings cause them. No sooner do they get enough past that stress to...act on their feelings more physically then they get caught together, and a date is set for Liza's hearing at school. She says "all the old barriers [between Annie and me] were back." Seems like there's hardly any time that we see when those barriers weren't there.
     
    #1
  2. Progressive82

    Progressive82 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2013
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    0
    There is a lot of romance in Liza and Annie's interaction with each other, even before they realize they are more than friends.

    Liza's mother admits to once being a little romantic with a female friend during a sleepover, and then asks, "Have you and Annie done any more than the usual experimenting? Any more than I just told you we did?"

    It's like - so where is the line? There seems to be a suggestion that female friendships are inherently romantic and can easily cross the line.
     
    #2
  3. Progressive82

    Progressive82 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2013
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    0
    There is what we literary types call "a framing device" to the story. As the book opens, Liza is now a college freshman. Annie has been writing to her since they both left for college, but she has not written back. She says she has to go over it again and sort it all out, before she can write back. Thus begins the story as her memories.

    Do you feel that works, or not? How do you feel about the fact that she hasn't spoken to Annie in months at that point? If you ever read advice columns about relationships, when people write letters saying, "He/she (significant other) is somewhere else going to school, etc, and they're not answering my letters," most columnists answer with, "That means they're not that into into anymore - you're not in the relationship anymore."

    The thing for me was, when Liza came back to Foster right after almost being expelled (but not), she stood up to her former friend Sally: "This is love you'e talking about. How I feel about another human being and how she feels about me." And the high school part ended with the teachers' message "Don't let ignorance win. Let love win." That made me feel like Liza was well on her way to "sorting out," I didn't feel like she was undecided about whether she'd continue the relationship. But then, maybe a month or so later, she gets away to college...away from all of her former friends who weren't that accepting, and then she "can't" write to Annie until she sorts it all out...a semester later. I guess I didn't "get" that. I would have liked to know what happened for the month or so that was left of the school year, and how she and Annie left things when they parted for college. It would have made some sense to me for the girls not to see each other for the rest of the year, while still living at home, because their families might have interfered.

    Now, in a story like Annie, you really want them to "ride off into the sunset" at the end...but I thought it was kind of appropriate that they DIDN'T...because they were, after all, still high school students with college to attend. I thought it was pretty wonderful that they didn't allow the relationship to derail their original career dreams, actually.

    If same-sex relationships are normal, part of normal is that relationships can fail to work for reasons other than homophobia. I could imagine Liza and Annie losing touch in college just because they were far away from each other and busy with their separate career plans. That, honestly, is what happens to the majority of hetero high school relationships. Of course, a big reason for that is that they find new people on campus to date. Maybe gay college students don't meet many other people who are gay that they can date? It certainly seems as if, in Liza and Annie's era, there were NO other girls their age identifying as lesbians.
     
    #3
  4. Progressive82

    Progressive82 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2013
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    0
    I couldn't help but notice that Liza's angst really sets in - and she and Annie hit a rough patch - when the question of physical intimacy comes up. The fear of it seems to be mostly about the fear of being gay, and going through with being intimate is portrayed as a positive step on the road to accepting themselves as lesbians. Aren't there other reasons for girls that age (17 and still in high school), who have known each other maybe five or six months (if you pay attention to the timeline) to wait? Maybe this sounds a little judgmental for this type of forum, but I was raised with, "You're in high school, that means you're too young for intimacy" as a strict rule. I know my parents would have been not, "Oh my god, my daughter might be gay," but very "Oh, my god, my teenager might be sexually active." And I think Liza's dad should have focused less on the gender of her partner and more on, "What happened to my smart daughter whose dream was to go to MIT? You have college ahead of you and you and Annie have lots of years when you might grow apart."

    On the other hand, some of the intimacy issues they have (Annie describes it once as "not wanting the same thing at the same time") could be a compatibility issue...it kind of contradicts the premise that they're so perfectly-fitted.

    Also, I think there are a few romance-novel cliches here. One is the timeline. Too many stages of a relationship happen in too little time:
    They meet in November – they acknowledge they are more than friends after about a month - they exchange rings in January - Liza is happy to see Annie “all that winter” – which sounds like the honeymoon stage- they hit a rough patch in February and March over intimacy and have a big fight in March - then by spring break they are physical, but spring break only lasts two weeks and they get caught at the end of it.

    All of that happens in less than one school year - six or seven months tops. I would liked it better if they had had a longer friendship and had just become something more during senior year. It would have been a better message about friendship turning into romance.
     
    #4
  5. Progressive82

    Progressive82 Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2013
    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    0
    As I've said before, I admired the girls for not giving up on their career goals, even when pursuing those goals meant being far away from each other after high school.

    But I wondered why Annie chose Berkeley in the first place. Her talent is music, but as a teen, she's a resident of NYC - shouldn't there be plenty of opportunities for higher education in music there?

    And then I found myself wondering why do the plane ticket switch to get together at the end? Both the Winthrop and Kenyon families were in NYC - if Liza and Annie both went home, they could see each other there. Do you think that implies that their families hadn't come around to acceptance yet, and they didn't feel comfortable getting together under their families' noses, so to speak?

    Liza initially tries to pretend to her family that her friendship with Annie is platonic and not lesbian, and they believe her, but the truth is exposed during the trial. We don't see Liza interact with her family after that...I would have liked to see how her relationship with them turned out.
     
    #5

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice