People all over the world were heartbroken to hear of Nancy Garden’s death in June. The Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) was only weeks from presenting her an award for her beloved 1982 novel Annie On My Mind. Thousands upon thousands of kids worldwide found understanding of themselves or others by reading the classic young adult romance between two teenage girls. Annie made a difference in adult lives too. I fell in love with the book in my forties; what a comfort it would have been to read it at age 15!
Nancy grew up in New England and New York. She worked in publishing and wrote ten books before Annie, thirty-five in all. Her lifelong partner, Sandra Scott, survives her. Nancy has been honored by numerous awards. According to her website, Annie On My Mind was banned by the Kansas City school system in 1993 and burned in demonstrations. Courageous students brought a First Amendment lawsuit in 1995 and won two years later. Not to be deterred, Nancy began yet another career and became an avid speaker on First Amendment rights.
Members of GCLS were slightly comforted that she knew ahead of time about her award and her work continues to be celebrated, and by lesbians. In her speech of thanks, she wrote about the impact on her of Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness. She said, “[ The Well ] ends with an impassioned plea for justice and understanding. That plea made me vow, at 16 or so, to write a book one day for and about my people that told the truth about who we are –and ended happily.”
That was my early story too; I found the same ambition and inspiration from Hall’s book. I had the opportunity to work with Nancy’s GCLS acceptance speech, inserting her handwritten edits. There is no way to express how moved I was to be trusted with the task, to handle her words. What an incredible honor, experience and sad pleasure.
There were no Nancy Garden books when I was 16, but “Annie” has been around for other lesbians for 30 plus years. I wondered what readers might say about the book today and thought I’d let them speak for themselves here. Their Twitter comments over the past few years attest to the amazing longevity and power of Nancy Garden’s enchanting and enlighten storytelling.
Well Annie you’ve officially been on my mind all day. Love ya & happy 20th birthday