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Literature / Annie on My Mind

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A 1982 novel by Nancy Garden.

Liza Winthrop, 17, first meets Annie Kenyon, also 17, at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, where she's gone to work on an assignment. Both Liza and Annie are avid museum browsers. Both love medieval lore and history, and both have a flair for the dramatic. They are instantly drawn to each other, and their friendship grows quickly and deeply.

Liza attends an exclusive prep school, Annie a public high school in a working-class area where she lives with her Italian immigrant family. Liza is student body president and a much respected leader. As the relationship deepens, both girls begin to realize with some trepidation that there's a dimension to it they didn't expect. Annie realizes before Liza that their attraction is sexual as well as spiritual. Liza finds she has some hard thinking and reading to do about homosexuality.

Their relationship becomes public in a traumatic way when, housesitting for two teachers at Liza's school (who, they discover, are lesbians, though the fact has never been made public) they are discovered by a punitive administrator who reports them all to the school. Liza is cleared by the board of trustees, but the teachers are dismissed. The emotional stress with peers and family remains to get worked out too.

Ultimately, she finds she can let go of friendships that falter on this issue, and her family supports her, though her parents have to work through their own ambivalence. Annie goes to Berkeley, Liza to MIT, and after some months of silence, they resume contact with hope of reviving a relationship they still cherish, perhaps the more for the lessons it's brought with it.

This book is notable for being one of the first novels to paint lesbians in a positive light - where they weren't cured, the enemy, or killed. This was... controversial, to say the least; it made the list of most frequently banned books for the next three decades, and it was at one point publicly burnt in Kansas City. Nevertheless, it continues to influence modern LGBT authors, and it's still somewhat popular.


  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Subverted. Liza's School Motto actually is "students shall rule themselves" but during the story Mrs. Poindexter tells the student council what to do. It is suggested that Ms. Stevenson, the student council's advisor, is the only reason students have any say in things.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Liza calls Annie "Unicorn."
    • Ms. Isabelle Stevenson calls her partner Ms. Katherine Widmer "Kah".
  • Big Brother Instinct: Inverted — Chad is Liza's younger brother, but he's still protective of her. After the girls are discovered, he does everything he can to prevent her from getting in trouble with the school without directly lying.
  • Brainy Brunette: Liza is a scholarly girl with brown hair.
  • Butch Lesbian: Averted: none of the lesbians in Annie On My Mind are butch. Discussed: when Liza discovers that two people she knows are lesbian, she's surprised because, among other things, neither one is butch.
  • Closet Gay: Liza, Annie, Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer keep secret the fact they're lesbians, to avoid social repercussions (that do occur when they get outed).
  • Closet Key: Annie is the person who makes Liza, and the audience, realize that Liza's a lesbian.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Annie at first seems a bit strange and rambling.
  • Coming-Out Story: Annie On My Mind is one of the trope codifiers for the young adult coming out story. Liza realizes she's a lesbian by falling another girl (the titular Annie) which gets them forcibly outed to Liza's school later. They never formally come out to their families however in the book.
  • Cool Big Sis: Liza is Chad's kind, awesome big sister.
  • Cure Your Gays: Mrs. Poindexter, Ms. Baxter and Sally urge Liza to go see a psychiatrist and be "cured". Liza refuses this idea without hesitation.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: And my GOD, do they have to earn it. Liza and Annie have to work really hard to get past all the hatred, but eventually they find their way back together.
  • Forbidden Love: Liza and Annie keep their relationship a secret due to the prevalent homophobia condemning same-sex relationships. This also goes for Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer-they've kept this a secret for years.
  • Forced Out of the Closet: Liza is caught while staying with Annie in their teacher's house, where they had sex. This gets both her and both teachers into trouble (they're lesbians as well, outed at the same time).
  • Gay Aesop: Annie On My Mind teaches that being gay is not a flaw or unnatural.
  • Gayngst: Liza angsts about loving Annie and what that means and whether their love is a sin or unnatural. Granted, the Gayngst's not exactly unwarranted, considering all the shit the girls (especially Liza) go through.
  • Genki Girl: Annie is a very enthusiastic, determined girl.
  • Happily Ever After: Eventually, Annie and Liza manage to get together and love each other despite everything. Word of God says they remain together after the story ends.
  • Headbutt of Love: On some of the editions of the cover, Liza and Annie have their foreheads pressed together.
  • How We Got Here: The story begins with Liza, several years older, trying to write a letter to Annie. She decides she needs to "work through" the memories of their time together to piece together the whole story. Everything else, save the epilogue, is her doing exactly that — recounting the details of the first few months she and Annie were together.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Sally at the end. Like so many people at the time, she genuinely believes homosexuality is a mental illness that needs to be cured, and won't listen when Liza tries to explain otherwise.
  • Last Het Romance: Prior to meeting Liza, Annie had tried dating a boy, but it didn't work out because she isn't into men.
  • Late Coming Out: Two teachers are Forced Out of the Closet along with the two teenage protagonists. The teachers had been in a Secret Relationship for years. They were subsequently fired at their private school. Annie and her girlfriend Liza use them as Mentor in Queerness but also reflect that they use them as an example of what they don't want to be—they don't want to be closeted forever.
  • Meet Cute: They meet when Liza finds Annie singing in a corner of the Metropolitan. Annie then convinces Liza to act out a swordfight in the Arms and Armor hall. They own this trope.
  • Mentor in Queerness: Reluctantly played by two of Annie's teachers after they're Forced Out of the Closet. They also act as unintentional encouragement on what Liza doesn't want her relationship with Annie to be: she wants to grow old with Annie, but she doesn't want to be stuck in a closeted Secret Relationship.
  • Moment Killer: A couple of times when Annie and Liza are about to get a bit more intimate, something happens to ruin the moment. Sometimes, they bring it on themselves on purpose.
  • Oblivious to Love: Liza reveals that she suspects she had some lesbian tendencies before discovering she was a lesbian, but she just never stopped to think about them until after kissing Annie for the first time.
  • Official Couple: Who else but Annie and Liza? They're very clearly paired off and the entire story is about their romance.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Liza's full name, Eliza, is said a few times but Liza never goes by it.
  • Opposites Attract: Downplayed. Liza is logical, academic and mathematical, whereas Annie is creative, free-spirited, and artistic. However, both girls are deeply intelligent and passionate, and bond plenty over that.
  • Out of the Closet, Into the Fire: Liza, along with her teachers Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widwer, face discipline from the school as a result of being outed as lesbians. Though the board of trustees clears Liza, they still dismiss both teachers for supposedly "influencing" her into homosexuality (they didn't).
  • Pseudo-Romantic Friendship: Liza's parents think her friendship with Annie is just a very close friendship. At first, it's true, but they become lovers over time.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The board of trustees. They openly stop every attempt made by Ms. Baxter and Mrs. Poindexter of disrespecting Liza during the hearing at the end of the story, then clear her of wrongdoing while firing Mrs. Poindexter for allowing the charges, plus overstepping her authority. They still do fire Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer as well for supposedly influencing Liza into becoming a lesbian though.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Liza and Annie's relationship is secret for a while. It becomes public at the worst possible moment.
    • At the same time Ms. Stevenson and Ms. Widmer were secretly together long before, which also becomes public the same time.
  • Their First Time: Liza and Annie have sex for the first time together in the middle of the story.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: For the first third of the book or so, there is sexual tension between Annie and Liza.
  • Uptown Girl: Liza is from a wealthy area in Brooklyn and attends an elite private school, while Annie lives in a small apartment in Manhattan and attends an underfunded public school. This is an early source of tension in the relationship — Annie feels insecure about the class difference, while Liza is okay with it but unsure of how to act.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Liza and Sally were never close friends, exactly, but Liza did genuinely like her. After Liza is outed, however, Sally turns on her — and then becomes determined to "cure" Liza.