We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged. How/If things have changed since the book was originally published. What we actually think of the book.
If you’d like to joining in there is a list of the books we’ll be reading at the bottom of this post.
Previous Banned Book Discussion: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks as “Anonymous”
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Blurb: “If you don’t put that ring on this minute, I’m going to take it back,” Annie whispered in my ear. She leaned back, looking at me, her hands still on my shoulders, her eyes shining softly at me and snow falling, melting, on her nose. “Buon Natale,” she whispered, “amore mio.”
“Merry Christmas, my love,” I answered.
From the moment Liza Winthrop meets Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knows there is something special between them. But Liza never knew falling in love could be so wonderful… or so confusing.
Do you understand or agree with any of the reason for the book being challenged when it was originally published?
BETH: Not at all. Perhaps in the early eighties homosexuality wasn’t quite as accepted as it is nowadays (although there are still some nasty bigots out there) but I think this is a great book to show that there’s nothing seedy or wrong about two girls being in love. There are no graphic scenes or bad language, nothing really to warrant banning although I’m not sure how teachers would see it if they had to teach it to a class of sniggering students.
CHRISSI: No. There’s nothing particularly graphic in this book, it really is just a book about two people in love. It just so happens that they are the same sex. That said, I can somewhat understand why teachers would shy away from it. Not because it’s an explicit story, but because there could be so many homophobic behaviours displayed during the reading of it. It would take a strong and good teacher to challenge them. I do hope there are some out there because I think homophobia should be addressed so that we can become more tolerant.
LUNA: No. For the purpose of our Banned Books Discussion I read Annie on My Mind again, this time going over it with a fine tooth-comb to see if there was anything that could be classed and explicit or graphic. There isn’t. Two people met and fall in love. They’re both female. That is the reason this book was banned, challenged and burned! Yes you read that right, burned – 1993 in Kansas City. (source)
I don’t get it. I will never get it and for that I am really grateful because it’s a load of nonsense. There I’ve said it. You love someone because of who they are not because of their gender or race. Teaching understanding and tolerance would get us so much further.
Because it’s one of the reasons that Liza is judged and also because I think it’s still one of the reasons Annie on My Mind and LGBT books are challenged (recently The Miseducation of Cameron Post was removed from a reading list) I’m going to look a bit closer at the below scene/quote from Annie on My Mind, page 194:
“…It’s – it’s so disgusting.”
[Cont. further down the same page.]
“…Read your Bible, Liza. Ms Baxter showed me it’s even mentioned there. Read Leviticus, read Romans 1:26.”
I don’t know what I said then. Maybe I didn’t say anything. I’m not sure I was able to think any more.
I do remember, though, that I went home and read Leviticus and Romans, and cried again.
Ok then… Earlier this year I read a brilliant book called This Book is Gay by James Dawson. It has a very helpful chapter which deals religion.
So let’s get to more quoting:
“The Bible has been translated and interpreted many, many times. We can’t be one hundred per cent certain what the original even said… / Even the various modern version of the Bible are different, so how can one possibly take it all literally?
Contexts change. The bible repeatedly refers to going after taxmen – who at the time were crooked. You don’t hear about Christians chasing HMRC* with flaming torches, do you?
… Jesus said precisely NOTHING on the subject. As we know, Jesus taught nothing but love and tolerance.
*HMRC is like the IRS in US
Specifically on Leviticus:
Leviticus is mean as a list of instructions…. / anyone throwing that bit of Leviticus your way should also be prepared to:
– Sell their daughter to slavery
– Never make any physical contact with a woman on her period
– Burn bulls
– Never eat shellfish (also an abomination, so BEWARE THE PRAWN)
– Never trim the hair around their head. This is forbidden.
“It’s not a negative. Don’t you know that it’s love you’re talking about? You’re talking about how I feel about another human being and how she feels about me…”
Annie on My Mind, page 222
How about now?
BETH: Well why not? The physical part of Liza and Annie’s relationship is handled very delicately – I think the most graphic part is where the word “breast” is mentioned (Oh no! Call the police!!) Apologies for my sarcasm, but I see no valid reason for this book to be banned.
CHRISSI: I hope there’s more tolerance now, but sadly I believe it probably still would be challenged in schools.
“Don’t let ignorance win,” said Ms Stevenson. “Let love.”
Annie on My Mind, page 232
What did you think of the book?
BETH: It was a sweet love story that showed that a relationship between two people of the same sex is NORMAL. I think it would be a great book for teenagers unsure of their sexuality or out and proud!
CHRISSI: I enjoyed it. I hadn’t read it before, so I’m glad I did!
LUNA: I’ve lost count of how often I’ve read Annie on My Mind now but it’s been a lot. It’s still one of my favourite books.
Liza’s teachers, Ms Widmer and Ms Stevenson, are the adult parallel of what Liza and Annie wish to be and (while infuriating) their ending only makes the story more real.
I really really love this book because it is a wonderful, beautifully written story that makes you fall in love.
Would you recommend it?
BETH: But of course!
LUNA: Love this book so much! YES. (Sunshine Star)