Nancy Garden: The author whose novel Annie on My Mind was credited with helping gay teenagers feel less alone in the world

One letter, Garden recalled, came from a teacher who said he was convinced that Annie on My Mind had prevented a student from committing suicide

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The Independent Online

Nancy Garden wrote Annie on My Mind and other novels that helped young readers explore themes of gay romance and self-discovery. Her body of several dozen books also included works of fantasy and historical fiction.

Annie on My Mind centres on two high school students in New York who fall in love. Garden said she was inspired to write it to help fill a void she had experienced.

“When I was growing up as a young lesbian in the ’50s, I looked in vain for books about my people,” she said. “I did find some paperbacks with lurid covers in the local bus station, but they ended with the gay character’s committing suicide, dying in a car crash, being sent to a mental hospital or ‘turning’ heterosexual.” She said gay readers had told her it had made them feel less alone and helped them come out, while straight readers admired it as a love story.

The novel encountered opposition over the years; the American Library Association has ranked it among the most commonly challenged books, and it has even been burned on occasions. In one case in the 1990s, students and parents successfully sued to keep it in their school library in Kansas. Garden received many letters from young readers and grown-ups who cared about them. One letter, she recalled, came from a teacher who said he was convinced that Annie on My Mind had prevented a student from committing suicide. That, Garden said, was “perhaps the most moving comment of all.” In 2004 she married her partner of more than 40 years, Sandra Scott.

Antoinette Elisabeth Garden, author: born Boston 15 May 1938; married 2004 Sandra Scott; died Carlisle, Massachusetts 23 June 2014.

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