|The novel's first cover, by (I believe!)|
Trina Schart Hyman
As a tribute to Garden, I pulled my copy of Annie from the shelf this week and sat down to reread it. Garden's novel is a story within a story: in the frame narrative, a third-person narrator tells how Liza Winthrop, a first-year architecture student at MIT, begins writing a letter to her high-school love Annie, struggling to stop "thinking around" the very public revelation of their hidden relationship months earlier and come to terms both with her own sexuality and her feelings for Annie. The main narrative, in Liza's first-person voice, begins from the beginning, telling of the two girls' meeting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; their initial forays into a cross-class friendship; and Liza's growing awareness that her feelings for Annie are not those that her friends, family, or even she had expected. Brief passages jump from the past to Annie's present, showing how the memory of moments from her past with Annie are affecting Liza in the present.
|My own 1992 edition|
I remember so much about that first time with Annie that I am numb with it, and breathless. I can feel Annie's hands touching me again, gently, as if she were afraid I might break; I can feel her softness under my hands—I look down at my hands now and see them slightly curved, feel them become both strong and gentle as I felt them become for the first time then. I can close my eyes and feel every motion of Annie's body and my own—clumsy and hesitant and shy—but that isn't the important part. The important part is the wonder of the closeness and the unbearable ultimate realization that we are two people, not one—and also the wonder of that: that even though we are two people, we can be almost like one, and at the same tie delight in each other's uniqueness (146).
It was new every time we touched each other, looked at each other held each other close on the uncomfortable living-room sofa. We were still very shy, and clumsy, and a little scared—but it was as if we had found a whole new country in each other and ourselves and were exploring it slowly together. Often we had to stop and just hold each other—too much beauty can be hard to bear. And sometimes, especially after a while, when the shyness was less but we still didn't know each other or ourselves or what we were doing very well—once in a while, we'd laugh. (150)
|The most recent cover|
Before I was a blogger, I was a children's literature professor. And before that, I worked in children's book publishing. Though most of my publishing work was in an administrative capacity, there were a few short years during the mid-1990s when I had the opportunity to acquire and edit new projects. Spurred by a piece in one of the trade journals about the lack of books for gay young people, I decided to move beyond being a fan, and wrote to Nancy Garden, asking if she might be interested in working together on a book. Garden, who, like me, lived in Massachusetts, agreed to meet, and we talked about a picture book story she had written, which featured two princesses who ended up together. Her other publishers had not been interested in publishing it—might I be? I looked forward to reading the story with eager interest, but the actual manuscript she sent was less a story and more a heavy-handed lesson. With great regret, I, like the other editors with whom she worked, declined it. I left publishing soon after, and did not stay in touch with Garden, but I couldn't help thinking of her when picture books King and King (2000) and Tango Makes Three (2005), which featured gay males as protagonists, arrived on the scene. I'll bet she was smiling, but also wondering when we'd see a similar picture book with lesbians as the romantic protagonists (rather than just the parents of the protagonist child). As far as I know, we're all still waiting...