American young adult fiction author Nancy Garden passed away 23 June from an apparent heart attack aged 76.
Garden was best known for the lesbian themed novel Annie on My Mind, about two girls at a New York high school who fall in love with each other.
The book was published in 1982 and drew critical acclaim in its positive depiction of a same-sex relationship but was also attacked by social conservatives and the religious right and was banned by Kansas City schools for two years from 1993 until students brought a First Amendment law suit to put it back on shelves.
Annie On My Mind was awarded the Lee Lynch Classic Award by the Golden Crown Literary Society in 2014, cited as one of the most important classics in lesbian literature.
The book also won Garden the ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award in 2003 which recognizes one writer and a particular body of work ‘for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.’
Annie on My Mind was number 44 on the American Library Association’s list of most banned books by American libraries during the 1990s and she was awarded the Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom in 2001 from the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
The book was also ranked in 2000 in School Library Journal among the top 100 books to have shaped the 20th century.
In the 32 years since it was first published the book has never gone out of print and it has also been made into an audio-book.
Annie on My Mind was one of the earliest American novels to depict a lesbian relationship that did not come to a tragic end, with most works with lesbian themes written before it written for the sake of titillation.
Garden told young adult author Cynthia Leitch Smith in 2001 that she had been drawn to write stories for young people with LGBTI themes because of the lack of books depicting their lives when she had been young.
‘When I was growing up as a young lesbian in the ’50s, I looked in vain for books about my people,’ Garden 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.’
Garden would go on to write more than 30 books – most aimed at teenagers, though some were written with younger children in mind.
Supernatural themes were a recurring theme in her works with many of the stories she wrote involving werewolves and vampires.
Garden is survived by her long term partner Sandy Scott and their golden retriever Loki and their cats.