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.
Published in 1982, the book received critical acclaim for its positive depiction of a same-sex relationship. Sadly, it was also attacked by social conservatives and the religious right and was banned by Kansas City schools for two years, until students brought a First Amendment lawsuit to put it back on shelves.
The book won Garden the ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Lee Lynch Classic Award by the Golden Crown Literary Society, and the Robert B. Downs Award for Intellectual Freedom. It was also ranked in School Library Journal among the top 100 books to have shaped the 20th century.
Annie on My Mind was one of the earliest American novels to depict a lesbian relationship that did not come to a tragic end, and in the 32 years since it was first published the book never went out of print.
When I was growing up as a young lesbian in the ’50s, I looked in vain for books about my people. 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.’
Her literary career spanned four decades, writing 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.
She is survived by her long term partner Sandy Scott and their golden retriever Loki and their cats.