Title: Anne Frank : The Diary of a Young Girl
Author: Anne Frank
*Status: (1982) Challenged in Wise County, Virginia due to protests of several parents who complained the book contains sexually offensive passages. (1983) Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of this title because it is a “real downer.” (1998) Removed for two months from the Baker Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas after two parents charged that the book was pornographic. The book was returned after students waged a letter-writing campaign to keep it, and the review committee recommended the book’s retention.
The Plot: On her thirteenth birthday, Anne is given a diary. She begins by chronicling her typical adolescent existence. She writes about her friends, her crushes, and her school life in the segregated Jewish Lyceum in Amsterdam. In 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands and the Franks were forced into hiding. Luckily, the Franks saw what was coming and had managed to stockpile food and supplies in a secret annex above her father’s office. The employees of the firm helped them by keeping them updated and providing extra supplies.
The Franks, the van Daans, and an acquaintance named Mr. Dussel, all share the small space and try to live a normal life while hiding. The diary chronicles Anne’s loneliness, her relationships with the adults in the annex, and her friendship with Peter van Daan. Her accounts begin to move deeper. She moves from discussing basic day-to-day activities to more mature thoughts about her identity and the persecution of Jews. While longing to be an individual, she also feels a great loyalty to her people.
On August 1, 1944 we are given an entry detailing a rather normal day. That is where the diary ends. The family is arrested by the Nazis on August 4 and sent to concentration camps. Her father Otto is the only one to survive. He recovers her diary and decides to fulfill Anne’s wishes by having it published.
My Take: I am embarrassed to say that this was my first time reading this book in its entirety. We were assigned passages in middle school. My teacher photographed parts of it and handed it out to us to read. At the time, I thought nothing of it. Now, I realize that there were parts that the school deemed inappropriate for our age group. I had every intention, at the bidding of my teacher, of reading it the following summer. But, that was the summer I devoted to reading everything I could find by Mark Twain. I suppose I simply forgot about it after that. Later, I was given an outline of it as part of a larger study guide for the AP English test. But, I have to confess to having never read the entire thing before this.
The few excerpts that I had read for school led me to believe that Anne was an unnaturally optimistic and innocent girl who still believed that most people are good.
But, that wasn’t the real Anne.
The real Anne was sarcastic and witty. She showed all of the horrible traits of adolescence. This is a girl who is jealous of her sister, who has a contentious relationship with her mother, who is sarcastic and rebellious. In short she is a normal teenage girl in very abnormal circumstances. I have had the displeasure of re-reading some of my own journals written between the age of 13 and 15. I wholeheartedly admit that Anne was an amazing writer for her age.
Anne was conflicted in her search for her own identity. While that is fairly normal for a girl her age, the social circumstances places her search in a much larger and historical context. Her German citizenship has been revoked even though she considers herself to be German, and while she considers Holland her home, there is an alarming rise of anti-Semitism among the Dutch. Most importantly, while she feels a fierce solidarity among her persecuted peers, she wants to be seen as an individual. This is where cynic in me realized that she had achieved her wish. The publishing of her diary gave her a face and a voice, while so many others of similar circumstances go unknown. An individual spotlight has been shined on her for all time. At the same time, her personal story opens a door to the many lives and histories affected by the holocaust.
In the end, I think anyone who has ever been plagued by adolescence will identify with her immediately. But, I also think that this is one of those few works that encapsulates a specific moment in history through the eyes of a very human narrator.
*Information courtesy of