Banned Books Week #4: The Diary of Anne Frank
Ah… here we are yet again… another book with a HUGE impact on our understanding of history is banned. For those of you who have never read nor heard of “The Diary of Anne Frank”, it is the true diary of a young Jewish girl whose family is forced to live in an attic for two years while the Nazis search out the Jews and send them to concentration camps. At the end of the diary, there is a footnote which reads that after the last entry in the diary, the family was found out and sent to their deaths. The only remaining survivor of the family is Anne’s father. He returns to the attic after the incident and finds Anne’s diary intact. He has it published and today, it remains possibly the most famous first person account of the Holocaust.
I personally read this book in 8th grade. My school had us read the book and understand the Holocaust before we went on our Washington D.C. trip to visit the Holocaust Museum. However, I know many public schools wait until high school to have their students read the books. So- why is this book, a book that is possibly the most clear picture of what the Holocaust looked like to a young girl, banned? It is banned often because of its “sexually explicit homosexuality”. Now- what this is referring to within the novel is EXTREMELY small sections within the text. One is about 2 sentences long when she says that she was at a friends house once and she had never seen what a woman that was fully developed looked like. Another is about a paragraph when she says how she loves looking at statues of naked women because she sees so much beauty in them. Now, the Virginia school board has pulled this novel from being taught and the reasons are for the things I’ve listed above. Alone, they may seem damaging to a middle schooler (depending on how strict you raise your middle schooler) but taken in a large context, the paragraphs/sentences in question take up no more than a page whereas the entire book is about 300 pages long. The book is banned for tiny sections in contrast to the entire novel. Let’s be serious… if the children are in junior high, they are already exposed to all the sexual pressure anyway- whether parents want to believe it or not. So… their reading these passages are not going to be anything new. They will have heard it already.
So by reading this book you: Lose the battle on an awkward sexual passage but win the war on having children understand the real issues behind the holocaust and put a face and humanity to such a tragedy. Ban it forever and yes, you may escape the awkward sexual passages… but you will also lose the chance to let children sympathize and truly understand the holocaust to prevent their brushing the entire event off as some old wives tale that happened “forever ago!”
Once again… historical significance trumps any minuscule awkwardness that could come from this novel. If you haven’t read “The Diary of Anne Frank”, give it a try! It’s witty, bright and upbeat, although the reader is constantly self-aware of the outcome in which the book will inevitably result.