by Anne Frank
Written by a young Jewish girl in Amsterdam as she and her family hid in from the Nazis for two years, Anne Frank has become one of the most widely read accounts of World War II. Her diary chronicles the years her family spent in a secret room in her father's factory, and her hopes, fears, and dreams. Anne writes of her annoyance with her roommates, friction with her mother, admiration for her father, and her budding thoughts of love. Published after the end of the war, after it had been confirmed that Anne died in a concentration camp from typhus, the book frequently appears in lists of the top books from the 20th century.
Although Anne Frank is taught in many American middle and high schools, I never read more than an excerpt or two growing up. My junior high school opted for Elie Wiesel for its Holocaust literature, and outside of history class I don't believe World War II ever came up again. In eighth grade, we had read a few scenes from the play based on Anne's diary entries, but I always meant to return and read the original text.
When I finally did read the book, I was struck by Anne's philosophy and her optimism about life. I wish I could say I'd be strong enough to see the good in people if I were in her position...but I wouldn't. I'd probably be bitter and down on everyone. In early entries Anne could be quite biting and cruel in her running commentary about her family and their guests, but as time went on (and her focus shifted from writing for herself to writing for a future audience) she mellowed.
I was also rather surprised by the intensity of her respect and devotion to her father. The way that she heaped praise on him seemed like too much, almost too enthusiastic. When I heard that he had helped edit the diaries before publication, I couldn't help but wonder if he'd polished up some of the passages to make himself seem better. It's a horribly uncharitable thought, but once it had wormed its way into my brain I had trouble ignoring it. I'm glad that this doesn't appear to be a running theory out there in Internetland.
There's not much else I can say about the book. It's the memories of one girl who has come to stand for all the girls and boys snuffed out in the Nazi concentration camps. Anne Frank is the tragic figure standing in for a lost generation and all the lost potential and dreams the shared.
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: News: I'm off to Alaska!
2012: Fashionista Piranha on hiatus until May 24th
2011: Bending the Boyne by J. S. Dunn
2010: New York City Library & Improv Everywhere Bust Some Ghosts
2009: Extraordinary Engines edited by Nick Gevers