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Anne Frank’s Diary Banned in Virginia
Technically, this is old news. However, it was
just brought to my attention, so I’m just now blogging about it.
If you follow what’s going on in the world of Holocaust
scholarship, or Young Adult literature (lucky for me, I follow both–so as
Sheldon from Big Bang Theory would say, “Bazinga!”) you’ll know that
every few years, uncensored passages from Anne Frank’s diary pop up out of the
ether. Her cousin, Buddy Elias, who is now her voice, will usually be
interviewed by a periodical talking about how he likes it or dislikes it and then everyone will
forget about it for a while.
It’s no secret that her father, Otto Frank, the one survivor of
the Secret Annex, heavily edited her diary before publication. Not only did he
take out much of the frank (no pun intended) sexual discourse, but he also
removed negative passages about his marriage to his late wife. An unabridged
edition of the book was published sometime during the 1990s by scholar Melissa
Mueller, which, as far as I know, was totally unauthorized by the Anne Frank
The controversy in Virginia seems to now be about a passage in
which Anne looked at her vagina in a mirror and described it in detail in her
diary. A parent of a 13-year-old was so appalled that this was in the school’s
library that she complained and so Culpepper Middle School took the book off of
the shelf. In a media outlet, the librarian said she felt the content was
inappropriate for the eighth grade and that it added nothing relevant for
Okay, let’s back up a bit. I, for one, am not a fan of this
passage being added to the book. However, the reasons I have are far less about
my concern for a 13-year-old TEENAGER reading about what a vagina looks like
and more about respect and privacy for the dead.
America is a prudish country, especially compared to those in
Europe. When I lived in both France and Hungary, I was shocked by the casual
attitudes toward sex (especially public displays of affection, which go beyond
the occasional tongue slip in public and lean more to full body contact on the
subway), and especially in Hungary, the lack of attention to dress codes in
schools. I’m sure they would have this passage in their schools and it wouldn’t
be an issue.
Let’s be honest. Anne Frank hid in the Secret Annex when she was
13-15, meaning she was the same age as many of her readers at Culpepper Middle
School when she wrote this “disgusting” passage. Many parents
like to sit back and blame the media for their own inability to parent. Do they
really think their child learning about human anatomy is going to scar them for
life, turn them into sex fiends or get their daughters knocked up? I mean, it’s
this ridiculous Victorian attitude that makes us censor women’s rights and shy
away from frank discussions on teen pregnancy. An eighth grader is 13 or 14. In
eighth grade, whether you’re a boy or a girl, you should know what a vagina
looks like. If you’re a male, hopefully not by experience, but let’s be honest:
the vagina is part of the human body. Even though its function is mostly sexual,
it is part of the body, just like the fingers, the toes or the eyes.
So, all I can say is, really Culpepper Middle School?
However, there is another larger issue at hand with this entry. I
don’t believe that after the fact it should be pulled from school shelves, but
I do believe it shouldn’t have been published in the first place. While no one
can say what Anne would or wouldn’t have wanted, I think it could be safer to
assume that she might be mortified by this entry being broadcast to the world.
But then again, maybe she wouldn’t be.
While it is impossible to say what Anne would have wanted, her
father was undoubtedly very close to her. His judgment should have been
respected, even if part of the reason he edited was to save face for himself.
We know Anne was rewriting her diary for future publication, but it is unclear
whether this passage was part of that.
All I can say is that if I wrote that entry when I was 14, I would
probably not want the entire world to see it. But that is speaking from my own experience. And I am not Anne.
But, if you’re curious, you can see the original link, including passage, here.